What is an Acupuncture Physician?

In the State of Florida, an Acupuncture Physician is a Physician who is licensed by the Florida Department of Health to practice Acupuncture. In case you’re wondering, all physicians are typically referred to as Doctor, as in, “Hi, I’m Dr. Shark.”

Medical licensing is regulated by the states, so the specific requirements for medical licenses vary from state to state.  Several states, such as Alabama, still do not have a licensure process to practice Acupuncture.

This definition brings up two questions:

  1. What is Acupuncture as defined by Florida law?
  2. What is required to receive this license?

First off, “Acupuncture” as defined by Florida includes a lot more than the practice of Acupuncture itself, which is essentially the insertion of very fine needles at specific locations in order to produce a physiological response which results in pain relief or the activation of healing.  In the state of Florida, Acupuncture means the entire system of Chinese Medicine. This includes diagnosis, nutrition, physical/orthopedic exam, herbal medicine, supplement prescription, rehabilitative exercise, intramuscular injection of non-drug substances (such as vitamins or saline), and the ordering and interpretation of lab tests and images (such as blood work or x-rays).  The primary difference between what a Medical Doctor (MD) and an Acupuncture Physician (AP) can do is that the MD can prescribe pharmaceutical drugs and an AP cannot.

What is responsible for this difference? It’s the focus of the medical training of each respective physician. Both MD’s and AP’s spend 4 years in medical school, with similar prerequisites for science education in undergrad. Both physicians study important subjects such as Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Pharmacology, Internal Medicine, Orthopedics, Dermatology, and External Medicine. But there is a major difference in the way these subjects are approached.

The driving force behind the difference in approach is the difference in treatment. Medical Doctors’ primary treatments are pharmaceutical drugs and surgery. Their diagnosis primarily directly restates the symptom (e.g. high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, migraines) and seeks to find supporting markers on specific tests which indicate the need for medical interventions—because drugs and surgeries are designed to treat these single symptoms individually.  Acupuncture Physicians’ primary treatments are natural interventions that stimulate the healing process in the body either through activating a specific neurological response (Acupuncture) or by providing particular nutrients or substances (Herbal Medicine, Nutrition, Supplementation). As a result, MDs’ diagnostic processes tend to be more specific (focused on one abnormality at a time), and APs’ more holistic (focusing on the entire body or entire functional system).

There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. In general, MD’s are unparalleled in their treatment of emergency conditions. Because of their specificity, they can quickly treat and control life-threatening occurrences like heart attack, inability to breath and major traumas. If the threat of death is imminent, the Emergency Room is probably the best place for you. But because of this focus on health problems as single, isolated events, conventional Medical Doctors are often unable to produce satisfactory results when it comes to conditions that are not immediately life threatening: chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, auto-immune disease and mood disorders. Some Medical Doctors are recognizing this failure and seeking additional training after medical school in a relatively new field called Functional Medicine (FM). An MD who practices Functional Medicine is striving to be far more holistic, though there is a lot of variance between practitioners since this holistic training is not required for their medical license. Though many FM doctors still tend toward their original training of single-problem focus, if you have a chronic condition and the option of choosing an MD trained in Functional Medicine over one trained only in the conventional system, definitely pick the FM doctor. They will be much more likely to consider effective non-drug approaches.


Acupuncture Physicians, on the other hand, are trained from the get-go to look at the body through a holistic lens, that is to say that they are analyzing how various systems fit together in order to determine the root of the malfunction.  Rather than zeroing in on a single symptom, such as nasal allergies or an abnormal lab result, AP’s are trained to look at really big picture indicators like digestive function, inflammation and constriction of tissues and blood vessels, detailed health history and the relationship between “physical” and “mental” disorders. This holistic approach gives AP’s the advantage when it comes to pain and chronic disorders. The reason is that chronic disorders are never isolated, single body-part events. They always involve multiple systems and evolve through complex mechanisms. If they didn’t, they would never become chronic; they would simply heal themselves or be quickly eradicated by a short-term problem-focused approach like those typically offered by an MD. And there is no drug on the market that corrects the neurological pain impulse the way that Acupuncture does. Pain medications merely dull or mask the pain in the hope that the body will get better on its own in the meantime. My friend Bob Doane puts it best, MD’s treat the symptom and hope the problem goes away; AP’s treat the problem and hope the symptom goes away.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address the frightening new practice of MD’s and Chiropractors (DC’s) performing Acupuncture in Florida. These practitioners are required to have little to no training in order to perform needling on their patients. I say needling, because they are really not practicing Acupuncture, which as we discussed is a specific holistic therapy; they are merely memorizing some symptom-focused protocols and applying them across the board.

