We’ve got competition. PT’s, MD’s, and DC’s are excited about filiform needles and LAcs are freaking out.
While our energy has been focused on that competition (our training and skills are superior, right?) we haven’t been paying attention to increasing restrictions on our ability to practice the fullness of our medicine. Adding insult to injury, the restrictions on practice are “coming from inside the house.”
I’m talking about restrictions on our use of herbs.
Yes, herbal medicine is powerful and complex and carries both potential risk and potential benefit. Yes, it takes many thousands of hours to come close to mastery of this branch of our medicine. Yes, people have been harmed by the improper use of herbs and supplements. And, yes, at some point the damage done by the misuse of herbs may result in stricter regulation. We may indeed lose access to more herbs.
It’s good that we want to be proactive, protecting the public and the profession from harm. It’s not so good if our actions don’t have the desired result. And not good at all if our actions increase risk to the public and the profession.
Let’s consider the terrain —
- What portion of harm from herbs/supplements is the result of poor practice by Acupuncturists?
- What portion of harm from herbs is from the use of raw herbs, what portion is from pre-made herbal formulas?
- Does preventing certain LAcs from recommending herbs or supplements limit public access to these products?
- Is the average LAc, even without herbal training, likely to have a positive or negative impact on client’s proper use of herbs and supplements?
- Which are better tailored to the individualized treatment that is a hallmark of Chinese Medicine — pre-made/patent formulas or raw herbs?
- Which are more likely to be contaminated with banned substances or prescription medicine – patent formulas or raw herbs?
- Is it possible to draw a bright line between dietary therapy and herbal therapy?
- Does limiting LAc recommendation of herbs interfere with the ability of other health care providers or salespeople to recommend or sell herbs or supplements?
See where I am going with this?
Anyone can get Chinese herbs, even dangerous ones. Increasing the regulatory burden on Acupuncturists would make sense if it would protect the public or our access to the full pharmacopoeia on an ongoing basis. It would make sense if LAcs were routinely endangering the public through unregulated use of herbs.
It doesn’t make sense for a subset of our profession to become the only group of health professionals not able to recommend herbs to their clients.
If the only groups weighing in are the schools and NCCAOM, formal (and expensive) training and credentialing will be increasingly required.
Let’s stand united against unnecessary restrictions. LAcs have an excellent safety record. Stay tuned for real-time developments and your opportunity to weigh in on the regulation of herbal medicine for Acupuncturists.