About Chinese and East Asian Medicines
Traditional Chinese medicine includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, moxibustion, cupping, gua sha, tui na, and Eastern nutrition. Aimee Derbes, LAc provides these services and more in New York City / Manhattan (Flatiron / Union Square / Chelsea). Remote reiki / energy healing and virtual breathwork groups available!
Chinese Medicine : The Basics
Traditional Chinese medicine excels at addressing the root causes of illness : why it even arises in the first place, and restoring us to a vibrant state in a gentle but effective way. Instead of focusing exclusively on the signs and symptoms ( the branches), practitioners investigate and treat the fundamental imbalance (the root) that is underlying the patient's symptoms.
This medicine is highly personal — what is effective for one patient may not work for another, because our constitutions are unique. Each patient's treatment plan is crafted from a wide range of information about the whole individual (physical, emotional / mental, and spiritual states and goals). Because traditional Chinese medicine is so tailored, safe, and minimally-invasive, it is beneficial for people of all ages and almost all health situations.
Based on an extensive medical philosophy describing the situation of humans between the natural world and the cosmos, Chinese medicine is all about the web of relationships in the human body — relationships among different organ systems, between organ systems and our mental/emotional states, or between the seasons/weather and our health, to name a few. This focus on relationships means that we have a complete framework for understanding any set of signs and symptoms that may arise, even mysterious and changeable symptoms associated with health conditions that are still more challenging for the Western mind to understand (such as chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, or any autoimmune process). Further, many patients are excited to find that health conditions they always thought of as separate actually reflect a common root imbalance in traditional Chinese diagnosis; for example :
asthma, dry skin or eczema, low energy, and grief and / or a difficulty letting go
stomach pain, acid reflux, tendency to run warm, and cystic acne
fatigue, low appetite, cravings for sweet flavors, and tendency to bruise easily
As a practitioner, I am looking for and recognizing these types of patterns, and using them to craft the path to your individual best health. With over 2,000 years of documented continuous practice, traditional Chinese medicine includes numerous treatment modalities including acupuncture, herbal medicine, moxibustion, cupping, gua sha, tui na, and Eastern nutrition.
Acupuncture is the insertion of fine, solid, disposable needles into certain points on the body. It has been practiced throughout Asia (and later, the rest of the world) for well over 2,000 years.
While many of my patients are dealing with a specific disease process that has been formally diagnosed, many also are seeking safe, non-invasive treatment to improve their overall health and quality of life : they come in for support with insomnia, fatigue, headaches, weight management, athletic injuries, seasonal allergies, and, this being New York, the physical and emotional effects of stress. Read more about acupuncture here.
Chinese herbal tradition is grounded in classical formulas that have been in use for 1,000-2,000 years. In contrast to Western-style herbology, Chinese herbs are used in groups, not individually. In an herbal formula, each herb has a specific role to play in concert with the others to create a more balanced and beneficial whole than the sum of its parts.
Herbal treatment can be used alone or in conjunction with acupuncture, and there are effective herbal formulas for everything under the sun. I often suggest herbal formulas that are designed to do things like rebuild energy after a stressful period or illness; support digestion; regulate the menstrual cycle at all stages of life; support emotional release; reduce pain; or help with the frequency and severity of colds. That’s just a brief list of the wide range of things herbs might help with. Read more here.
MOXIBUSTION / MOXA
Moxibustion, also referred to as moxa, is the burning of dried mugwort on or near the skin. Moxa can be applied directly to the skin or used indirectly. In direct moxa, a small cone is applied to the skin, lit with incense, and removed before it burns down to the skin. Generally regarded as safer, indirect moxa can be applied in several ways; most often, a cigar-shaped stick of moxa is lit and held near the skin until the patient feels the warmth.
As ancient as acupuncture, moxibustion has been used for thousands of years to warm the body, improve circulation, improve digestion, break up stagnation, and correct breech position in late pregnancy.
Ever since Michael Phelps’ polka-dotted back drew a lot of media attention at the Olympics, there's been a serious uptick in questions about cupping. You all want to know: “does it hurt?”, “what’s it doing, really?”, and, my personal favorite, “why the heck would anyone be willing to do that?”. Fair enough.
As a doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, I use cupping all the time to treat my patients, and myself. But to the public, in the West, cupping is still relatively unknown. It is often misunderstood and seen as kind of -- or, depending on the circles you run in, very -- weird. Read on for my in-depth explanation of the science behind and uses for cupping therapy.
Gua sha, or scraping, is a traditional treatment method using the edge of a Chinese soup spoon, gua sha tool, or other similar blunt edge to lightly scrape the surface of the skin, most often the neck, back, and shoulders. This technique increases surface circulation of blood, stimulates immune function, and increases the anti-inflammatory effect. Gua sha is used for muscle aches and pain, the common cold / flu, low immunity, detoxification, and internal organ disorders, such as liver inflammation due to hepatitis or lung issues.
For more information, check out my in-depth blog post on the science behind gua sha.