Well, you say, I just have one problem. Why not just let my DC or MD do my Acupuncture? Their appalling lack of training, that’s why! An AP has about 3,000 hours of training and over 1,000 hours internship in the specific diagnostic system and needling technique which allows them to get results. MD’s are not required to be trained at all in order to perform needling, because their license already covers sticking needles in you! If they elect for membership in the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, they are required to have a whopping 220 hours of training, less than 1/10th of what an AP has. Chiropractors (DC’s) are only required to have 100 hours training to stick needles in you in Florida! This is crazy, folks. I would never let someone with so little training treat me. I certainly would never attempt to adjust your neck or perform an appendectomy when you come in for Acupuncture, and DC’s and MD’s shouldn’t be sticking needles in people and calling it Acupuncture.

The one disclaimer I will add to this article is that all of my explanations here are broad generalizations. I did this to simplify the explanation of different types of medical license. However, all doctors are people, and people are individuals with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. In every field there are excellent, qualified individuals who really do get the big picture and know what they’re doing. I have been educated and inspired by many Medical Doctors and Chiropractors through the years. While I’ve studied with a few really outstanding Acupuncture Physicians, I actually get most of my medical information from work done by exceptional MD’s and DC’s. Some of these doctors do have extensive training beyond those required by law or by certification boards. If you’re wondering about a doctor’s training and background—just make sure to ask; don’t assume they’re knowledgeable about a field that may be out of their area of expertise.

I hope I’ve given you a pretty good overview of what it means to be an Acupuncture Physician. I’m happy to answer questions left in the comments section. We’ll be starting up a video blog soon, so please leave your questions in the comments section. Once we get rolling, we’ll answer a question every week. Be well!

The Dangers of Anti-depressants

If you think only crazy people are concerned about the safety of anti-depressant medications, you should watch this video. Mood disorders have skyrocketed in the last decade, with psychiatric medications keeping pace. Now we have a new age of violence which has never been seen before in history.

Every major violent assault from Columbine to the recent Connecticut tragedy involved an assailant recently going on or off anti-depressant medication (the most dangerous phases). There are better, safer options.

Read my article on amino acids or go to moodcure.com to learn more.

Is Soy Cruel and Unusal Punishment?

I just got this announcement, and I didn’t even want to wait to publish it. If you’re unsure of the dangers of soy, PLEASE read this!


Too Much Soy Causes Serious Health Problems, Plaintiffs Claim

Washington, DC, June 26, 2012 — Plaintiffs in the lawsuit Harris et al. v. Brown, et al., Case No. 3:07-cv-03225 have submitted testimony of four qualified experts confirming the claim that large amounts of soy in the prison diet can cause serious health problems. In 2004, the state of Illinois began using large amounts of soy in prison menus to save money and use less meat.

Sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education non-profit foundation, the lawsuit claims that the soy being fed to the plaintiffs, in the amounts being fed to them, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the eighth amendment to the Constitution, as well as a denial of plaintiffs’ liberty in violation of their due process rights under the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution.

Plaintiff health complaints include chronic and painful constipation alternating with debilitating diarrhea, vomiting after eating, sharp pains in the digestive tract, especially after consuming soy, passing out, heart palpitations, rashes, acne, insomnia, panic attacks, depression and symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as low body temperature (feeling cold all the time), brain fog, fatigue, weight gain, frequent infections and thyroid disease.

