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Via the magic of Legislative Alchemy, state legislatures incorporate pseudoscience into health care practitioner licensing laws, giving chiropractors, naturopathic “doctors”, and acupuncturists free rein to impose their particular paradigms of nonsense on patients. For acupuncturists, that paradigm is control of the body’s putative “energy” (or, “qi”), which allegedly flows via “meridians”, to treat disease by sticking patients with needles at specified (but elusive) “acupuncture points”. Having legalized this magical system of human functioning, the legislatures include a cornucopia of quackery in the practitioner’s toolkit via the authority, for example, to prescribe dietary supplements, Chinese herbs, and homeopathic remedies and to perform gua sha, moxibustion, and cupping.

Acupuncturists are licensed or registered in 47 states and D.C. In some jurisdictions they can also practice what is variously called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Oriental Medicine, and East Asian Medicine. Their scope of practice can approach that of a medical doctor. While the methods allowed are different (e.g., surgery vs. cupping), the scope – treating any patient of any age with any disease or condition – is similar.

New Mexico, for example, defines acupuncture as

the surgical use of needles inserted into and removed from the body and the use of other devices, modalities and procedures at specific locations on the body for the prevention, cure or correction of any disease, illness, injury, pain or other condition by controlling and regulating the flow and balance of energy and function to restore and maintain health.

[Emphasis added.]

“Oriental medicine” is the use of

all allied techniques of oriental medicine, both traditional and modern, to diagnose, treat and prescribe for the prevention, cure or correction of disease, illness, injury, pain or other physical or mental condition by controlling and regulating the flow and balance of energy, form and function to restore and maintain health.

[Emphasis added.]

“Doctors of Oriental Medicine” in New Mexico are allowed to call themselves physicians and practice primary care.

Acupuncture regulatory boards add even more pseudoscience (and additional income streams) to the mix via their rules and regulations. The Florida Board of Acupuncture allows acupuncturists to use Kirlian photography as a diagnostic method. The Arkansas Board of Acupuncture permits the use of bleeding.

But wait, there’s more! Perhaps underappreciated in its perniciousness, these regulatory boards (operating under the fiction that they are protecting the public’s health by requiring practitioners to remain up-to-date in their field) approve continuing education courses that pump a steady stream of fresh pseudoscience into the system. Freed from the strictures of actual science, courses can offer their own permutations of pseudoscience for practitioners to foist on their patients. (Unfortunately, “integrative medicine” practitioners do the same thing.) Today, we’ll take a look at some of these courses and see how, once again, the states are serving as handmaidens to the quackery industry.

The National Certification Commission on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), a private agency organized and run by acupuncturists and TCM practitioners, creates and administers exams required in 46 jurisdictions to become licensed. It also approves courses accepted for continuing education credit by many states. Some merely fleece the gullible; others are downright dangerous. (Actual course names [with link] are followed by a brief description of the course.)

Stroke, cancer, and other serious conditions

10,000 needles: The Future of Stroke Rehab Using Nanopuncture: Teaches post-stroke rehab for paralysis, a “highly effective system” that can “produce drastic improvements” in post-stroke patients. Claims acupuncture is “highly effective” for treating post-stroke sequelae.

The TCM Treatment of Post Stroke, Apoplexia & Paraplegia: “Covers the classifications, diagnosis, and treatment plans via TCM; with the most commonly used acupuncture points and herbal formulas.”

Advanced Chinese Medical Oncology: Treating cancer patients with Traditional Chinese Medicine, including learning to make early diagnosis and using “Shen Xiang Wen Tong Therapy to recall the lost immunity and restore the homeostasis, eventually eliminating cancer.”

A Case Study Analysis: Lung Cancer Symptoms to Brain Tumor: A “renowned pulse diagnostician . . . shares how to treat symptoms of lung cancer and a brain tumor . . . what the pulse can reveal and what are the most appropriate herbal formulas to treat the symptoms.” [Link added.]

