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Acupuncture Today
January, 2002, Vol. 03, Issue 01
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News in Brief

By Editorial Staff

Echinacea Named "Herb of the Year"

The International Herb Association has chosen echinacea as its "Herb of the Year" for 2002. For each of the past eight years, the association has designated one herb to highlight its medicinal, aromatic and culinary purposes, and to increase awareness of herbs and herbal products to the general population.

Previous honorees include sage, rosemary, lavender, mint, thyme, bergamot and fennel.

The IHA was created by a fledgling group of herb growers, marketers and enthusiasts in Lebanon, Ohio in 1985. Its purpose is to unite herb professionals and expand the industry's growth through education, scientific activities and educational programs, and promoting the production, marketing, and use of herbs and related products. For more information, visit the association's website at

American Specialty Health to Offer National Insurance Coverage Plan for Acupuncture, Other Therapies

In 1999, American Specialty Health, one of the largest complementary health care networks in the United States, embarked on a national expansion program to provide the benefits of alternative medicine for more Americans. As part of that expansion, ASH recently announced that it has become the first national organization to offer fully insured supplemental health benefits directly to employers and health plans. The company achieved this step through its acquisition of Illinois-based Western Diversified Life Insurance Company in November.

"For the first time, American Specialty Health will be able to offer employers in up to 40 states the opportunity to directly purchase complementary health care benefits for their employees in much the same way some currently purchase dental and vision coverage," said George DeVries, ASH's president and chief executive officer. "Until now, much of this coverage has only been available if offered by a health plan."

Western Diversified is licensed in Illinois, and admitted in 39 other states (and the District of Columbia), as an insurance carrier to sell health and life insurance. Acquiring Western Diversified's licenses will allow ASH to directly sell fully-insured supplemental group benefit plans in those states, pending regulatory approval of the benefit plans. In addition to acupuncture, ASH's new insurance company will offer supplemental group benefit plans for massage therapy, chiropractic, naturopathy, guided imagery, nutritional products such as vitamins and minerals, and nutritional counseling with registered dietitians.

"In recent years, many health plans have started to offer affinity or discount programs for complementary health care to their members," DeVries added. "These programs have allowed these health plans to better understand and learn about complementary health care. The acquisition of Western Diversified Life Insurance Company will allow American Specialty Health to help some of these health plans and employer groups to convert affinity discount programs to benefit plans."

British PM's Wife Turns to Acupuncture for Stress Relief

The late Princess Diana was a well-known advocate of alternative medicine. In the last years of her life, she often turned to acupuncture and herbal remedies to help fight the effects of stress, insomnia and sleeping disorders.

Now it appears that another high-profile member of British society is using acupuncture for stress relief. According to several publications, Cherie Blair, wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair, has been seen wearing an acupuncture needle covered by a gauze bandage in the upper portion of her right ear. It is believed that Mrs. Blair is wearing an intradermal needle, which is often used to support previously administered treatments on other parts of the body.

According to Pauline Ronson, secretary of the Society of Auricular Acupuncturists, Blair's needle is located in the shen men region of the ear. "It's an area closely associated with anxiety," said Ronson. "Its English translation is 'calming the mind and heart.'"

The recent use of ear acupuncture is not the first time Mrs. Blair has experimented with alternative therapies. In March 2001, she participated in an auricular acupuncture demonstration at the opening of a drug addiction center in Derby. In 1998, she attended a state function with her husband wearing a large crystal pendant that emitted a "bioelectric shield," which protected her from electromagnetic radiation.


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