Public Health Expert Sylvia P. Onusic, PhD, submitted an analysis of prison menus showing that soy protein in prison meals approaches 100 grams per day, four times greater than the amount recommended by the Food and Drug Administration. Soy protein is added in large amounts to meat patties, meat mixes and sauces, and in smaller amounts to almost all baked goods. The soy in the prison food is a deliberate artificial manipulation using processed soy products, manufactured using highly technical process and toxic chemicals

Toxicologist Mike Fitzpatrick, PhD, provided evidence that even 50 grams of soy can cause thyroid problems, including thyroid cancer. Soy contains compounds called phytoestrogens, which depress thyroid function and cause endocrine disruption.

Physician David Brownstein, MD, submitted his opinion that the amount of soy fed to the plaintiffs is, to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, responsible for causing their health problems, including gastrointestinal distress and bowel dysfunction, vitamin deficiencies (vitamins B12 and D) as well as thyroid disorders.

Laboratory analysis expert William Shaw, PhD, noted that soy protein has the highest oxalate level of any known food and that the prisoners are receiving hundreds of milligrams of oxalates per day. According to Shaw, virtually all of the plaintiffs’ health problems can be explained by their high-oxalate diet. The toxicity of oxalates is well established; oxalates can deposit sharp crystals not only in the kidneys, but in virtually every tissue and organ of the body, including joints, heart, blood vessels, teeth, gums, eyes, skin, brain, nerves, thyroid and thymus glands. Oxalates also block the absorption of many essential minerals, leading to malnutrition.

The defendants have responded by arguing that the Illinois prisoners receive only minimal amounts of soy protein in their diets.

“Presiding judge Harold Baker has stated the importance of scientific and medical testimony in the case,” says Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation. “We have provided both the science and the medical evidence and look forward to the next steps in this trial.

The Weston A. Price Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nutrition education foundation with the mission of disseminating accurate, science-based information on diet and health. Named after nutrition pioneer Weston A. Price, DDS, author of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, the Washington, DC-based Foundation publishes a quarterly journal for its 14,000 members, supports 572 local chapters worldwide and hosts a yearly international conference. The Foundation phone number is (202) 363-4394, www.westonaprice.org, info@westonaprice.org.


Natural Treatment for Depression without Antidepressants

Even here in health-crazed San Francisco, many people suffer from anxiety and depression or other problems with their mood. If you watch TV for even an hour, you’ll quickly find the solution—antidepressants! And if antidepressants don’t work, don’t stop taking them, just add an antipsychotic, like Seroquel or Abilify. Or add more antidepressants!

Now maybe you believe that antidepressants are a good idea. Maybe you believe they are safe and effective. In fact, problems from heart disease to increased risk of death from suicide have been associated with antidepressants, so much so that for the latter, the FDA has mandated a black box warning on all SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), the most common form of antidepressant. Now you may be thinking, “A black box warning doesn’t sound all that serious.”

Actually, it is the most serious action the FDA will take apart from completely removing a drug from market. The FDA almost never does this. Even a drug like Vioxx that was clearly killing people was actually removed by the manufacturer. What did the FDA do? It required a black box warning.

What this warning means is that this medication is clearly dangerous, but it may show some sort of therapeutic value—or that it cannot be proven that it shows absolutely no therapeutic value and the government would lose its shirt trying to defend such “libelous” claims. It’s supposed to be your doctor’s job to very carefully monitor the risk-benefit analysis in your particular case. The problem is, they often don’t know of another solution, so they believe the only two options are prescribing the medication or forcing you to remain in a state that is making you miserable and ineffective. They also tend to lack an understanding of the seriousness of the side-effects. To understand how the data on these drugs get skewed watch this amazing TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/ben_goldacre_battling_bad_science.html

In order to understand the alternative, we must understand what mood disorders really are. First of all, mood disorders are not mental illness. Mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or true bipolar, are completely different from mood disorders and may require medication for management. Mood disorders are merely an imbalance of the current brain chemistry. To be more specific, they are a deficit in one or more of the following neurotransmitters (brain chemicals): Serotonin, Norepinephrine, GABA, Endorphin or Glucose (technically not a neurotransmitter but it has a huge impact on brain function).

