State, federal, and international organizations recognize and regulate acupuncture and herbs after thousands of years of widespread utilization.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient form of medicine including acupuncture, herbal medicine, tuina therapeutic massage, dietetics, movement arts including qi gong and taiji (tai chi), and more. Its roots date back to over 5,300 years ago; Otzi the mummy, discovered in the Northern Italian Alps, had numerous acupuncture point locations tattooed on his body (Dorfer et al.).
Modern scientific evidence confirms the therapeutic value of acupuncture and MRI studies confirm that specific acupuncture points induce hemodynamic changes in specific brain networks relating to the healing of specific medical disorders (He et al.). There are approximately 20,000 licensed acupuncturists in the USA and there are numerous state acupuncture medical boards and national organizations providing oversight of the profession. Nonetheless, the wheels of the federal government often turn slowly and the profession, technically, did not exist in the USA until recently.
The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) now recognizes acupuncturists. The profession has been assigned a Standard of Occupational Classification Code (SOC). The new code (SOC – 29-1291) has far reaching implications for licensed acupuncturists. This opens the door to federal recognition across the board. Federal inclusion within various departments and agencies is facilitated by the numerical designation. This includes new possibilities for inclusion in Medicare, Medicaid, Veteran Affairs facilities, and more.
The UK is slowly accepting Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) into its system. The very first TCM herbal therapeutic product has been licensed by the MHRA (Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) as an over the counter product. This is in response to The Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products (THMP) Directive set by the European Union. The Official Journal of the European Union (30.4.2004, L 136/85) notes, “authorisation to place a medicinal product on the market have to be accompanied by a dossier containing particulars and documents relating in particular to the results of physicochemical, biological or microbiological tests as well as pharmacological and toxicological tests and clinical trials carried out on the product and thus proving its quality, safety and efficacy.”
Phynova Joint and Muscle Relief Tablets were the very first TCM herbal medicines licensed by the UK’s MHRA. Sigesbeckia (Xi Xian Cao) provides the analgesic properties of the product. The company selling the product recommends it for back, muscle, joint, and other forms of musculoskeletal pain including rheumatism.
The use of Xi Xian Cao, although newly licensed in the UK, has a longstanding history in Traditional Chinese Medicine for use in herbal formulas. It was first documented in the Xin Xiu Ben Cao (Newly Revised Materia Medica) in the year 659. The following are TCM classifications of Xi Xian Cao. This herbal medicine enters the liver and kidney channels and is bitter and cold.
It dispels wind-dampness and opens the channels. For this therapeutic function, Xi Xian Cao is added to herbal formulas for the purposes of treating musculoskeletal pain. Its ability for opening the channels and collaterals extends to benefitting the sinew, reducing joint pain, and relieving muscle cramps, spasms, weakness, and paralysis. Xi Xian Cao is valued for its anti-inflammatory effects. This herb may be processed with alcohol and honey to provide a warming function to offset the cold and bitter nature of the herb.
Xi Xian Cao eliminates heat and toxins, especially for patients with jaundice or malaria. Xi Xian Cao is often used internally or externally for dermatological conditions including sores, rashes, and itching due to wind-damp-heat. Xi Xian Cao has a special function of lowering blood pressure and is used for patients with hypertension due to heat. While the UK recognizes this herb as safe for over the counter use, TCM documentation forbids the use of this herb for pregnant women and children. USA licensed acupuncturists trained and certified in TCM herbal medicine understand these restrictions and recommend herbs based on established precautions and guidelines.
In related acupuncture continuing education news, the California Acupuncture Board will implement a new ethics CEU requirement for licensed acupuncturists. The NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) has had this requirement for many years. The California Acupuncture Board has not released an enforcement date or guidelines regarding this impending regulation. We will keep you posted on this developing story.
The Georgia Composite Medical Board is developing continuing education requirements for licensed acupuncturists. The board states (Rule 360-6-.11 License Renewal states), “To be eligible for renewal, a licensee must furnish satisfactory evidence of having met 40 hours of Board approved continuing education requirements, including a minimum of one hour concerning infectious disease.” However, full implementation is pending.
A coordinator from the Healthcare Medicine Institute (HealthCMi) spoke with a representative from the Georgia Composite Medical Board who notes that all licensed acupuncturists are encouraged to obtain and document continuing education (CEU) courses in the interim. As a service to licensed acupuncturists, the board posted the following on their website, “As we are in the initial stages of implementing the Acupuncture Act of Georgia, the Board has not yet promulgated rules on continuing education requirements for Acupuncturists. When the Board does promulgate the standards for continuing acupuncture education requirements, the Board conducts a random audit of renewal applicants. You will be notified by mail that your renewal application is being audited for CAE requirements. The renewal applicant will simply forward the appropriate documentation to the Board."
That’s the HealthCMi bureaucratic roundup for today. Since we mentioned Otzi at the top of the article, let’s take a closer look at the findings. The tattoos were on the following acupoints:
- BL21 – 25
An X-ray medical analysis of Otzi reveals that he had arthritis. The tattooed acupoints match the arthritis locations in reference to acupuncture point prescriptions according to TCM principles. DNA analysis reveals that Otzi was of southern European descent, particularly Corsican and Sardinian. To learn more about acupuncture and herbal medicine:
Dorfer L, et al. A medical report from the stone age? Lancet Sep 18, 1999;354:1023-5.
He, Tian, Wen Zhu, Si-Qi Du, Jing-Wen Yang, Fang Li, Bo-Feng Yang, Guang-Xia Shi, and Cun-Zhi Liu. "Neural mechanisms of acupuncture as revealed by fMRI studies." Autonomic Neuroscience (2015).