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What is...?

What is Acupuncture?

It is important to note that acupuncture is only one of a number of modalities which are part of Oriental medicine. It does however have a special place because of its uniqueness and because it was the first to become widely known and popular in the West.

Although dating back some 3,000 years in China, in the West this is a developing field and profession. Because acupuncture was the first modality of Oriental medicine to become well known in the west, Acupuncturist has become the common title in state licensing for practitioners of traditional Oriental medicine in general. Acupuncture is usually combined with the less well known moxibustion.

Acupuncture is the insertion of acupuncture needles in specific points on the body which are considered to effect the Qi (energy) pathways. It is used for the correction of imbalances in energy and thus in body-mind function that lead to illness and disease. These imbalances can be diagnosed and corrected before disease becomes evident or clinically detectable by Western medicine. Acupuncture and its related practice of moxibustion can thus be used to treat and/or prevent disease.

Acupuncture is practiced in three main ways:

1. As part of a general Oriental medical approach combining all aspects of Oriental medicine often with greater emphasis on herbal medicine.
2. As a specialist modality often without the use of herbs.
3. As an adjunctive therapy by other professions.*


The application of heat from a burning herb, to the same specific points as acupuncture or other areas on the body. It can be used on its own or combined with acupuncture.


The medical practices including Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, and moxibustion, and Oriental bodywork therapy and dietary and general health principles. The practices of Oriental medicine mainly have their origin in China but have spread to, and taken on distinctive aspects and styles in such places as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam and Japan. For this reason there is some variation in the approaches of practitioners according to the particular school where they trained.


Commonly refers to the practice of acupuncture usually using styles or approaches to diagnosis and treatment which are more specific to acupuncture than other modalities of Oriental medicine. Often practiced as a specialist modality without the use of herbal medicine.


Chinese Herbal medicine is the oldest form of Oriental medicine. The first entries into the Chinese pharmacopoeia were made around 3700 BC. Chinese herbal medicine is within the scope of practice of Licensed Acupuncturists. While some practitioners use this modality as their main form of treatment others don't. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) offers an optional exam on Chinese Herbal medicine. Passage of the exam entitles the practitioner to use the designation 'Diplomate in Chinese Herbology' [Dipl.CH(NCCAOM)]. However, taking the exam doesn't imply that those who have not taken this exam have less expertise in practicing herbal medicine. The exam is not a requirement for acupuncture licensure in NC.


An acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner who is licensed by the North Carolina Acupuncture Licensing Board (NCALB). Licensed acupuncturists are independent practitioners; patients do not require a referral from another medical practitioner. To be licensed in North Carolina a practitioner must meet the following requirements

Attendance of a 3 year postgraduate program accredited - or in candidacy status for accreditation - by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM), or if outside the US, a school approved by the California Acupuncture Committee. For general information on accredited schools of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in the USA visit the CCAOM website. There are two schools of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in North Carolina.

Passage of an examination administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and thus entitled to the designation 'Diplomate in Acupuncture' [Dipl.Ac. (NCCAOM)]. This examination includes written and practical components.

Completion of the Clean Needle Technique course administered by the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM)

Other Qualifications

Master in Acupuncture (M.Ac.): Usually represents a qualification given by colleges which are accredited to award an academic masters level degree by the state Board of Education.

Oriental Medical Doctor (O.M.D.): Either represents a practitioner trained comprehensively in the principles and practice of Oriental medicine in China, or a degree awarded by some schools in the USA, prior to the establishment of the nationally accredited masters level program. It must be borne in mind that many acupuncturists and Oriental medicine practitioners are also trained in all other Oriental treatment modalities.

Doctor of Oriental Medicine (D.O.M.): Usually represents a state licensing title e.g. D.O.M.(NM)** or a Masters level qualification awarded by some US schools prior to the introduction of licensing.

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