Amanda Lee shares her passion for acupuncture, holistic health and Chinese Medicine.
How would you describe the ‘science’ behind acupuncture?
Acupuncture is best described as the down regulation of the sympathetic nervous system. The Nervous System is broken down into two main systems that are most commonly discussed, the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “fight or flight” response and the parasympathetic is the “rest and digest” response and what happens when we feel safe and secure.
Modern life keeps most humans living in the sympathetic state, which is not really where we are supposed to be. At the most basic level, when we insert needles into the body, we naturally down regulate the sympathetic nervous system while upregulating the parasympathetic nervous system.
Scientifically, we know that when a needle is placed into the skin it is creating a micro trauma. The body in turn creates a healing cascade which involves increased blood flow, better oxygenation, and relaxation of the muscles.
Research has shown that once a person has had acupuncture, the body has an endogenous opioid release. This is a natural painkiller, which some research claims is stronger than morphine. This means that if a person is undergoing acupuncture, regardless of whether they are in pain or not, the body will still issue the opioid release and will therefore deregulate the sympathetic nervous system.
What drew you to Chinese Medicine and acupuncture first and foremost?
In a nutshell, my life changed course when I moved from Boston to Southern California. Having come from a medical background, I assumed I was going to continue along that route. I was living in Los Angeles, having fun while getting ready to apply to Medical School. I decided to go to Sri Lanka to volunteer for five months in the interim, which is where I started practicing yoga. This is where I realized that there was so much more to life, specifically health, including the mind, spirit and the body.
When I got back to the States, I started having weekly acupuncture sessions originally for pain. I was teaching 15 spin classes a week and my knees were frequently swollen and painful. While at the time I believed I was simply being treated for my knees, unbeknownst to me, I was actually healing myself in a much deeper way. I felt so happy and light after each session but also very grounded.
My life had started to shift from a very linear traditional path towards a holistic path. I had become a yoga instructor once back from Sri Lanka. I then applied to Traditional Chinese Medical School. Starting my graduate edication put me in a flow state. Being on this path my physical body felt better and I was becoming a better person as well- kinder and more compassionate.
At times Western medicine seems very black and white, whereas Chinese Medicine is all encompassing. Medicine is and must be a spectrum of colors and I found that this ancient (Chinese) Medicine could mold to modern times and changes in humanity more than Western medicine, and this was the big draw for me.
Do you view acupuncture as a ‘holistic’ treatment or is it most effective when combined with other modalities?
Acupuncture is 100% holistic. It has been around for thousands of years and has been used to treat everything: endocrine issues, gynaecological problems, respiratory problems, pain, reproductive issues… the list is endless.
There is a time and place for Western medicine. I firmly believe that Chinese Medicine works amazingly on its own but I am a whole body person and believe that a team of people is better than one person alone. Acupuncture is incredible and, in line with my last statement, I work with cupping, herbal medicine and other modalities in order to reach full healing potential.
Which healing modality do you find to be the most beneficial, or common, amongst your clients?
Most people come for acupuncture. I would say I usually treat between 10-14 patients a day and all 14 will have acupuncture, perhaps half will have cupping, and at least half will get herbal medicine as a complementary treatment to the acupuncture. Having many tools in your tool box maximizes benefits.
What are your views on Herbal Chinese Medicine and the properties therein?
I love Herbal Chinese Medicine. It is so effective, so why do we not use herbs preventatively? There are so many benefits with minimal risks. The goal is to not stay on herbal medicine for the rest of your life; certain formulas are used at certain times. As mentioned previously, I would say that at least half my patients use herbal medicine.
Do you believe we can cure everything using Eastern medicine primarily?
This would be the dream but some things aren’t necessarily curable right now. I do think that the use of Eastern medicine is key to medicine as a whole, particularly preventative medicine. We know that the body is healthier when using needles, therefore we can conclude that we would live a longer and healthier life.
In my personal opinion, it can relieve and alleviate the symptoms of (incurable) diseases and I believe it could potentially cure a lot of underlying pathology.
Lastly, I feel it is important to mention that acupuncture, like any other discipline, will carry a different energy depending on each practitioner. If you have had acupuncture once or twice and are still undecided, perhaps try another acupuncturist until you find the one that fits like a glove.