Needles. The mere word reminds me of my last blood test when a clumsy nurse poked for a vein in my right arm, gave up and poked around some more in the left arm until she hit a vein. Not only was it jaw-clenchingly painful, I had bruises on both arms for two weeks.
Few of us think of relaxation when we hear "needles," unless we know about traditional Oriental medicine. The Chinese have used needles for acupuncture—without inducing pain—for at least 3,000 years. It's been about 30 years since the practice entered western consciousness, but acceptance is rapidly growing. Today, Harvard University, among other prestigious institutions, offers advanced degrees in Oriental medical disciplines.
Native Mississippian and Oriental medicine practitioner Jerusha DeGroote, 31, decided to return to Jackson in 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Daughter of an endocrinologist, DeGroote is no stranger to western medicine but found her calling in Oriental treatments.
Mississippi is one of only eight states that do not recognize DeGroote's master's degree as medically valid, although the state recognizes the value of the medicine. Mississippi allows M.D.s and dentists to offer acupuncture to their patients with a small amount of additional training. DeGroote says that she could practice without limitations almost anywhere in the U.S. or Europe, but she wants to be here. She is facing the challenge of getting the Legislature to recognize her years of study head on.
When you perform acupuncture, what are you actually doing?
I'm doing quite a few things at one time, depending on what the person is coming to me for, which ranges from chronic pain to inducing labor to the common cold. ... This is the only medicine the Chinese had for 3,000 years, so they're able to (address) the whole gamut of health. The main goal is to find out where people are having imbalances and correct them.
Imbalances of what?
Well, ying and yang. That is part of the philosophy behind Chinese medicine, that we need balance in our lives. ... If you are hurried and over-stimulated all the time, and you're not getting enough sleep, you're not going to feel good. When you think about ying and yang, ying is sleep and yang is activity. There's a careful balance (and) eventually, (imbalance) can affect you, whether that's with pain, with emotions, your spirituality—so many things can be affected.
Do people know where they're out of balance?
Most of the time they just have symptoms—insomnia, for example. There are many different things in Chinese medicine that can cause insomnia. Most of the time, though, we're going to look at the heart meridian. The heart governs our sleep, ... so if you have an imbalance there you might have poor memory, poor focus, difficulty sleeping—going to sleep or staying asleep—or you might have palpitations. So when someone says that they have insomnia, the first thing I ask is "heart" questions. Then I'm going to feel your pulse and look at your tongue.
Why the tongue?
The tongue is the closest thing to being able to look at the inside of your body without opening you up. An acupuncturist will be able to tell a lot by the shape of your tongue, the color, the coating, if you get sores, or if you have a bitter taste in your mouth. All of these are representative of different (imbalances).
What is Qi?
The shortest answer is "energy." In Chinese, there are 400 different definitions of Qi (pronounced "chee"). … Qi is life force. It surrounds us. It is what helps the plants grow, what revolves the earth, what protects us from disease. … We want to either (strengthen Qi) if it's weak, quell it if it's too strong or help to fill a void if it's just not there at all. It sounds complicated, but it's only because it's foreign to us.
Why do you think there's such a division between Chinese and western medicine?
People were distrustful of things that have high claims and no scientific evidence. … Now that research is being done, we're starting to discover that there is so much validity, efficacy and safety with acupuncture that the western medical community is starting to pay attention. ...
Acupuncture is great because it's natural. A lot of people no longer want to take anything over-the-counter. They've become distrustful of prescription medications because of the fun facts you hear in the commercials about side effects. ... I'm getting a lot of people who are very frustrated with that situation. I would never tell anyone to get off of their western meds by any stretch of the imagination, but I can definitely help with some of the side effects. I've had people come to me who are going through chemotherapy, for example. There's a lovely marriage that can happen (between western and eastern medicine), but we have to open up some doors.
Tell me about acupuncture and beauty.
When you feel better on the inside, of course you look better on the outside. There are a lot of (acupuncture) beauty treatments. ... When you approach it from a holistic standpoint, you'll know that because your entire system is functioning better, your skin is looking better, your hair is going to look better and grow faster. When you feel calm, your face and jaw isn't as clenched as it may be when you're under an undue amount of stress. … There's a Chinese proverb that says that from birth to 25, you have the face that your parents gave you. From 25 to 50 you have the face that you've earned through the way that you live. From 50 on, it's the face that you deserve. You're never too young—or too old—to start maintaining your health.
Ying? Is that a typo? Yin is the passive, dark, feminine while Yang is the active, light, masculine aspect of the world. Can't say I've heard of Ying.
You are correct. It is Yin, not Ying, but nevertheless it is being discussed. That's good stuff.
That is a typo. I should have noticed this. I knew this one. Sorry, folks. Will fix online.
There’s a Chinese proverb that says that from birth to 25, you have the face that your parents gave you. From 25 to 50 you have the face that you’ve earned through the way that you live. From 50 on, it’s the face that you deserve.
Anyway, is acupuncture expensive? I've thought about it, but I just didn't think I could afford it.
Acupuncture treatments and herbal consultations range from $75 to $150, depending on the practitioner and city.