Our History

The International college of Oriental Medicine was founded by Dr. J.D. van Buren in 1972. The College was originally formed in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire but, as it expanded, a new building was found in East Grinstead, Sussex, in 1977.

Who was Dr van Buren?

Dr J D Van Buren outside the ICOM building in East Grinstead

Dr J D van Buren

Born in 1921, to Dutch parents in Indonesia, van Buren was called up to serve in the Dutch army as a young man and at the age of 20, he became a prisoner of war of the Japanese for four years and was sent to a concentration camp in Java. The conditions were dreadful. Those who survived did so on what was known as a ‘rice sandwich’: rice in the morning, afternoon and evening. At one point, near to death, van Buren was treated by a local man who cured his dysentery. Inspired by this, in 1947 he moved to England and trained as a nurse. He went on to study naturopathy, osteopathy and homeopathy in London and subsequently worked as an osteopath.

Dr van Buren began his studies of Acupuncture in 1952, travelling around the world to gain as much knowledge as possible in this field. In 1969, he was awarded a Doctorate of Acupuncture in Taiwan as acknowledgement of his mastery of the subject. In 1972, he founded the International College of Oriental Medicine from his home in Gerrard’s Cross, Buckinghamshire, moving to the new premises on Green Hedges Avenue in East Grinstead in 1977 to accommodate the growing college. Thanks to his pioneering work at that time, other colleges were also founded in the Netherlands, Norway and Australia (now operating independently). For many years Dr. van Buren gave lectures at many different colleges, setting and maintaining teaching and clinical standards in acupuncture.

A group of graduates standing in front of the entrance to van Buren House on their graduation day in 1977

1977 Graduation

Dr. van Buren made the application of the Stems and Branches Acupuncture theory a practical reality at ICOM and this was his unique contribution to the teaching of Oriental Medicine. Knowledge of the Stems and Branches theory gives the student of Oriental Medicine an insight into the origin of disease at the deepest level. The International College of Oriental Medicine is the oldest Acupuncture training institution in the UK and this material is being constantly researched, developed and taught.

Dr van Buren passed away in 2003 but his legacy remains as strong as ever. In November 2022 ICOM celebrated the centenary of Dr van Buren’s birth and held its graduation ceremony on the same day.

In its long history, ICOM has been a major contributor to the development of Acupuncture in the UK. Fifty years of graduation photos appear on the beautiful staircase at van Buren House and many of today’s leading figures in the world of Acupuncture trained here including distinguished international lecturers and authors of Acupuncture and Chinese Medical textbooks used by students and practitioners around the world. Amongst them are Giovanni Maciocia, Roisin Golding, Peter Deadman, Sandra Hill and Royston Low.

Giovanni Maciocia

Giovanni Maciocia was amongst the first Acupuncture graduates from ICOM in 1974. After graduating Maciocia studied Western herbalism at the National Institute of Medical Herbalists in 1977. He went on to deepen his knowledge at the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The Foundations of Chinese Medicine book coverMaciocia adapted the theories of Chinese medicine he learned to address Western conditions and Western diseases. He wrote several seminal textbooks on Chinese Medicine: Tongue Diagnosis in Chinese MedicineThe Foundations of Chinese MedicineThe Practice of Chinese MedicineObstetrics and Gynaecology in Chinese MedicineDiagnosis in Chinese MedicineThe Channels of Acupuncture, and The Psyche in Chinese Medicine. His books are used as reference texts by academic institutions of Chinese medicine and by practitioners all over the world.

In 1994 he founded Su Wen Herbs producing herbal formulas based on classical Chinese formulae which he adapted to address patterns more commonly seen in clinical practice in the West. Sadly he passed away in 2018 but his family continue his legacy.

Fifty years of ICOM

In 2022 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the founding of the college and we have much to be grateful for. Today there are around forty students studying Acupuncture at the college, both full and part time. Students come to us from a multitude of backgrounds, but they all share the common desire to help others and benefit society.

ICOM is a not-for-profit organisation and through its student, graduate and professional clinics, part of its mission is to make high-quality Acupuncture treatment accessible to everyone in the local community. Very low cost and sometimes free Acupuncture treatments are available in our student clinics.

Students graduate from us with a Licentiate in Acupuncture through the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB) which will gives them access to the register of the British Acupuncture Council. Here is what the BAAB said about ICOM in their latest report.

The college has international recognition, and we have educated students from all over the world. Many ICOM graduates have gone on to provide much-needed healthcare to many sick and injured people globally. Some have gone on also to become prominent leaders in the field of Chinese medicine in their own right.

Van Buren House – East Grinstead’s Hidden Gem

Van Buren House (formerly known as Green Hedges House) is situated on Green Hedges Avenue (off London Road) alongside the railway line in East Grinstead. We are told the earliest parts of the building apparently date to the 16th Century, but the first written evidence appears on estate plan of 1776 where it is included as part of Willington’s Farm. The building retains many original features and in one of the main rooms downstairs (still known to our staff and students as Van Buren’s Room), a beautifully preserved example of original Oak Linenfold panelling still exists today.

an old black and white photograph of van Buren house, now the headquarters of the International College of Oriental Medicine

van Buren House (formerly Green Hedges House)

Over the years, pieces of land were subsequently sold off for private residences. In the Tithe survey of 1842, the building is described as ‘Cottage and Garden’ occupying an area of “2 Rods and 30 perches”.

The first traceable owner is John Henry Rogers in the 1851 and 1861 census registers. John Rogers was the philanthropic physician and surgeon who established and funded the town’s first cottage hospital in a house across the road, along with a free dispensary in the town. The cottage hospital he founded was the beginning of our building’s long association with the health professions.

Over the years the house exchanged hands and various portions of land were compulsorily purchased by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway to accommodate the line to Oxted and Croydon which opened March 1884.

In June 1957 the property was sold to Michael Hilary Christopher Glyn and became a veterinary practice until it was purchased by ICOM in August 1976. The Acupuncture college and its clinic has been part of the local community ever since.

Fifty Years of ICOM Acupuncture College

On 30th September 2023 East Grinstead’s Town Mayor Cllr Adam Peacock kindly presented this year’s graduates with their certificates during a very special graduation ceremony, which took place on the 50th anniversary of the founding of our Acupuncture college. Later on, graduates from the last 50 years joined us for a very special celebration to […]

Course Overview

Course Overview The Acupuncture training course at ICOM has much to offer prospective students. The College covers Classical acupuncture theory in great depth and has become renowned for its exploration of the theory of Stems and Branches. This offers a unique way of understanding the cycles of energetic change through time and their possible effect [...]


Find an ICOM-Trained Acupuncturist ICOM has trained hundreds of first-class Acupuncturists over the last fifty years. When you are treated by a practitioner who has trained at ICOM, you can be sure that they have undergone the most rigorous training with exceptional teachers. Some of our alumni are listed below. If you're looking for an [...]