The Kind Life is a community around Alicia Silverstone and The Kind Diet where friends, doctors, experts in green living, and members share vegan tips.

Kind 101

my acupuncture nightmare!

Holy moly! Where do I begin? Because acupuncture emphasizes wellness and a holistic philosophy that is missing in so much Western medicine, I’m always tempted to talk about how great it is. But then I have an experience like the one I had when I was pregnant and it reminds me why I have very mixed feelings about it overall.

First, let me start by saying that, in general I don’t think acupuncture can do any harm and, for some people, I do believe it can be very helpful. But the question I have been asking myself is, does it do anything for me that I don’t already get through my diet?

Over the past several years, I’ve tried out a bunch of different acupuncture doctors. There was a time when I was kinda loving it, although I was always frustrated with how expensive it can be (especially when they wanted me to come back multiple times a week and wanted me to buy herbs on top of that). I mean, it feels good when I’m actually lying there with the needles, but do I really notice a big change when I walk out the door, the way I do when I make a change to my diet? Not really. For me, it’s sorta like a great, soothing, expensive nap.

Still, when two different people raved to me about this acupuncture doctor a while ago, I decided to give her a try. I’d heard that acupuncture can be helpful with some of the nausea and other symptoms during pregnancy, so when I was pregnant, I thought it would be good to have someone I could call on whenever I thought it might help. I’ve been to a bunch of different acupuncture doctors over the years, some more helpful and effective than others, but nothing could have prepared me for what I was in for with this one!

Right off the bat, she walks in the room talking a mile a minute with this crazy, spastic unbalanced energy -not calm or relaxing at all. Then I tell her I’m veggie, which, looking back, maybe I should have kept to myself, considering what came next. She then checks my pulse and starts going on about how I’m super-anemic and my liver is soooo weak.

Really? I told her, That’s weird, because I just had my blood tested for prenatal and it all checked out perfectly. A blood analyst actually took pictures of my cells as an example of what beautiful healthy blood cells look like. No other acupuncturist has ever said anything about anemia and — oh, by the way — I feel great. So what on earth are you talking about?

It went downhill from there. She goes into this whole thing about how I need to eat eggs and steak. So, this hyper, spastic woman is telling me that meat and eggs are good, when everything about her is telling me that this not someone I want to be like. But then I started thinking, What if I wasn’t as educated about health? What if I wasn’t so conscious of my own body? What would I do with what she’s telling me?

As if she was reading my mind, she continued: I get tons of vegetarians in here all the time. I tell them to eat meat and they feel much better. Great. So now all I’m thinking about is how this woman is undoing all the good that I and so many others are trying to do. This is turning into the most un-relaxing acupuncture ever!

It went on like that, more of the same, and then at the end of the session she wanted me to buy three different herbal pills. She was adamant and would not stop pushing them on me. I guess people just nod and do whatever she says, because when I started asking questions, like why they had chemicals like Red #100 or Yellow #67 in them, she became even more insistent and manic, repeating over and over that I needed these for my blood. It was truly amazing to me. I felt like I should be offering HER acupuncture! On top of being spastic, she did not look one bit healthy.

So, this is what frustrates me- I want to say “Hey, go to acupuncture if it helps” But it can vary so much from doctor to doctor, so just be aware. The meat-pushers are bad news. I have met some perfectly lovely acupuncture doctors, but my personal experience was that the improvements for my well-being were pretty minor. I am still convinced that trusting your food is the most noticeable and reliable source of health and feeling good, far more dramatic and lasting than what I’ve received from acupuncture.

I wonder if there are other vegan or plant-based advocates reading who also practice Chinese medicine? Speak up if you’re out there! I’d love to hear your perspectives!

