In the countries where Chinese medicine theory and practice have evolved and been advanced over millennia, places like China and Japan; the practice of acupuncture and herbal medicine are often practiced separately. A practitioner who does acupuncture would not use herbs and vice versa. In today’s world there are separate schools, tests and licensure for each modality because it is recognized that each one is a specialty unto itself. From a scholarly perspective, each is seen as a “life’s work” to master. So the idea that an individual practitioner can (or should) be proficient at both is an idea conjured up by western schools of Chinese medicine to possibly enroll more students.
With that said, it is possible for a diligent student of these two modalities to practice both and achieve good clinical results. Especially in the modern world where most disease patterns seen in the clinic are due to the same handful of causes: overwork, stress, improper eating and lifestyle habits, and lack of exercise. If a practitioner can become proficient at treating a half dozen different patterns then good results can be obtained.
Next time we will explain how acupuncture and herbs differ in how they balance Qi and when each is appropriate in treatment.