By Dr. Julie T. Chen, M.D.

As health care practitioners, most acupuncturists and physicians truly work with the same healing goals in mind. As such, healers, whether conventional or complementary, search for ways to help patients feel better and to recover from whatever ailments that plague them. So, why does it sometimes appear as though acupuncturists and physicians are working against each other instead of with each other?

As a physician who practices acupuncture, I can attest to the idea that, while much of the language and fundamental principles used to treat patients may differ, acupuncture and conventional medicine do indeed have the same goal of trying to achieve wellness and healing in every patient. The dangers that physicians worry about in regards to acupuncture and herbs frequently are centered on the notions that patients may eschew conventional treatment and only use herbs and acupuncture; and that some of the herbs given may be harmful to a patient’s other medical issues, or that herbs may interact with the patient’s other medications. These concerns may be best addressed when we, as practitioners and as patients, all approach health care as a team approach; whereby all practitioners and patients openly discuss all potential treatment options and concerns so as to sidestep potential gaps in communication that may lead to disastrous outcomes for the patient.

When health care practitioners are able to discuss concerns and address overall treatment goals in regard to any particular patient, the end result is a safe environment of healing where the patient can trust that all healers are working towards the same goal instead of letting mistakes fall through the cracks of mis-communication. In this model of healing, where acupuncturists and physicians are willing to listen and communicate about health goals, patients can take comfort in knowing that the treatment regimen has been deemed safe from both conventional and alternative perspectives.

In my own practice, if I have a patient who is taking herbal blends from a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, I always ask my patients to bring in their herb bottles so I can review the list of ingredients. So, if you are taking supplements and herbs, make sure to bring them in to have your doctor review the ingredients. Because some of the herbs used in these herbal blends can be harmful to you if you have pre-existing medical problems. By opening up the lines of communication, you allow your doctor to address drug interaction concerns and provide you with a comprehensive picture of how the herbs might impact your health in both positive and negative ways. In such a model of integration of healing modalities, you, as the patient, can feel safe knowing that you are able to draw from the best of both worlds of conventional and alternative health care to achieve optimal health and healing.

Dr. Julie T. Chen, M.D. an integrative medicine physician who is board-certified in internal medicine and is also fellowship-trained and board-certified in integrative medicine and the newest member of the WE magazine editorial Team. Dr. Chen will be the editor of our new “ASK DR. JULIE Column. If you have any questions for Dr. Julie, feel free to leave a comment below. She will reply to you directly. You can find out more about Dr. Julie at