The health section is proudly sponsored by Kaeng Raeng natural detox. Make sure to check out their 3 or 6 day vegan detox programs here:


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  • Sun Palace TCM

    Hi Alicia,

    I am a vegan and also a practitioner of Chinese medicine. I completely understand your frustration with the meat-pushing and I can sympathize…because many people around me also encourage me to eat meat and would even scoff at me for being vegan. They are just brainwashed and misinformed about what a healthy diet should be. Especially in the Chinese medicine world. They taught us in school that most vegetarians and vegans are blood-deficient and malnourished, and I used to believe it too until one day, thanks to my boyfriend who told me about the disgusting things they add to meat, I tried veganism for myself and saw for myself the undeniably positive difference it made in my health. I then learned about the worldwide cruelty that farm animals suffer just for the sake of making meat widely available to us. It is appalling and I’m so glad I turned vegan. I am never looking back. However, I’ve also learned that this stigma of vegetarians and vegans being unhealthy comes from the fact that some vegetarians/vegans are really not aware of getting adequate nutrition in their diet. Some are just starting out and naturally need more educations about it. Some are of the conviction that as long as they eat the same diet as before (load up on pasta and salad), minus the meat, they will be healthier; instead theygradually become anemic, weak and physically cold.

    I think, as with anything, people just need to be educated about vegetarianism

  • McKenzie R. Gaby

    Hi, Alicia!

    Man oh man, you and so many others have had this same experience! I went through Acupuncture school as the only vegan around for miles. Teachers, other students, basically everyone around me was very negative about my veganism. Every false move I made in school was credited to the lack of meat in my diet! Meanwhile, there was an Arby’s across the street, and many of my fellow students were actually eating that crap! Acupuncture is a really wonderful tool. Eating well is definitely going to be what makes you feel the best overall, but acupuncture can be really effective for pain, depression, anxiety, detox, insomnia, relaxation…all kinds of stuff. I am now marketing myself as a vegan acupuncturist, and it is still sort of an oxymoron to some people. ;) In fact, I was contacted by the VegFest people to see if I wanted to have a booth at the next vegfest because even in Portland, Oregon, it’s pretty unusual to be a plant-based acupuncturist! It’s certainly true that some acupuncturists are better equipped to help in certain ways than others, so kudos for trying out a few different practitioners. I would say that if you can find one that aligns with your values, you are closer to having a practitioner you feel you can trust, and I think that makes all the difference in the world.

  • Martin Javinsky

    I am not a vegan so perhaps this post is out of place, but I am compelled to share anyway. I just completed acupuncture school this past April. One of my favorite teachers, a Chinese doctor, once said in class, “In China, we believe that the best doctors are the talking doctors; the ones who help people change their own lives. The next best doctors are the nutrition doctors; the ones who help people change their diets. Then comes acupuncture and herbs.” This enlightened statement struck a deep chord within me and touches me still. Whether vegan or omnivore, people are ultimately responsible for their own health. Acupuncture can help a person manage their health, but it will never replace conscious living and a healthy diet.

  • Derek Doran

    why were you having acupuncture in the first place???

  • Calley Williams

    Hi Alicia,

    I am an Acupuncturist and a vegetarian. It is not true that you have to eat meat in order to build up your blood. There are many foods I recommend to my patients such as dark leafy greens, or beets that are very beneficial at doing the same job as meat does. A lot of people assume that since I am a vegetarian that I am anemic, although I am not and never have been. I know your frustration! It sounds like you just encountered one person’s need to force her own agenda at you, and she happened to be an Acupuncturist (which makes our profession look bad). And it is unfortunate that she is in a position of strong influence over her patients who might not know better.

    As an Acupuncturist I have seen many healing cases and have seen many people make drastic improvement with conditions in which their western doctor told them there was no cure. The reason you probably don’t feel much of a difference after your treatments is because it sounds like you are a very healthy and knowledgable person already with no current health problems. That is where the prevention part of Chinese Medicine comes in, which is a hard concept for a lot of people to understand since it has a lot to do with faith and trusting that you are choosing the right thing so you don’t deal with health issues in the future. If you have no ailments, then just coming in at the change of the seasons is sufficient.

    And you are right that essentially the food you eat is at the root of good health. The only problem is that we have a lot of environmental toxins, stress, and exposure to chemicals today that we really can’t avoid getting into our bodies even if we do choose organic, and limit our exposure. None of us live a perfect life, so it is good to have a natural healing medicine such as Acupuncture that can help the body in times of need.