What You Need to Know About Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture

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Herbal Medicine versus Acupuncture 

Are you often confused about the different modalities that fall outside the scope of Western Medicine?  When is Herbal Medicine needed? When is Acupuncture needed? Is it the same treatment plan?

Well, you’re not alone. We get these questions often at the clinic. 

We love spending the time with our patients breaking down the details of these modalities. We feel it’s helpful to understand why certain modalities are needed for certain ailments. 

Let’s dive deeper into the differences between acupuncture and herbal medicine (aka Chinese Herbal Medicine), as a start.


Chinese Medicine

To paint the picture a bit better lets first start with Chinese Medicine you may also hear this as Eastern Medicine. 

What is Chinese Medicine?

Under the large umbrella of Chinese Medicine, there are many modalities for healing including acupuncture, herbal medicine, meditation, qi gong, nutrition therapy, tui-na (Chinese massage) and bone setting (chiropractic).  Working on both the root cause of the problem and the symptoms. 

In contrast, the Western Medicine umbrella,  includes pharmaceuticals, surgery, various physical therapies, and cognitive therapies. 

The foundation of health in Chinese Medicine is oxygen and nutrient-rich blood coursing through every part of the body so that regeneration and regulation are at optimal levels.



As explained above acupuncture is a sub-modality of Chinese Medicine. 

Acupuncture is the procedure of placing hair-thin needles around the body to address symptoms of pain, lack of range of motion, tension and other types of neuropathies such as weakness, numbness, and pain from nerve damage, usually in the hands and feet.

One key aspect of the evolution of acupuncture was the ongoing observation of neural connectivity in the human body. 

Neural connectivity is the communication between the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system.

Meaning that nerves from the outer parts of our body (peripheral) give information to the brain (central). And vice-versa.
This back and forth is what regulates pain management and other physiologic functions.

Acupuncture enhances these relationships to bring about the body’s natural pain-relieving mechanisms.  

This is why placing needles in your wrists or ankle, for example,  can relieve pain on the opposite sides of the body.

This, in turn, relaxes blood flow into targeted regions of the body.  Used as a consistent therapy we are able to moderate dysfunctional nerve activity and encourage better blood flow around the body. 


Herbal Medicine

Chinese herbal medicine offers a different approach to the same goal of nutrient-rich blood flow in the body.  

Herbal Medicine is often referred to as the Chinese Pharmacy.  It’s divided into categories of influence.

These include:

  1. The ability to affect the nutrient quality of the blood itself
  2. Antibiotic and anti-inflammatory herbs to reduce inflammation and pathologic conditions, and 
  3. The ability to widen and relax the blood vessels

Furthermore, there are herbs specific to our anatomy as well, such as targeting small blood vessels versus larger vessels, herbs for the head versus the low back or feet, and herbs that are organ-specific.  


What You Need to Know About Both

Both acupuncture and herbal medicine work well with consistency over time.  

Acute conditions of the body can resolve quickly while chronic conditions can take longer to bring back to balance. 

While using herbal medicine, with most conditions, you should see an improvement in your symptoms within the first month of taking herbs. 

With acupuncture, you should see a shift in your symptoms within the first three sessions.

It is important to clarify which and what kinds of treatment you need before embarking on your treatment plan. 

This serves to efficiently utilize your time and resources towards your specific health goals.  

The treasure of Chinese Medicine and it’s 2000 year history of treating the human condition, is the knowledge of how the body performs over time and how it should respond to these treatment strategies. 

An experienced practitioner will be able to guide you through the modalities to produce the balance and well-being you are seeking.

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