These deficiencies are rooted in nutritional deficiencies that sometimes take many years to compound into an issue with the mood. “But,” you say, “I eat really well. I avoid meat and saturated fat. I shop at Trader Joe’s.”

So many of us have reduced meat and fat to get healthy, others have cut calories to lose weight. Sometimes we just settle for food out of box or can, because we’re busy or we don’t know how to cook. These strategies all have proponents telling us we should do this, or it’s okay to do that, but the soaring trend of anxiety and depression tell a different story. They tell a story of chronic undernourishment, in particular of protein deficiency.

Neurotransmitters are made by the body out of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Without protein, we have no amino acids. Without amino acids, we have no neurotransmitters. Without the right levels of neurotransmitters, we have what Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure, calls “false moods.” These are moods that do not represent the real you or your true personality. These moods can make you irritable, down, stressed, angry, even suicidal. They can cause you turn to sweets, alcohol, drugs or behaviors that give you a temporary boost. They manifest in different ways for different people, but the main thing to remember is that they are not “you,” and they can be fixed.

So if the problem is nutritional, then the solution is also nutritional. What’s the secret? Primarily it is protein. Adequate protein is absolutely essential for proper brain function. However, if you already have a problem with your mood (or with eating behavior, alcohol or drugs) the deficiency is probably too great to correct just by correcting the food you put into your mouth. Your brain will need a big dose of these amino acids all at once, and the best way to accomplish this is through supplementation.

Isolated amino acids are given in supplement form (usually capsules or sublingual tablets) in order to boost brain production of your neurotransmitters. Taking amino acids is the ONLY way to accomplish this. SSRI’s don’t do it; they merely keep the chemicals already in your brain from being reabsorbed; this is one reason they don’t work for many people. For a somewhat slow and cheesy but informative video on this look here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_XFfdkJXnM&feature=related

With 1 in 10 Americans taking antidepressants, this information could be revolutionary. In my clinic, we’ve treated numerous patients who either want to get off antidepressants or want to avoid getting on them in the first place. The results with the amino acid therapy are almost unbelievable. Before studying with Julia Ross, I had no idea that there was an effective alternative for treating anxiety and depression. I struggled with only getting marginal results with many of my own patients. Since learning this amazing treatment, I can’t believe that it’s been kept such a secret, and I want to bring hope to all of those people out there who are looking for some alternative to their current treatment approach. There is hope, and you can get better!

The most amazing thing about amino acid therapy, and the main reason I chose to become certified as a specialist in it, is that it is a corrective therapy. This means that a course of treatment can correct the deficiency so that you no longer need to take the supplement. As you may have guessed, correcting the diet will be necessary for permanent results. But can you imagine, after years of depression, becoming depression and supplement-free in a matter of months? I’ve seen it, and it is amazing.

The other advantage amino acid therapy has over drugs is that it has no side-effects. Or to be more correct, if you have a side-effect the therapy is immediately altered to eliminate it. In holistic medicine, a side-effect is seen as a signal that your body does not agree with the treatment. A medicine that is designed to fix your system, should not create such a response from your body. The only thing you should feel is better.

This is a very short summary of a very complicated issue, so if you’d like to read more I’ve included several resources below. My clinic, Wood Tiger Acupuncture, in San Francisco is always happy to consult on this topic. We also are gladly accepting new patients for this therapy, and we offer a free consultation to determine if the therapy is appropriate for you before beginning. You can try to self-treat using Julia Ross’ books, but I have seen very limited results with that approach. I think it’s just too difficult to trouble-shoot your own brain chemistry, especially if you haven’t had intensive training on the subject.

Acknowledgements: Julia Ross has been the pioneer in this field. She has spent many years refining her treatment approach, and I have been so lucky to study directly with her on this topic.


Antidepressant statistics:


FDA black box warning:


Celexa  and heart disease:



Antidepressant withdrawal:


Antidepressants don’t work: excellent video—as seen on Dr. Oz


Serious side-effects:


For information on how doctors are influenced by drug companies:


There are so many more resources. Several books could be written on this topic without scratching the surface, but the best ones currently out there are: