Acupuncture works in the same way that a teacher or coach works; it provides instructions and cues as to how Qi should change, but it does not do the work directly. Instead, the body balances itself based on the instructions or encouragement that it is given. And just like working with a good teacher or coach, one becomes more familiar with how change is supposed to happen and more capable of creating change over time.
Herbs, on the other hand, have a direct influence on physiology and actually do something to create a change. That change lasts as long as the herbal remedy is in one’s system. Over time, changes can become more lasting.
Acupuncture by itself can do many of the same things that herbal medicine can do. It often has to be received several times a week to make this kind of impact. This can make it cost prohibitive for many people. In comparison, herbal medicine can often influence change on a daily basis and can be more cost effective. Greater results can be seen if both are done concurrently for at least the first couple of weeks of treatment.
If treatment is not appropriate, acupuncture has very few if any lasting side effects. Where as herbal medicine can have side effects that are more pronounced and longer lasting. Both modalities are very safe when compared to pharmaceuticals.
A good practitioner of acupuncture and herbal medicine can guide you to an appropriate course of treatment.