That’s right. In the age of COVID-19, Chinese Medicine meets Telehealth and your 60-minute virtual session starts at just $10.
The Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine College in Berkeley, CA has long offered an in-person clinic where intern practitioners can treat patients under the supervision of licensed faculty members. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, AIMC was inspired to move their practice online and make it accessible to anyone for less than the cost of a movie ticket (not that we buy those anymore). If you’re wondering how you can receive virtual acupuncture, you’re not alone. We spoke with AIMC practitioner Ally Magill to get to the full scoop.
Tell us about the clinic! Can anyone sign up for an appointment?
The Virtual Clinic is available to anyone with access to the internet and a device to take the call! In your 60-minute session, your practitioners will weave together a custom plan of care to address any health concerns you’re facing and enhance your sense of vitality, peace, and wellness.
We run virtual clinic shifts 6 days of the week and have personnel on-site preparing herbal prescriptions for contact-less pick up or direct shipping. The appointments start at $10 plus the cost of any herbal prescriptions. So far, the feedback has been incredible!
Your practice is traditionally very physical. What can patients expect from a virtual session?
All the things we do with acupuncture (what we call enhancing the flow of qi in the body, building yin and yang, and clearing stagnation that is often felt as pain or discomfort) are available through the other manifold branches of Chinese Medicine. This practice, like mindfulness and yogic practices, up-regulates the parasympathetic ("rest and digest") nervous system and down-regulates the sympathetic ("fight or flight") nervous system (Haker 2000; Li 2013). This nervous system reset is a powerful intervention when it comes to dealing with chronic pain, emotional distress, or digestive issues.
In addition to providing a space to share and unpack during this chaotic moment, the appointments offer our patients tangible, do-able wisdom from thousands of years of scrupulously collected Chinese Medical knowledge. We often coach our patients through movement and massage practices or provide resources to teach them the art of Chinese Medicine self-care, called Yang Shen. Movement practices like Tai Chi and Qi Gong are proven ways to shift the nervous system as well as manage many of the deleterious effects of chronic pain and the side effects of Western medicine. Self-massage like Gua Sha and acupressure are other ways we teach our patients to incorporate this wisdom into their everyday lives.
In what ways are people out of balance right now?
People feel incredibly anxious and vulnerable in the face of a health pandemic, financial crisis, and social uprising that feels out of our individual control. A lot of folks are trying to put on a good face, "be positive", and power through. This numbing and suppression of emotions can lead to what we call "Qi Stagnation"-- an internal tangle that leads to discomfort, pain, and irritability. When we let our emotions find a way out of our body through words, tears, or movement, these tangles work themselves out. I tell my patients regularly, “It would be okay if you weren't feeling okay right now. That would make a lot of sense.”
Understandably, our patients are also hungry for information about how to enhance their immune system. Our immune systems are taking a few hits right now; human-to-human connection benefits immunity, as do Vitamin D and outdoor exercise, plus we're experiencing high levels of fear and stress. A large part of our immune system lives in our gut, and our gut motility and health can be deeply affected by stress levels. Chinese Medicine has tricks and advice to address all of these imbalances (and then some!).
What are herbal prescriptions?
Almost all of our patients leave our virtual sessions with a custom formulated herbal prescription. The Chinese Medicine pharmacopeia includes hundreds of herbs and we almost never use one alone; we create personalized blends and combinations that work harmoniously and create the highest benefit without unwanted side effects. Two patients can arrive to our sessions with the same exact Western diagnosis, but receive very different custom Chinese Medicine prescriptions based on our whole-person diagnosis.
Do practitioners ever use CBD or Cannabis in their practice?
We use a lot of different herbs and tools to affect change in our patient's bodies, and Huo Ma Ren, or Cannabis, is certainly one of them. Internally we use Cannabis seeds in our pharmacopeia to address constipation, or a pattern we call "Large Intestine Dryness"-- many oily seeds can be used this way.
There are references in the materia medicas of the past that Cannabis could be used to treat pain, ease headaches, and relieve menstrual discomfort, which are definitely the ways our patients use this medicine for themselves. When I have a patient that is already using CBD internally, I think about how I can create an herbal formula that would support the effects of Cannabis and taper any of the undesired effects. We could add herbs that protect the "yin" and moisture of the lungs for someone who smokes Cannabis, or offer someone an energizing formula for the morning if they use Cannabis for sleep support at night.
Topically, we say that CBD "clears heat," which we could think of as inflammation. A lot of practitioners including myself will use CBD products in the bodywork portion of our session and send our patients home with a topical they can apply themselves for relief between sessions.
What’s next for AIMC?
Now, in lockstep with our state and local regulations, we're also thoughtfully re-opening our clinic in Berkeley, CA for in-person acupuncture & bodywork treatments in September. We welcome folks in the surrounding area to book an appointment and come see us!
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