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Fractal Acupuncture

by Dr Zude Ye and Zoe Desmond(more info)

listed in acupuncture, originally published in issue 62 - March 2001

How the Therapy was Developed

Twelve years ago, during a fellowship at the Life Science Department of Arizona State University, Dr Ye, a Chinese medic and biostatistician, was discussing the body's organs and their function with colleagues, and he realized that he'd found a mathematical pattern regarding the human body, that is: multiple organs have singular functions, and a singular organ has multiple functions. He explained using the Taoist canon that organs are either yin or yang. A yang (singular) organ has a yin (double) function, while a yin (double) organ has a yang (single) function. One mouth has two functions, eating and speaking, one nose can breathe and smell, but the two eyes have the singular function of seeing, and the two ears can only hear. This is true of plants and animals as well as humans: a universal law. Dr Ye's wisdom was recognized by the University of Arizona, which awarded him an outstanding merit award in 1988.

Acupuncture point for water retention. '3 fingers' down from the elbow
Point for water retention. '3 fingers' down from the elbow

Seeing life in terms of a garden made of mathematical patterns fuelled Dr Ye's lifelong project to find an effective, simple holistic therapy. This new way of seeing the human body led him to study fractal theory, but with the intention of finding a holistic therapy.

Whilst working as a research fellow for Imperial College London, Dr Ye developed fractal needle acupuncture, as well as extending traditional foot reflexology to every independent body part, thus developing spinal reflexology and facial reflexology. He has also founded golden section therapy and a form of needle therapy called time therapy. He includes them under the umbrella of fractal therapies, and has had successful practices in Arizona, London, Liverpool, Scotland and Devon.

The Fractal Needle Theoretical Base

A fractal is made up of parts that are in some way similar to the whole, i.e., a human is a microcosm of the macro – the universe. This similarity is not only a property of the fractal, it also defines a fractal. It is a geometric figure in which an identical motif repeats itself throughout its structure. We can easily apply this to the human body, as we do in reflexology using the foot as a micro of the whole body. Everything in the universe has a fractal structure, the idea of a human as a microcosm of the universe is behind much of Chinese and East Asian philosophy, and is the framework for Chinese medicine. The basic nature of a fractal is self-similarity, or self-affinity. It is a fine structure centre enlarger; what is at the centre repeats itself throughout the whole. So if we puncture a point in the arm that is a micro of the stomach, the sensation 'ripples' out to that part of the whole with which it shares an affinity.

The Fractal Needle in Practice and How It Differs from Traditional Acupuncture

Dr Ye has worked alone practising these therapies, quickly gaining many patients by word of mouth. Eventually a project researcher from Bristol University came to collect his cases for special research. His work was selected for study by Janet Conneely at the School of Medicine[1] because clear evidence emerged of the striking and rapid cure of patients who had experienced difficult illness. The sample of cases revealed this treatment works where very expensive and long-running NHS treatments have failed.

Fractal therapies quickly treat difficult illnesses. Many patients of Dr Ye have 'untreatable' conditions. Often the patient has to rely on pain-killing, mind-numbing medication for the rest of their lives, switching drugs when the body becomes resistant to them, or when the side effects become unbearable. Asthma, prostate conditions, Parkinson's disease, psoriasis, menstrual disorders, and any kind of pain have been treated by fractal therapy. We also have success in treating patients with psychological and emotional disorders. We are currently seeking funding to research our practices through controlled trials, hopefully in order to promote its use amongst health professionals and to investigate how the therapies work.

Dr Ye believes that the human body system uses the effects of one needle puncture to wake up a human's innate spontaneous healing ability. In some cases, like viral infections, it gives the often sluggish immune system a kick-start. The body is a self-organizing system; one-needle or one-finger stimulation at the right location will wake up the defence function to restore the balance, as reflexologists and masseurs know. Instead of chemicals doing the work to combat a condition, the fractal needle stimulates the body to balance itself, restoring order, and therefore 'normal' health.

Dr Ye teaches each patient to treat themselves; he and his students all treat themselves. Self-treatment removes dependence on the therapist, promotes responsibility for self-healing and saves money for the patient. Western patients may find self-acupuncture a challenging concept at first, but the effectiveness of the treatment provides sufficient motivation.

Traditional acupuncture uses affinity and similarity in treatment; for example, if the upper body part has illness the treatment involves the lower part, and vice versa, but fractal needle acupuncture takes this principle further, so that only a single needle is needed to provide a complete treatment.

