Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture and Herbs iPhone Apps

There are many iPhone apps for licensed acupuncturists. Today, let’s look at Ben Cao, Pocket TCM, and Points. The first two are Chinese herbal medicine iPhone apps and the last is an acupuncture app. These apps provide acupuncturists with educational opportunities for clinical cross referencing and acupuncture continuing education studies.

Ben Cao is an excellent herbal medicine iPhone app. Individual herbs can be looked up by pinyin, pharmaceutical name, English name, category, and channel. Formulas can be referenced by pinyin, English name, and category. There is also a ‘symptoms’ reference which allows users to research both individual herbs and formulas by indications. This is a handy and useful tool for licensed acupuncturists looking to refine or cross reference herbs and formulas. Yet another search reference tool is the ‘syndromes’ tool which allows users to look up herbs and formulas by the Chinese medicine differential diagnosis. In all cases, when one is viewing the infomation on an individual herb it is a simple tap to select any of the formulas that the herb appears in. Many aspects of the app are cross referenced so as important keywords appear in the description of an herb or formula, they can be tapped for further cross referencing. For example, if I look up the ‘syndrome’ of Empty Heat - all I need to do is tap on the topic. Next, a list of all of the herbs (properly categorized) appears and relevant formulas. The user can tap on any individual herb or formula to learn more. Let’s say the user chooses Qing Hao Bie Jia Tang. Now the user sees all of the data about this formula and can tap on any individual herb within the formula and many of the important ideas within the formula such as low grade fever, no sweating, Yin, and formulas that clear deficient heat. Overall, Ben Cao is an excellent resource. It is easy to use, fast, and fun.  It contains hundreds of herbs and formulas and sells for $29.99. Our only suggestion is to expand the program to contain thousands of herbs and formulas. We want to see it grow because it is already a great contribution to the practice of acupuncture and herbal medicine.

Points is a simple guide to looking up the locations and functional information on acupuncture points on the iPhone. When looking at a pictured diagram of an acupuncture channel, one is NOT able to select a point by tapping on its location. Rather, points are selected by a number wheel. This does make for some ergonomic issues and is non-intuitive. Overall, Points is fun but lacks the power and depth of something like Manual of Acupuncture on DVD for use on laptops. Other issues with Points is the use on non-standard language for indications and also we found minor errors. We’d like to see more from Points both in ergonomics and raw data. However, it is fun and costs $19.99. With some development and editing, Points may yet become a great program. In the meantime, Points may be more relevant to the layperson until these basic improvements are made. There are other acupuncture point programs for the iPhone which may better suit licensed acupuncturists.

The Pocket TCM iPhone app sorts herbal formulas by pinyin or English. It also has a search function to look-up a formula. It doesn’t do much more than this. There is no individual herb, function, diagnosis, or syndrome cross referencing. It’s just a plain ol’ list of formulas. However, the information is accurate and clear. We like the price point for this herbal formula iPhone app at $4.99. If you need more power, bump up to Ben Cao. The two make nice companions for a licensed acupuncturist with a busy schedule.