Acupuncture Technique for Cancer Care: Teaches how to treat nose and throat cancer with acupuncture point prescriptions for each of three types of diagnosis: “A. Heat pathogen invades Lung, B. Liver depression with phlegm congestion, and C. Blood stagnation interrupts the channels.”

Acupuncture for Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia: “Skillful acupuncture approaches to the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease.”

Clinical Orthopedic Strategies: Arthritis and Bi Syndrome: “Designed to give the practicing acupuncturist a working knowledge of various forms of arthritis, including how to make a differential diagnosis using physical exam, laboratory and x-ray.” [For an “explanation” of Bi Syndrome see here.]

A Complete Course of Treating Diabetes Mellitus by Acupuncturists – Part I: “An effective TCM way to treat diabetes mellitus – the ear magnet therapy is introduced. . . Related health conditions such as ear magnet treat food craving, weight lose [sic], insomnia, nausea, etc. are presented.”

Heart Disease Prevention and Treatment: Using Traditional Chinese medicine to recognize, diagnose, and treat the conditions of chest pain, arrhythmias, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and heart failure.

Treating lupus and infections using Tung points and nutrition: Acupuncture point prescriptions and TCM herbal remedies for treating lupus.

Dr. Tan’s Balance Method for Traumas and Sports Injuries: Learn “the five systems of the Balance Method to uncover the magic healing power of acupuncture for all types of traumas and sports injuries.”

Modern and Classical Chinese Medicine Approach to Multiple Sclerosis: “Important treatment protocols effective for MS using some body and scalp acupuncture, moxibustion and herbal medicine.”

Cholesterol, Asthma, Depression, and More! Drugs and Their Herbal Alternatives: Discussed “Western medications for cholesterol, asthma, and depression, their actions, side effects and herbal alternatives.”

Allergies, IBS, and Chronic Infection: Acupuncture, Hara, and Herbs – Part I: Based on “extensive clinical research and time-tested protocols” learn “to easily find effective distal points for internal conditions relating to the Lung and Heart such as the common cold, allergies, nasal issues, palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia.”

Treating HIV and AIDS with Western and Oriental Medicine: Learn to “identify the western and TCM diagnosis for HIV and AIDS and its chief clinical manifestations. Both western and TCM treatments for HIV and AIDS, common side-effects associated with prescription drug treatments, and an herbal alternative treatment.”

Cardiovascular & Respiratory Disorders: Pulse Dx & Herbal Tx: “Using Master Chang’s unique system of pulse diagnosis techniques, derived from years of clinical experience, you can learn to correctly identify and effectively apply his strategic herbal treatments towards the treatment of cardiovascular and respiratory disorders.”

Pregnancy, women’s health, and pediatrics

Complex diseases of pregnancy: Covers “difficult to treat conditions that many experienced practitioners seem to treat effortlessly” including TCM diagnosis and treatment of “abdominal pain, hypermobility, acute and chronic digestive and urinary complaints, and conditions such as pre-eclampsia.”

Pregnancy Complications: Differential Pulse Diagnosis & Herbal Treatment: Using “unique diagnostic methods” of pulse diagnosis, skin temperature, vital signs and the ears in treatment of pregnancy complications, including “appropriate herbal formulas.”

Pregnancy: Maternity Acupuncture Care: Problem Solving Through Clinical Scenarios: Acupuncture treatment for birth preparation, medical induction, miscarriage, stillbirth, and breech presentation.

Why Treat Children: “Major childhood ailments such as asthma. [sic] allergies and chronic infections can be easily and effectively treated with acupuncture, herbal medicine and diet therapy.”

Effective Immune Support from Pediatrics to Geriatrics and Understanding the Vaccine Myths: “Immunizations are widely touted by conventional medicine and mainstream media as being responsible for eradicating and preventing many infectious diseases. This course will cover the following: Discussions and research reviewing the history and current risks and use of vaccinations; debating mass vaccination and the history of vaccine implementation; vaccine adverse reactions and mortality. The seminar presents objective data on the history, questionable efficacy and inconsistent safety of vaccine programs. It goes on to train clinicians in using safe, effective and practical tools for improving the immune health of their patients.” The course was given by Standard Process of North Carolina, a dietary supplement company that sells through licensed healthcare professionals in N.C. This is not the only course teaching anti-vaccination tropes sponsored by a company affiliated with Standard Process.

