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Safety of Chinese Medicine

 

Side Effects and Risks

 
 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is largely accepted to be safe from results gained through medical studies. Relatively few complications have been reported to the FDA from the use of acupuncture. Dizziness and minor bruising will sometimes result from acupuncture treatment. Bruising and minor burning are potential risks of cupping, Gua Sha, or moxibustion therapy.

Several cases of pneumothorax, nerve damage and infection have been reported as resulting from acupuncture treatments. These adverse events are extremely rare especially when compared to other medical interventions, and were found to be due to practitioner negligence.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners, requiring that needles be manufactured and labeled according to certain standards. For example, the FDA requires that needles be sterile, nontoxic, and labeled for single use by qualified practitioners only.

Acupuncturists who are certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) must take special courses in Clean Needle Technique (CNT) in other to obtain their certification. CNT courses include comprehensive methods of sterilization of acupuncture needles and equipment, prevention of transmission of blood-borne pathogens, proper disposal of contaminated waste, and other safety aspects of acupuncture.

NOLA Acupuncture Wellness Center follows the FDA regulations and uses only sterilized disposable needles manufactured by qualified companies.

 

Chinese Herbal Medicine

The herbs and nutritional supplements from plant, animal and mineral sources are traditionally considered safe in the practice of TCM, although some may be toxic in large doses. Cases of acute and chronic poisoning due to allergic reaction after taking certain Chinese herbal medicines have been reported in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan; however, in most cases, these cases happened when patients self prescribe herbs or take unprocessed versions of toxic herbs.

Some possible side effects of taking herbs are nausea, gas, stomachache, vomiting, headache, diarrhea, rashes, hives, and tingling of tongue. Some herbs may be inappropriate during pregnancy, so it is very important to inform your acupuncturist if you are or become pregnant.

 
 
 

Finding Qualified Practitioners

 
 

Most states license acupuncture, but states vary in their inclusion of other TCM components (e.g., herbal medicine) in the licenses they issue. The federally recognized Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) accredits schools that teach acupuncture and TCM, and about one-third of the states that license acupuncture require graduation from an ACAOM-accredited school. The NCCAOM offers separate certification programs in acupuncture, Chinese herbology, and Oriental bodywork. Almost all licensing states require completion of NCCAOM's national written exam; some states also require a practical exam.

The NCCAOM upholds the highest certification standards in the country, and requirements include, in addition to undergraduate studies, at least 3 years of specialized study for the Diplomate in Acupuncture designation, and at least 4 years for the additional Diplomate in Chinese Herbology designation, as well as passage of comprehensive board exams. A new comprehensive certification, the Diplomate of Oriental Medicine designation, is now available, and includes all other NCCAOM certifications, including the Oriental Medicine Bodywork certification.

 

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