Acupuncturists need to be on the forefront of this healthcare mindset change. We know that herbs and botanicals are effective and they don’t just relieve symptoms but also solve the underlying issues that result in those manifestations. Our training in the subject is invaluable to providing correct care to patients. Such as treating psycho-emotional disorders using Gan Mai Da Zao Tang when stemming from shen disturbance as opposed to using Gui Pi Tang when stemming from heart blood and yin deficiency. We see that they’re two totally different diagnosis treated with absolutely different formulas but western medicine treats them identically! Educating people about the benefits of using natural medicines prescribed from trained acupuncturists vs. taking vitamins off the shelf at the grocery store or all their western pharmaceuticals will open their eyes to alternatives they probably had no idea existed. Blind case studies, lab tests, and in depth research will leave no room for skepticism of it. But we need more than concrete proof. Once the facts are on paper little will change if people still don’t know.
The second way we can bring herbs into integrative practices is by marketing. We see the power of marketing in every direction we look. You can’t go through the day without being pushed a new contraption or singing some age old jingle of products passed. Every professional is looking for the perfect way to do it and no business thrives without it. This is how pharmaceutical companies dominate medicine and it’s an example we can follow to see natural medicine become more widely used.
Steps as simple as Internet ads and commercials will lead to more questions from patients to their doctors, and one day lead to doctors having acupuncturists as Chinese medicine consultants to prescribe herbs to an overwhelming number of interested patients. This synergy has worked beautifully in many parts of Europe for years and it’s a trend I hope to see here in the years to come.
Acupuncturists can successfully bring the practice of herbal medicine and the use of botanicals into the integrative medicine field. And we don’t need to compromise the integrity of our products or connive people into taking them to do it. By integrating the strategies of marketing and research used in western medicine into our practice we can join together the healing benefits of herbs and botanicals to the needs of the general population.
I recently entered an essay contest that asked us to explain how the use of acupuncture and herbal medicine can contribute to providing mainstream American healthcare. Here’s my response:
When thinking of this question I wanted to give a critical answer, an idea that could legitimately be used in the growth of our profession. How do we incorporate some of the nastiest substances in existence into the most comfortable population in the world? It’s so hard to get patients to drink herbal teas or even consistently take tea pills! It seems impossible. The ideal solution would be to produce an affordable herbal supplement with some kind of incentive for patients to take them, because long-term health has proven to not be enough. Unfortunately, if I had come up with that idea I wouldn’t be writing about it, I’d be getting rich off it.
Almost 4 out of every 10 people in the U.S. are already turning to complementary and alternative medicine, and natural products are by far the most widely used under that category. So maybe the answer isn’t trying to water down the medicine that’s been working for thousands of years, but showing the general public what we’ve known all along: herbs and botanicals work.
Scientists and doctors love to drill numbers into our heads. They use statistics to scare us into medications we don’t want and surgeries we don’t need. But I don’t think it’s because they’re sadistic. Pharmaceutical companies shell out inconceivable amounts of money to tell people how their drugs can benefit patients and profit. Doctors become so bombarded with drug companies selling to them and patients asking for them that it would be financial suicide to refuse. So how can we please a population looking for more care out of their healthcare and doctors who need to run a business based on good practices and making money?
I believe the first way to doing that is the availability of concise clinical research. With more extensive research into the effectiveness of Chinese herbs, formulas, and botanicals on specific pattern differentiations, we can strategically integrate them into more western practices. People want individualized healthcare but the bureaucracy of western medicine has made it impossible for modern doctors to meet that need. As acupuncturists we have the freedom of treating people based on individual needs and the legitimacy to have a voice in the medical community. When that voice is backed by scientific research we become an irrefutable force in healthcare…
My journey into Community Acupuncture is starting to feel like a reality! Today I finally registered for our fictitious name through the state and I recieved these little gems in the mail last week. I’ll post as I delve deeper into the world of working class acupuncture. I’m continually reminded of God’s provision for this through the time I have left at school and I am blessed to have this time to grow and wait.
I started at FCIM in the fall of 2008. I knew little about acupuncture, herbs, massage, or basically anything about oriental medicine. I had taken a leap of faith dropping out of my pre-med degree at a large public state university enrolling in this tiny acupuncture school on the other side of town, but I hadn’t been more excited since I graduated high school. I knew I wanted to be part of healing people and my heart was convinced that drugs and surgery were not the answers for a multitude of the problems we’ve tried to solve.
My first year was rough. Academically I’ve always done enough to make the grade and nothing more, in the past it’s never taken me much effort to pass a class but then again I’d always had a background in whatever subject I was studying. Here I was attacking a whole new animal. New concepts, new types of people, new ways of doing things, thankfully I had an amazing class that was willing to help me and make me feel at home. In clinic my title was “Observe,” my job was to be a fly on the wall in treatments and to clean things. I was never more bored in my life. I honestly spent most of that first year hiding from supervisors in the library and studying in the student lounge. I hated clinic so much that I actually didn’t go my second semester. Yep, that’s right, I just didn’t go. I was so used to constantly going and having so much to do, that standing around and cleaning treatment rooms made me sick to my stomach. I also wasn’t doing to hot in my classes. Skating by wasn’t working and I had no idea there was any other feasible way to do it. So I blamed it on the school and left.
I didn’t drop out without a plan, I enrolled in another school, even flew out there and toured it, but I realized I wasn’t ready to be in a graduate level program. I had more life to live and more maturing I needed to do. So I packed my bags and headed west (cliché much?) I got an internship with a non-profit in San Diego that I’d volunteered with for a couple years. I lived with 60 people and often worked 19-hour days for 5 months. If I hadn’t known what hard work and sacrifice was, I did now. And so I returned home and after multiple pros-and-cons lists, I reenrolled at school.
Since starting back up, my clinic experience has taken on new meaning to me. I finished those hours that I neglected my second semester in 2 months (which I paid for in energy and more money than I’m willing to disclose.) And moved on to “Assist” in which I actually got to take blood pressure and temperatures! So that brings me to the present. I’m now treating patients on my own. I have my own assists and observes, and still clean my own room. I have every satisfaction of knowing there’s nothing else I want to be doing than standing around that clinic waiting for my next patient and helping them get better with every treatment. I’m definitely not perfect, I’m not an A student, every pulse seems wiry to me, and I still forget to ask patients to take off their shoes before they get on the table. But when I go into that consultation room and I know what I’m treating and how I’m treating it before anyone has to tell me, I know I’m getting better.