The Treatment Of Children Using Classic Formulas: Teaches how to integrate “the type of child with the type of illness.” For example, “which type of child with allergic purpura will respond well to Xiao Chai Hu Tang, Ban Xiao Hou Po Tang, Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang or Xiao Jian Zhong Tang”, all of which can be used to treat this illness based on “differentiating the type of child.”

Acupuncture Manipulation and Scalp Needling for Pediatric Autism: “The most important and most difficult technique in all manipulations is Heat-producing Needling and Coldness due to Heaven-penetrating. . . . This unique acupuncture method is widely used in medicinal diseases. Although the operation is difficult, as long as you master the key points and practice more, you can still master it.”

Advanced Pediatrics: Childhood Eczema & Dermatology: Teaches the etiology and pathogenesis of eczema from the Oriental perspective and the “importance of the Spleen, Lungs and Kidney in the progression of eczema.” Looks at “the conventional methods of treatment and the harm they do in the long term”. Covers TCM patterns of differentiation, acupuncture point prescriptions, sho-ni-shin protocol and herbal formulas with modifications for acute and chronic eczema.” [Sho-ni-shin is apparently a panacea for pediatric illnesses.]

Advanced Pediatric & Sho-ni-shin: Behavioral Disorders: Covers “a wide range of children’s behavioral disorders, from hyperactivity, Attention Deficit Disorder and autism as well as anxiety, insomnia and night terrors.” In-depth treatment protocols with acupuncture, Sho-ni-shin techniques and herbal medicine. “On Sunday afternoon I will demonstrate on live children.”

Chinese Medicine Pediatrics and Ear Infections: Covers diagnostics, treatment principles, acupuncture point prescriptions, herbal formulas, moxa techniques, shoni-shin techniques and dietetics recommendations for pediatric ear infections-otitis media. “Learn how to diagnose and treat pediatric ear infections by downloading the course material, taking an online quiz and receiving a certificate of completion.”

Reversing Pediatric Asthma with Chinese Medicine: “Helps practitioners who aren’t sure how to treat pediatric asthma, learn the step-by-step process for using Chinese medicine to address acute asthma symptoms for immediate relief” and “to create and implement long term treatment plans to reverse asthma symptoms altogether.”

Chinese Medicine Pediatrics and Gynecology: “Chinese Medicine pediatric and gynecologic case histories. Learn treatments for life-threatening illnesses to newborn babies, complications after labor and delivery, irregular menstruation, infectious diseases and chronic gynecological and pediatric conditions.”

Advanced Gynecology: Treatment of many common gynecological conditions “as per the Chengdu University of TCM and the extensive clinical experiences of” the instructor. Includes “irregular cycles, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, menorrhagia, metrorrhagia, PCOS (polycystic ovaries and syndrome), Leiomyomas (fibroids), Bartholins cysts, dermoid cysts / teratoma’s, endometriosis and adenomyosis, P.I.D. (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease), vulvovaginitis, HPV and granuloma, HSV (genital Herpes), vaginismus, vaginal dryness, vaginal discharges and infections (parasitic, bacterial, viral and fungal), and UTI’s.”

Integrative quackery

(Like integrative medicine, but without the real medicine part.)

First Aid Homeopathy: ‘First Aid Homeopathic Remedies for acute and or emergency situations. . . Includes a chart with easy to understand diagram and useful remedies.”

Introduction to Drainage Homeopathy: “Both Chinese Medicine and Homeopathy rely on the bodies [sic] natural healing ability. . . .The Unda drops are unique homeopathic formulations which are based on strongly stimulating the bodies [sic] ability to free itself from the heaviness of both mental and physical toxins allowing the body to follow the natural course of healing itself.”

Acu-point Injection Part IV: Herbs & Homeopathy: For certification in “acu-point injection”. Class covers “herbal injectable preparations” for “specific maladies” and homeopathy. Includes “hands on practice.”

