Be an Informed Consumer

We were inspired by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s (NCCIH) recent “Be an Informed Consumer” campaign. When taking charge of your health, it is important to research the safety and effectiveness of products and modalities. Here are some important questions:

What are the differences between “conventional,” “complementary,” “alternative,” and “integrative” medicine?”

Conventional: Medicine practiced by M.D.’s, D.O’s, and their allied health professionals. Also called biomedicine or Western medicine.

Complementary: When non-mainstream practices are used together with conventional medicine.

Alternative: When non-mainstream practices are used in place of conventional medicine. This is more uncommon.

Integrative: The incorporation of non-mainstream practices into mainstream healthcare.

What are the education, training, regulation and licensure process for acupuncturists?

Licensed Acupuncturists (L.Ac) must complete a 4-year professional training program of classroom and clinical instruction. Upon the program’s completion, they will receive a Masters in Science for Traditional Oriental Medicine (MSTOM) or a Masters in Science for Acupuncture.

They must also pass board exams by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) to become licensed.

Where can I find reliable information about acupuncture and other complementary health approaches?

In today’s world, there are hundreds of websites making excessive claims of “secret ingredients” and “quick cures”- but how can you filter this content? More reliable sites have “.gov” and “.edu” in their addresses because they are associated with government, research and educational facilities. Suspect sites that sell products, include outdated information, and too-good-to-be-true claims.

Here are some resources for more information:

Complementary vs. Alternative Medicine

Education, Regulation & Licensure of Complementary Practitioners

Finding Reliable Sources About Complementary Therapies

What You Should Know About Dietary Supplements

Author: Sai Jurawanichkul, MS, LAc

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