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ICOMThe International College of Oriental Medicine (ICOM) is one of the oldest acupuncture training institutions in the western world. Founded in 1972, ICOM is the first acupuncture college in the United Kingdom and has so far enjoyed more than 40 years of success in training acupuncturists.

ICOM was founded by the late Dr Van Buren, who subsequently went on to establish branches of the college in Holland, Israel and Australia. With it’s unique teaching style of integrated Chinese systems of acupuncture, ICOM has turned out some of the most well respected acupuncturists of the 20th and 21st century.

Due to the thoroughness of the training provided at ICOM and the depth of knowledge received by the students, ICOM graduates commonly enjoy busy practices and fruitful careers once they graduate.

ICOM is a Classically based acupuncture training college that teaches all the main styles of the practice. This includes Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Five Elements, Classical acupuncture and Stems and Branches theory. This integrated knowledge helps to make well rounded and highly knowledgeable acupuncturists.

What is ICOM known for?

icomBesides being the oldest acupuncture training facility in the UK, ICOM is also the only place in the western world that teaches an ancient system of Chinese philosophy known as Stems and Branches.

Stems and Branches, also known as Wu Yun Liu Qi theory, is a fascinating system of Chinese philosophy that provides an in-depth and unique picture of the movements and cycles of energetics of the patient and their relationship to the external environment.

With this unique understanding of the individual, a Stems and Branches acupuncturist can become aware of the deeper nature of their patients and therefore, discover constitutional imbalances that can be a precursor to disease. With this knowledge, the practitioner is able to treat the patient at their root, helping to correct any imbalances and therefore, heal the ailment at a deeper level.

According to this theory, the Qi from our parents and the Qi present in the external environment at the moment of our birth determines our own unique energetic make-up. From this, each person has constitutional strengths and weaknesses, which need to be considered at different stages of our lives.

Stems and Branches philosophy also pays close attention to the cycles and movements of the universe. One such movement is the 60 year cycle through which, our lives are said to be interwoven with these movements. Some time periods we will find relatively smooth whereas others will present more challenging times and sometimes illness.

In clinical practice, Stems and Branches philosophy lends us a deeper understanding and interpretation of the energetics of the patient as well as their physiology and gives us insight into the strengths and weaknesses of their being. From this we are able to comprise a more suitable treatment strategy to assist our patients with their ailments.

A unique approach to student learning

ICOM’s undergraduate acupuncture training courses are both academic and practical, providing the student with a good depth of understanding as well as the time, space and support to apply what they learn in a practical manor.

The main training programme at the college is a BSc (Hons) Degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, which takes place over three years for full-time students and five years for those wishing to undertake the course on a part-time basis.

ICOM offers a uniquely integrated approach to both acupuncture and learning, which enables the college to mould it’s students into the best practitioner they can possibly be. This training begins with a solid foundation in the theory of Chinese medicine as well as western anatomy, physiology, pathology and extensive diagnostic training.

Once this grounding is acquired, the students are then given extensive practical training, applying their skills with real patients that attend the busy on site student clinic. During this time students are trained in small groups to further enhance their learning. Once they reach a level of competence, they are then one on one with their patients under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. At this stage, the students are then also taught more complex aspects and techniques of Chinese medicine. Having this experience allows the students to see first hand the effects of acupuncture and gauge the results of the treatments they give when they see their patients returning for follow up treatments.

ICOM is affiliated with the University of Greenwich and is partnered with the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) through the British Accreditation Board (BAAB). You can also follow ICOM acupuncture college on Facebook here.

acupuncture booksThere are numerous options for you to consider if you are thinking of taking an undergraduate acupuncture course in the UK. However, there are several things to bear in mind before making your final decision.

What You Need To Consider When Choosing An Undergraduate Acupuncture Course

There are several important factors to consider when looking at course options and institutions:

  • Type Of Course - Is the course a degree or a diploma course?
  • What style of acupuncture is taught by your chosen institution?
  • How much of the course is classroom based and how much is taught practically?
  • Is the course accredited by the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB)?

Visiting the BAAB website is the best way to find a list of institutions that offer accredited acupuncture colleges together with information about the types of course they provide and their content. Here we outline some of the UK's best institutions for studying acupuncture.

International College of Oriental Medicine (ICOM)
ICOM is the oldest institution in the UK for studying acupuncture. Based in East Grinstead, they offer a BSc (Hons) course over 3 years full time or 5 years part-time that is fully accredited by the BAAB. The college ensures that all styles of acupuncture are taught, however there is an emphasis on traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture training at ICOM is given in small groups to guarantee a high level of personal attention and support. Graduates leave the college fully trained and experienced in both the theoretical and practical skills of acupuncture. Students receive both academic and practical experience, with an internship being an integral part of the final year.