CranioSacral Therapy for Pediatrics: “How to work with the special issues that surround the application of CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release as they relate to infants and children.” [Link added.]

Mending the Mind: Using Nutrition, Herbs and Lifestyle to Reawaken the Brain from Dementia: “Learn how to recognize and address the root causes of dementia from a nutritional, herbal and functional medicine approach.” [Link added.]

Functional Medicine: GI, Thyroid & Adrenal Assessment: “Utilizing Functional Medicine to optimize health using patient symptoms as a guide to the underlying cause of specific conditions. Healthcare professionals will learn more about autoimmunity, leaky gut and how to address symptoms and conditions with diet and nutrients, as well as specific testing that should be done.” Course was presented by a dietary supplement company.

Essential Oils for Colds, Flu, Viral & Bacterial Infection: “Discover how essential oils have been used safely and with proven efficacy for herpes virus, shingles, MRSA and other viral and bacterial infections. The antimicrobial action (antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral) of essential oils is one of their most effective properties.” Course given by Bastyr University.

Adrenal Fatigue: “In terms of TCM, exhaustion of mingmen fire will affect production and distribution of qi and blood, and negatively impact stomach fire and heart yang.” Diagnosis with lab saliva testing, various Oriental medicine approaches to diagnosis and differentiation, therapeutic use of Chinese herbal products and formulas, and Chinese and Japanese acupuncture approaches. [“Adrenal fatigue” is explained here.]

Endocrine Mastery: Optimizing Thyroid, Adrenal and Blood Sugar: “The combined, cumulative and negative effects of chemical toxicity, over medication, radiation exposure, vaccinations, and genetically-modified foods are devastating. Endocrine-related conditions are spreading at an alarming rate, and include diabetes and pre-diabetes (#1), hypothyroid (#2), adrenal fatigue, obesity, cardiovascular disease, infertility, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.”

Reversing Thyroid Conditions and Brain Inflammation with Acupuncture and Stem Cells: “Confidently assess clinical and sub- clinical inflammation in patients who present with thyroid and brain conditions [and] . . . learn treatment protocols to address the cause of the inflammation using acupuncture techniques and stem cells.”

Aesthetics and more nonsense

4 Hour Advanced Cosmetic Acupuncture Video: Learn to “treat and significantly improve aging facial conditions” (e.g., wrinkles, skin sagging), general health, and overall well-being using cosmetic acupuncture.

Celestial AcuLift – Cosmetic Acupuncture: For a “deeper insight into how and why cosmetic Acupuncture works.” The “first time old and new, traditional Chinese medicine and 5 element are combined in such a way.”

Bodyintuitive: “The language and philosophical understandings of Chinese medicine are woven together with a Western medical view of the mind and body . . . You’ll become fluent in both languages, moving back and forth between what are known as the rarified energies of the body – Qi, Blood, Yin, Yang and Essence – and the latest 21st century scientific understanding of hormonal, structural and biochemical imbalances . . .”

Acupuncture is a theatrical placebo, effective for nothing. Yet acupuncturists and TCM practitioners, with the states’ blessing, are claiming they can treat serious illnesses. Many of their continuing education courses seem to be little more than marketing opportunities for the dietary supplement companies who sponsor them. As well, practitioners are fabricating even more fantasy therapies, slapping the term “acupuncture” or “TCM” on them, and selling them to the public, again with the states’ blessing. They appear to have little sense of professional responsibility or ethics. Without intervention from the state legislatures, this situation will only worsen.

And the states’ response? Expanding their scope of practice.

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Posted by Jann Bellamy

Jann J. Bellamy is a Florida attorney and lives in Tallahassee. She is one of the founders and Board members of the Society for Science-Based Medicine (SfSBM) dedicated to providing accurate information about CAM and advocating for state and federal laws that incorporate a science-based standard for all health care practitioners. She tracks state and federal bills that would allow pseudoscience in health care for the SfSBM website.  Her posts are archived here.