The State of Illinois does not allow its licensed acupuncturists to receive continuing education credit (acupuncture ceus) from courses containing herbal medicine content. Even if continuing education courses are officially approved by the NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine), Illinois will not allow the courses to count towards acupuncture CEU (continuing education unit) credit if the course contains any herbal medicine information.
Current Illinois State law prevents acupuncturists from using herbal medicine as part of their scope of practice. The NCCAOM has an herbal component in their testing and accrediting process but the state has no provision to accept the herbal component. Other states accept the NCCAOM herbal testing procedures. California, Florida, and Texas have their own testing procedures that allow herbal medicine to be included in an acupuncturist’s scope of practice.
Chinese Medicine Procedures
Herbal medicine is central to both Chinese medicine and the history of the acupuncturist’s role as physician. The historical use of herbal medicine is well over a thousand years old and modern use includes testing for purity and toxicity to ensure consumer safety. Both herbal medicine and acupuncture are part of the Chinese medicine system which also includes movement arts such as Qi Gong and Tai Qi, highly specialized forms of medical massage, and a system of nutrition including food cures and dietary recommendations. All of these techniques and applications are guided by a central system of Chinese medicine theory which includes differential diagnostic treatment principles.
Acupuncture Education Standards
The removal of herbal medicine from an acupuncturist’s practice hampers an acupuncturist’s ability to provide quality healthcare for patients. The State of Illinois not only disallows the use of herbal medicine but also disallows Chinese medicine education of herbology. The problem is that much of Chinese medicine theory is embedded in the process of learning herbal medicine. The standard of education is lowered for the practice of acupuncture by removing herbal medicine from the continuing education CEU process. For example, important case histories may incorporate a combination of herbal medicine and acupuncture to treat disease. Although this may be valuable educational material, it is not legal for an acupuncturist in Illinois to receive acupuncture CEU credit for reviewing a case history that includes an herbal medicine component. Illinois requires new herbal medicine legislation to raise their state-wide standard for the practice of acupuncture to meet that of other states. California, for example, has tested for both acupuncture and herbal medicine as part of an acupuncturist's licensing process since the early 1970's. Illinois is one of the very last states to ban herbal medicine from an acupuncturist's scope of practice.