Five Element Acupuncture
There are many schools of acupuncture which all have their place–the style I practice is referred to as Five Elements or Classical Acupuncture. The other types of acupuncture are focused solely on symptom relief.
I completed my acupuncture training at The Academy for Five Element Acupuncture in and was fortunate to be able to do my clinicals with Professor J.R. Worsley. Over a three-year period, I commuted from San Francisco to Miami while apprenticing with the late Elizabeth Hamilton and Gary Dolovich, MD in the Santa Cruz California area. I began acupuncture school at age 48 after having practiced other holistic modalities for 25 years.
Five-Element Acupuncture requires really getting to know the patient inside out. An extensive intake interview that lasts about two hours is the important first step in building a long-term relationship between patient and practitioner. Our experiences in our early years, including when in utero, can help a practitioner diagnosis a person’s causative factor which is based on one of the elements (water, wood, fire, earth, metal). When we’re young, one of our elements takes a hit–this is true for each of us. Each element is connected to two different meridians (invisible circuits that control the body’s energy system). For example, metal corresponds to the colon and lung. If a person’s metal element took the hit, those two meridians will be the focus of that person’s treatment for the rest of their life. Metal is all about taking in the riches of life (including inspiration and earthly minerals) and letting go of what no longer serves (including perceptions, ideas, and toxins). If for example, a child’s father is absent early on, their metal element can be weakened and that can set the stage for a person’s inability to respect authority figures throughout life.
A Classical acupuncturist is trained to listen to the sound of the voice, to see the color that appears on the skin, a person’s unique odor (we all have one), the primary emotion conveyed and so important, to listen to the twelve pulses in a way that Traditional Chinese Medicine does not. Every pulse is related to one of the twelve meridians (and organs). The practitioner listens to each pulse and how that pulse relates to the others. Let’s use a metaphor–each pulse is like an official of a city. A city official in charge of water works needs to get a certain amount of resources to make sure that the water is filtered properly. The fire department needs to get its fair share as well. But when the fire department gets more money than the water works, tension builds and the city suffers. It’s the same way with us and our delicate systems–each system needs to have the same amount of energy, otherwise, problems develop in the form of symptoms.
“I love coming to Alexis for acupuncture. She is insightful and skilled. Her treatments are effective and I always leave feeling good.”
Christina Sharp, 2015
A symptom is a messenger–it does not want to be paid off in order to go away. An orthodox physician will try to erase a symptom by prescribing a drug but drugs simply push the symptom deeper into hiding only to come out at a later time in another way.
A classic case is a child who has eczema and given cortisone. The rash goes away miraculously but down the road the child develops asthma. The child may have developed eczema because of tension between the parents. But because the emotional cause was not addressed, the person is being set up for more serious symptoms later in life that could end in a severe lung infection or worse. The body is always trying to talk to us. It wants symptom relief, of course, but it wants the root cause to be addressed.
Five-Element Acupuncture takes into consideration the seasons and how a change of season impacts a person. Each season corresponds to the meridians, e.g., late summer alludes to the stomach and spleen, autumn to the lung and large intestine. Proper tune ups are given at each season to ensure that a person can take in the beauty of each.
Classical Acupuncture also looks for various blockages that Traditional Chinese Medicine does not consider. Thanks to Professor Worsley, who as a young osteopath from England, traveled to China and Korea to learn the deeper medicine that is no longer practiced there for practical reasons. Five-Element Acupuncture used to be available to the monks and princely caste – when Mao Tse Tung took over, he wanted people to work in the rice fields–in other words, symptom relief was more practical and until this day, that is the acupuncture practiced in China.
Classical Acupuncture is what I practice in my Arnold, Maryland clinic because my patients deserve the best there is. It’s the treatment I receive myself on a regular basis. Five-Element Acupuncture has a special reverence for the Heart, the supreme controller of the body. Look upon the eleven meridians as the officials who guard the heart. Chances are you can’t just walk into an office and get to see the CEO – you have to go through many channels (or guards) including an entourage of secretaries and assistants. Classical Acupuncture never goes directly to the Heart. We treat the other organs knowing that when the other organs are going down, the heart is in danger. It needs to be protected at all cost. This is just one more difference between Classical Acupuncture and other acupuncture styles.
Case Study 1: Chronic Fatigue
An Iyengar yoga teacher with the most beautiful posture I’ve ever seen complained of severe fatigue, fatigue that was eating away at her life. This woman was only in her early 30’s. When I listened to her pulses, the first thing I noticed was the right-hand pulses had hogged all the energy from her left-hand pulses. This is called a Husband-Wife Imbalance in Classical Acupuncture which indicates that the person could be on their way to the other world. When I corrected the imbalance, her pulses immediately changed. She called me a few days later and thanked me for saving her life even though I did not tell her the severity of the blockage, but I did stress that I wanted to recheck her in a week to make sure the treatment held.
Case Study: A woman from Eastern Europe came to my clinic in tears complaining about severe pain in her liver and chest area. She had been on many drugs and was afraid she was at death’s door. When I examined her, I found an energetic block between her liver and lung – in other words the liver and lung were not on speaking terms–they were like neighbors who ignored each other. The block was addressed and almost immediately, she breathed a sigh of relief. She couldn’t believe that after so many years of pain and suffering, that relief could have occurred so quickly. The woman has been a regular patient and I treat her entire family as well.
Case Study 2: Digestive Issues
A massage therapist I had been seeing complained about digestive issues. She asked if I would take her on as a patient. She took to acupuncture like an angel fish to water–her healing was beautiful to watch. She was able to have regular bowel movements and to eat without experiencing irritable bowel symptoms. She was crestfallen when she told me she was moving to Florida, that our close relationship was coming to an end. I suggested that I thought she would make a good acupuncturist and months later, I received a letter informing me that because of her own experience with acupuncture, she had enrolled in a school near her new home.
Over the course of my 17-year practice in the healing arts, a number of my patients have studied to become nutritional counselors, energy healers and acupuncturists.
I have had other practitioners as patients including medical doctors (some of which went on to study acupuncture, one which actually studied Classical Acupuncture, who reported that after all his years practicing medicine, he couldn’t believe the results). Needle-free Acupuncture
For youngsters and those who simply have a fear of needles, I use a stimulator that renders equal results. I also use pellets and tiny Swaroski crystals for stimulating ear points (auricular acupuncture). Both the ear and hand are remote control centers for the entire body. In other words, I can stimulate points on the fingers to treat arms and legs. I can stimulate the palm with pellets in order to improve digestion. This system of treatment is called Koryo Hand Therapy which I learned 25 years ago from its Korean founder, Dr. Yu. It is extremely helpful for acute pain relief and chronic conditions.
Twenty years ago I was certified in Colorpuncture which is similar to acupuncture but uses a different set of points for various issues. Colorpuncture uses a wand that shines color onto the skin. I use if often with children who are not keen on needles–they love the experience as do many adults. One of the loveliest Colorpuncture treatments includes a facial rejuvenation treatment – by treating the face with color, all the organ systems of the body are affected. My primary objective is to find the cause behind symptoms because when not addressed, a cascade of ailments can ensue.