The first textbook of acupuncture was The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine. It seems to us that the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine's structure, or form of acupuncture, is an ancient model of the modern fractal theory. We can find a link between the new therapy and the ancient way by looking at the main principles of The Yellow Emperor's Classic:

Self-similarity – every meridian has the five element points, every point with the same element treating the corresponding disease. The five points become progressively stronger, as the first is called the 'well', the second is the 'stream', the third is the 'river', the fourth is the 'lake', and the fifth is the' sea'. So if there is a fever, treat the 'well'; if the stomach is in pain, treat the 'stream'.

If the left side has the problem, according to the Yellow Emperor, the right side should be treated. The same rule applies if the upper body has a problem, whereby the lower body should be treated. We can link this with the fractal's properties of self-affinity, and self-symmetry – like treats like.

Fine structure is the structure of the phenomenon of time, as described by modern scientific theory. This fine structure has a connection with the ancient text in the sense that time acupuncture, called zi wu liu chu, treats the human body as a clock, with each meridian and organ 'opening' at a specific time, so the acupuncturist gives the optimum treatment at the optimum time. The human body's fine structure of time links with the fine structure of time outside the body, the micro with the macro. Fine structure with time together offer a most effective treatment approach.

The most obvious difference between the fractal needle and traditional acupuncture is that the fractal needle uses one needle rather than the multiple needles of traditional acupuncture. We have found that one input creates multiple effects, and is sufficient to treat illness if the correct point is stimulated.

Case Studies

We will use examples of real cases to illustrate how the fractal needle is used.

Case Study 1

The patient is 25 years old and suffers from water retention, which causes discomfort and swelling in the stomach area. First she is diagnosed in the traditional Chinese fashion by taking the pulse on each wrist, looking at the tongue and asking questions about eating and toilet habits. It is found through this holistic diagnosis that her problem lies in the spleen and stomach – this corresponds with the element of earth in the Chinese system. We can understand the five elements system by seeing that earth controls the element of water, so we treat the spleen as it correlates with earth energy. After treatment to reinforce the earth energy, it will be able to control the water, stopping the water retention. The fractal point for the spleen/stomach is half way down the forearm on the inside, or half way down the lower leg on the inside. This is using the arm or leg as a microcosm of the whole body, as the spleen and stomach are in the middle, so the fractal needle point is in the middle of the independent parts: leg or arm.

Part of the treatment is to show the patient how to use the needle for themselves. The patient is shown the point on the arm or leg and shown how to find it using touch. She will know the point because it is the part that when pressed firmly causes the most reaction. She is given a needle, which has a plastic outer tube akin to a tampon applicator, and she inserts her own needle. It is inserted deeply, until it cannot go in any further, and then she is shown how to manipulate the needle. The benefit of this self-puncture is that the patient has a continual treatment. The effects of acupuncture only last, at best, 48 hours, but she is able to treat herself at any time, so the energy flow is reinforced continually. We tell her that she should puncture herself at least twice a day, more if she needs it. After three days her condition was relieved and she no longer needed to treat herself.

The fractal needle can be used for difficult psychological problems as the following case illustrates.

Case Study 2

A male patient aged 32 came into the clinic. He seemed agitated and low in self-esteem. He had a 'psychotic' episode the previous year, and, following hospital treatment, he experienced psychological problems that left him unable to work. He complained of heart palpitations in situations when he was with strangers. If in a situation like this, he would worry about needing the toilet, and being afraid to ask a stranger where it is caused great nervousness and worry about losing control of his bladder, which in turn caused him to need to urinate excessively. He was told by his doctor that there was nothing that could be done and was prescribed tranquillizers. The patient stated that he didn't like the effect they were having on him and wanted to try the fractal needle.

He was diagnosed using the pulse to detect which of the five elements energy was at the root of his problem. His problem lay in the water energy; losing control of it meant that the kidney energy that corresponds to the element of water was deficient. The earth energy manages the element water, so the diagnosis found that the earth energy, i.e. the spleen and stomach, had to be reinforced. The fractal needle point doesn't have to be the same for everyone with a stomach/earth energy problem. The beauty of the fractal means that there is a choice of points that can be used. In this case, the point was at the base of the gastrocnemius (calf muscle). The patient returned after one week and he said that he no longer had the problem. He was treating himself twice a day and no longer felt as though he was losing control of his bladder in situations that he found stressful. Two weeks later he returned, looking like a different person. He seemed to be brimming with confidence, and told us that he had found a job, ironically in water management for the local council!

Case Study 3

Dr Ye has had remarkable success in cases of asthmatics. The University of Southampton, under Professor Stephen Holgate, is currently looking into researching the effectiveness of acupuncture in terminal breathlessness using traditional acupuncture. However, the fractal needle technique allows the patient to control the condition themselves, giving them independence and freedom. The needle's stimulation causes an immediate reaction of free breathing, as he found in the case of a man aged 34, who had been dependent on his inhaler for a number of years. A holistic therapist himself, he was eager to find an alternative remedy. After the diagnosis to find what was at the root of his asthma, the needle was inserted in the point and immediately he felt his breathing had eased. He was shown how to puncture the point himself whenever he felt short of breath, instead of reaching for his inhaler. He wrote to Dr Ye after a few months, thanking him for the treatment, which had enabled him to throw away his inhalers and enjoy a finer quality of life after many years of suffering. Some of Dr Ye's asthma patients who are children have found that after two months of using the needle they can stop using inhalers without the asthma recurring. We need to do more academic research to find out statistically how effective the treatment is, and to find out how it works physically.

In cases of Parkinson's disease, the fractal provides the best relief from the symptoms. The patients still have the condition, but with every puncture from the needle, the shakes stop. The effects last for a day or so depending on the individual, but with this technique, as the patient can self-treat, he/she is able to control the symptoms to great effect.

Another difficult condition is prostatism. In one patient's own words:

"Dr Ye's treatment produced a spectacular breakthrough the same day with rapid improvement ever since the first session on 19 January 2000. This was after I had abandoned hope following having been treated on the NHS with string dosages of antibiotics for a year 1996-7: ciprofloxacin 250mg – up to 2 twice a day (4 a day), or other long running antibiotics, and ever since I have had constant pain in the prostate area that varied in intensity and could be very depressing and debilitating, waking me at night. I experienced over frequent urination and involuntary urination, I also had homeopathic treatment which proved ineffective."[2]

Another patient's testimony in the form of a questionnaire for Bristol University is as follows:

1) How I felt before treatment: Debilitated for one year. Exhausted, disinterested, unable to earn my living. Chest pains, physical exhaustion – after going twice up stairs. Unable to tolerate social interaction.
2) How the treatment made me feel: Gradual increase in energy and interest in life. Exhaustion level now normal for my age. Chest pains much decreased.
3) What the treatment involved: Acupuncture from Dr Ye followed by self-acupuncture and follow-ups from Dr Ye.
4) How I was helped by the treatment: The acupuncture seemed to redress some inner balance, which has remained. This changed my energy in some fundamental way. I feel returned to my healthy true self.


1. To be published in October 2001.
2. Name of patient not supplied for publication.


Liu Bing Quan. Optimum Time for Acupuncture – A Collection of Traditional Chinese Chronotherapeutics. Shandong Science and Technology Press. China. 1988.
Najing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture and Moxibustion. Shanghai Scientific and Technologic Publishing Agency. China. 1979.


  1. zude ye said..

    near 20 years ago I have developed this project support be NHS Liverpool. Before fractal acupuncture I have developed spinal reflexology theory, both used in mu training programme. At that time people didn't know top-levels designing, now after belt-road growing fast and top-levels design also become fashion based on it may develop new scientific paradigm for creation develop

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About Dr Zude Ye and Zoe Desmond

Dr Ye comes from a family with a 400-year healing tradition. He was associate professor at Xingnang Shi He Zi University, China, before founding spinal reflexology and the fractal needle. He has practised his medical techniques in Arizona, USA, Totnes in Devon, London, Scotland, and now at The Water's Edge Natural Health Centre in New Brighton, Merseyside. He can be reached at Zoë Desmond has been involved with natural health for a number of years. She is an I Ching and Feng Shui consultant, and practises fractal needle acupuncture and spinal reflexology. She is writing with Dr Ye on topics related to the Chinese arts of I Ching, Feng Shui and Tai Chi, with the aim of preserving and promoting ancient Chinese healing practices and traditions, and modifying them for the Western mindset. She can be reached on tel: 0151 639 0989.

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