Benefits of Acupuncture versus Phytotherapy

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Acupuncture versus Phytotherapy

Recently I got involved in a funny discussion with a blog´s reader about the use of different types of treatments for TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).

Generally, there are two things that an expert in TCM needs to be excellent at. First, the diagnosis is mandatory for all. The second, the therapeutics specialty can be chosen by the student throughout his professional life.

In TCM there are five major therapeutic fields: acupuncture, tui na massage, materia medica, dietetics (which can be encompassed in the Materia Medica), and qi gong (the latter is not taught in Chinese universities like the others).


In the West acupuncture and materia medica (aka phytotherapy), encompassing the diet are the most used, and the tui na is often used as a supplement during the consultation of Chinese medicine.

Different professionals have different tastes and therefore select therapies according to these tastes. I have colleagues who clearly have a preference for massage, while others have a preference for acupuncture or herbal medicine. Of all, my favorite treatment is acupuncture.

There are several reasons why I prefer herbal medicine and acupuncture and they include several aspects: historical, aseptic, and personal. In this article, I will talk about the various reasons that led me to select acupuncture.

Historically I think it was a Chinese teacher, professor Gao, who I had in the third-year course that influenced me most. Perhaps the impact of being a Chinese teacher to give acupuncture and the fact that I usually fall asleep, or read other books, in boring classes of materia medica has helped me develop a taste for acupuncture.

Security was another important aspect. Especially if I remember that I was still an unseasoned student. They need to feel safe and the importance of ensuring the safety of my patients called me more attention to acupuncture. For several reasons: the needles were sterilized, the cups could be sterilized (I say could because many people do not sterilize) I would know if they were sterilized and not used them and could use other defense mechanisms such as gloves.

For its part herbalism did not inspire great confidence, especially for 10 or 12 years ago. I had no confidence in the producers of products that often did not have the quality seal from EEC, there were no frequent checks of heavy metals, no such information was passed to professionals, had no confidence in the formulation of the formulas and there were many uncertainties about the Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic interactions with medical drugs.

Currently, there are still some of these problems. The danger of drug interactions remains despite having learned to reduce their likelihood of occurrence. However, I have more confidence in the formulas that exist today in the market and their quality control. Currently are common practices companies advertise their checks on heavy metals or how they are made.

Another great benefit of acupuncture was, in fact, able to be customized. The herbs can also be personalized of course … and should. But unfortunately, in Portugal, the teaching of herbal medicine is not developed enough. Students learn a few patented formulas and go to a market with many more formulas that never have been taught to them.

Drugs are taught as if it were a catalog to which you can not escape and the teaching of formulas does not differ much. However, acupuncture is customized during the period of teaching. The ability to develop this aspect of acupuncture treatment made this treatment much more interesting.

Not only acupuncture was more interesting from the point of view intellectual since one could personalize protocols, but also when viewed under the different therapeutic possibilities that had from the insertion needle, the use of suction and moxa.

Obviously, the herbal medicine has provided superior therapeutic varieties like infusions, medicinal wines, pills, creams for topical applications, etc … However this was not taught, as even today is not much taught in Portugal.

On a personal level not only the intellectual challenge of personalizing protocols as a little sadistic vein may have influenced my taste for acupuncture. Is that between prescribing a formula or insert a needle … will go a world of adventure away?

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