Acupuncturist

Threat to Acupuncturists: In many states it is illegal for acupuncturists to provide nutrition or herb counseling (including TCM diets and Chinese herbs). If a state has exclusive scope of practice nutrition licensure (labelled red or orange on the map), it is illegal for an acupuncturist to provide nutrition or herb counseling unless he/she:

  • (a) has an acupuncture license in the state and that license explicitly includes nutrition counseling (many do not);
  • (b) falls under an exemption of the nutrition licensing law (rare); or
  • (c) obtains a nutrition/dietetics license. 

 

Acupuncture Licensing Laws: There are 44 states that currently have licensure for acupuncture; 16 states do not. 

  • In states with no acupuncture licensureacupuncturists are subject to all restrictions outlined in the state's nutrition licensure law. Importantly, for a state with no acupuncture licensure and an exclusive scope of practice nutrition licensure, it is illegal for acupuncturists to provide nutrition counseling in that state unless they fall under an exemption of the nutrition licensing law or obtain a nutrition license.  
  • In states with acupuncture licensurelanguage concerning nutrition care in existing acupuncture licensure laws varies widely. Many state laws provide a "needling only" scope, meaning their license does not include nutrition counseling.  Some explicitly mention herbal therapy and/or dietary advice. Only in states with acupuncture licensing with explicit language permitting nutrition are acupuncturists legally protected from violating the nutrition licensing law.

Nutrition Licensing Law Exemptions: Nutrition licensing laws in some states exempt certain other licensed health care providers. Such exemptions, where they exist, can be either:

  • Protection for licensed health care providers using nutrition only to augment their primary profession; or
  • Full protection by virtue of being a licensed health professional in the state in which a provider is practicing

When can you use nutrition tools in your practice:
If your state has nutrition licensure with exclusive scope of practice but:

  • The law contains an exemption clause, acknowledging that health professions can practice nutrition to the extent to which it is outlined in the respective scopes of practice, and
  • Your state’s acupuncture law explicitly includes nutrition care,

then you can legally use nutrition tools as outlined by your acupuncture scope of practice.

 

If your nutrition state law outlines a licensure with exclusive scope of practice but:

  • The law includes an exemption clause, acknowledging that health professions can practice nutrition secondary to their primary profession

then you can use nutrition tools as an adjunct to your acupuncture practice.

 

If your nutrition state law outlines a licensure with exclusive scope of practice but:

  • The law exempts health professionals licensed in that state,

then you can legally use nutrition tools in your acupuncture practice.

 

If the nutrition law in your state is a licensure without exclusive scope of practice then you can practice nutrition care without being certified/licensed as a nutrition care provider. However, if specific title protections exists in the law, you may not use any protected title in advertising or practice.

Because both Acupuncture laws and Nutrition laws vary state to state, you must check the state laws for each profession where you practice to determine whether you can legally provide nutrition advice.

Disclaimer: This information represents a preliminary interpretation of state statutes, and cannot be substituted for legal counsel.