Lingo, Definitions, Cautions, and Political Hoo-Ha

By Quinn Akira Takei
Holistic Health Coach. Doctor of Oriental Medicine (NM), Licensed Acupuncturist, and Chinese Herbalist

There are many terms often used in my world of Eastern Medicine which can be ambiguous and often have many different definitions.  I would like to explain what these terms mean to me, my intent on their usage, and the problems with the ambiguity. 

Acupuncture- acupuncture is the insertion of small needles into specific places of the body to influence the movement of energy through the body or influence how organs are functioning.

Licensed Acupuncturist”- one licensed as an acupuncturist.  Okay, that probably sounds like a smart ass answer, but keep reading…

“Oriental Medicine”- the big umbrella term that includes all therapies originating in the orient.  The therapies may include; Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.   Therapies usually included here are acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Asian body work therapies.

“Chinese Medicine”- perhaps the biggest branch of Oriental Medicine.  Also, this terms serves as an umbrella for the Chinese styles of acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Chinese bodywork (tui na).

“Herbology”- the use of plants and other parts of nature medicinally.  Various herbs go to different parts of the body to influence the body in different ways.  In Chinese herbal medicine, herbs are typically combined together to enhance the desired effect, balance the other herbs, guide the medicine to specific parts of the body, and decrease any side effects.   From my studies in China, I would say herbal medicine is really 70% of the medicine (opposed to acupuncture)

SO… not all “acupuncturists” practice “Oriental Medicine”.  In many states, North Carolina included, acupuncturists do not need training in herbal medicine or Asian body work therapies.  

Not all that practice “acupuncture” are “Licensed Acupuncturists”.  In many states, North Carolina include, MDs and chiropractors can legally do “acupuncture” with little to no training.

Some states still do not even have licensing laws.  Some states have very politically motivated laws permitting MDs or chiropractors to practice acupuncture with minimal or no training while those with thousands of hours of training are forbidden.

The Asian healing arts is a medicine very new to the West.  As a result, most of us in this form of healing have struggled to get what licensing we can.  But… there is a cost. The cost is to you, the public consumer.  One that advertises “acupuncture” may be one of four types of practitioners:

A medical doctor.  In most cases little to no actual training in acupuncture.

A chiropractor. In most cases little to no actual training in acupuncture.

An acupuncturist with no training in herbal medicine, Asian bodywork therapies, or other eastern healing arts methodologies.

An acupuncturist who practices the full spectrum of “Oriental Medicine” and comes with a knowledge of herbal medicine, Asian body work, and all the other really cool healing eastern arts tricks.

So, as a consumer, be very cautions of those that offer “acupuncture”.  It’s a big word that has been leveraged by entities with money able to pay lobbyists.  Believe it or not, not all that happens in legislation is actually for the public’s benefit.

And of course, there are the Physical Therapists now offering “dry needling” with 53 hours of training…. But that is a story for another time…