Northern College of Acupuncture (NCA)
Based in York, the Northern College of Acupuncture offers a BAAB accredited BSc (Hons) course that can be studied full or part time. As the only Northern training institution, their teaching methods are based in Chinese medicine and are a combination of class based study, home learning and practical experience. Students learn about the theory and philosophy of acupuncture as well as how it ties in with Western medicine. They also receive a grounding in business and marketing skills.

College of Integrated Chinese Medicine (CICM)
CICM, based in Reading, offers a BAAB accredited BSC (Hons) course that is based on a unique style of acupuncture that combines Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture with traditional Chinese Medicine. The full time course can be studied during weekdays or weekends over three years, and offers a year of clinical practice in the third year that consolidates all learning. The course is equally divided between practical experience and academic study.

London's Southbank University
Offering a three year full time BSc (Hons) BAAB accredited course, students will be taught by both Chinese and UK practitioners. Throughout the course, students will study in the classroom and receive practical hands-on experience in the university's training clinic with the opportunity to undertake an extended clinical placement.

University of Westminster
Offering a 3 year full time BAAB accredited BSc (Hons) course, the University of Westminster offers students practical learning in their on site acupuncture clinic where they focus on Chinese medicine. Students undertake an NHS clinical placement and undertake practical training throughout all three years of the course as well as undertaking classroom academic teaching.

College of Naturopathic Medicine
This London based college offers a BAAB accredited diploma course with 400 hours of practical clinical experience for an excellent grounding in acupuncture. The course is taught part-time at weekends and is completed within 3 to 5 years. Acupuncture at this college is taught in conjunction with other naturopathic subjects such as nutrition, homeopathy and iridology.

Lincoln College
Offering a BAAB accredited BSc (Hons) course over three years of full time study, Lincoln College offers a programme during which students combine academic and practical study to develop a rounded understanding of acupuncture. Students study the theory of Chinese medicine and participate in clinical observation as well as undertaking practical experience.

The Acupuncture Academy
Based in Leamington Spa, the Acupuncture Academy offers a three year Professional Licentiate in Acupuncture that is accredited by the BAAB. Based on the Five Element tradition, their course also covers traditional Chinese Medicine. The course comprises class based study, e-learning from home and a six month clinical practice for one day a week during the third year.


acupuncture doll
By Thunderchild7 from uk (Venus Mons) [CC BY 2.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
First practised more than 2500 years ago, acupuncture has evolved tremendously over time. Today, approximately 2.3 million acupuncture treatments (1) are carried out each year in the U.K., thanks to the numerous benefits associated with it. From your head to your toes, there is no part of the body that cannot be affected by the benefits of acupuncture.

Acupuncture’s Affect on the Brain
From getting rid of migraines to reducing the production of stress hormones, acupuncture has a significant impact on the brain. According to a recent study (2) completed at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC, acupuncture can reduce the perception of pain in the brain, stress, and possibly even depression and anxiety. This often leaves patients with a greater sense of peace. In addition, doctors at the University of Arizona have determined that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of gait and balance disorders in patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Finally, acupuncture can improve sleep (3) by enhancing the production of the neurotransmitters with sleep and relaxation.

Pain Relief
From postoperative pain to menstrual cramps, acupuncture can greatly decrease discomfort. (4) According to a 5 year study by the National Institutes of Health, (5) it has also been proven to relieve pain associated with fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, as well as chronic back, knee, neck, and shoulder pain. Finally, it can relieve pain caused by dental work, sciatica, and tennis elbow. (6)

Acupuncture has also been found to be highly effective for back pain of various kinds. For more information, see our article on back pain here.

Help With Allergies
According to guidelines released by the Academy of Otolarynlogy, acupuncture can help relieve seasons allergies, as well as allergic rhinitis. (7) It has also demonstrated an ability to relieve the symptoms linked to asthma.

Relief from Gastric Distress
By restoring the flow of balanced energy through the body, acupuncture also has a powerful impact on the digestive system. Conditions it has been proven to help include nausea, morning sickness, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and gas. (8) In addition, acupuncture can relief dysentery (a parasitic infection that results in inflammation of the intestines), acute and chronic gastritis, and peptic ulcer. Finally, when 10 sessions are completed in the course of one month, it treated acid reflux disease and relieved heartburn better than increasing the sufferer’s medication by regulating acid secretion and speeding up the process of digestion. (3)

Improves Cardiovascular Health
Thanks to acupuncture’s ability to decrease stress levels , it can also help lower high blood pressure. UCLA researchers (9) also have determined that acupuncture is particularly beneficial for patients with heart failure because it can improve heart function.

Acupuncture’s Impact on the Reproductive System
According to a report by Tel Aviv University, acupuncture increases conception rates by 26 percent, when it is used in conjunction with Western fertility treatments. Acupuncture can enhance fertility by decreasing stress, balancing the endocrine system, and increasing the flow of blood to the reproductive organs. (10) In addition, acupuncture has been shown to reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes by helping regulate the body’s temperature. (3)

Weight Loss
Multiple studies have found that acupuncture can help patients lose more weight when used in conjunction with traditional weight loss methods, such as increased exercise and changes in diet. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, excess weight gain is the result of an imbalance in the body due to a malfunction of the liver organ systems or spleen. As a result, professionals focus on the endocrine system to decrease water retention and the kidneys to stimulate hormonal and nerve rebalance. They also target the thyroid gland and spleen to enhance hormonal rebalancing. (11)

With such a large number of benefits, If you have never considered acupuncture, now is the time to do so.


acupuncture needlesWith the rise in interest of acupuncture over the recent years, many people often ask how it works.

It does indeed seem very strange that a person can receive health benefits from having a few needles inserted into their skin. However, acupuncture has demonstrated remarkable healing capabilities time and again.

According to ancient Chinese wisdom, acupuncture works by addressing the flow of Qi in the body. Qi directly translates as 'energy', an invisible substance that the Chinese believe permeates and animates all aspects of life. According to Chinese medical philosophy, when the Qi is either in a state of excess, deficiency or stagnation then there will be ill health.

Therefore, by inserting tiny needles into very specific locations on the body known as the acupuncture points, the acupuncturist is able to return the body back to a state of health and well-being over time.

By working to stimulate the acupuncture points of the body, the practitioner is able to have an effect of various bodily systems and structures. Systems such as the respiratory, endocrine, circulatory, nervous, digestive, immune and reproductive systems can all be influenced by acupuncture.

It is not really the acupunctureist or the needles that heal the patient. Acupuncture is a clever system that can help to stimulate the body's own, very powerful healing response.

Does acupuncture hurt?

For the most part, acupuncture is generally painless. A person may experience a sharp scratch, dull aching sensation or even a mild electrical current at the moment of needling. Following the insertion of the needles, the patient will ususally start to feel anything from a mild to a profound sense of relaxation.

How long do the needles stay in for?

Different schools and styles of acupuncture may have a different take on this however, the ususal leangth of time acupuncture needles remain in place during a treatment range between ten and twenty minutes.

Some schools closely pay attention to the circadian rhythms and therefore, will leave the needles in for a very specific leangth of time in order to effect this cycle.

What can acupuncture help with?

Acupuncture is the oldest complete medical system, dating back more than 3,000 years. Over the centuries it has been used to treat all kinds of symptoms and ailments.

As the system can address all systems and structures of the body, theoretically it aims to address all ailments and symptoms. However, modern science has found acupuncture especially effective in treating pain of the back, knee, neck, shoulder and elbow as well as condtions like osteoarthritis of the knee, headaches, migraines and even infertility.

Acupuncture in the modern world

acupuncture needle in a handAcupuncture continues to thrive and is growing in popularity across the world. In China, people have the option of either western of Chinese medicine when visiting the doctors. In some hospitals in China, acupuncture is also used during operations for open heart surgery and brain surgery.

In the west acupuncture is more commonly found in the private sector however, some national health systems are also now incorporating it's use.

The US military have also embraced acupuncture over the more recent years and use it to treat their soldiers for post traumatic stress disorder, stress, anxiety and pain control. The US army have dramatically named this kind of treatment 'battlefield acupuncture'. This is a true testiment to the art of acupuncture.

Here is an interesting video showing the US army using acupuncture and the reported benefits by a few of the soldiers that have been treated.

a woman meditatingHello and welcome to our new blog We are excited and delighted to be launching what we hope to be a useful hub of information regarding acupuncture and health.

Acupuncture is an amazing medicine with so many fascinating aspects to this ancient practice. Acupuncture has survived for thousands of years however, it now seems to be gaining widespread popularity here in the west.

With many doctors now recommending acupuncture to their patients for conditions like pain, osteoarthritis and fertility, acupuncture is set to become a more mainstream practice in many countries in the western world.

It is clear that the world at large, is adopting a more healthy and holistic view towards their health and well being. As such, people are becoming more health conscious and wanting to take the time to consider their health more closely.

To this end, we aim to both help, support and inform people on topics that can help improve their well-being.

Acupuncture is generally used by people in the west once they have a condition to treat. Such is our mentality in the west that we seek help only when something is wrong. However, acupuncture was first and foremost used as a means of preventative medicine to keep people healthy. Therefore, acupuncture is also a good, healthy and natural medicine for people to incorporate periodically into their daily lives to help maintain optimal health.

Here is a nice video to introduct you to acupuncture and to give you insight into this fascinating healing system from the orient...

We sincerely hope you will enjoy reading our blog and please do check back for updated information!