Often, I get asked the question: What made you get into this field of medicine? The answer might surprise you, but it’s actually pretty simple. It was in my self- interest to look for alternatives to my own physical health.
My journey to Chinese Medicine began in my late 20’s. At the time, I was working in Cardiac Rehab as an Exercise Physiologist in a hospital setting. I had been working there for about 4 years since graduating with my Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education with a specialty in Exercise Science and a minor in Health. Like many late 20’s graduates, I was pondering my next step in my life and thinking about going back to school for an advanced degree, but in what field? Nursing? Physician assistant? Cardiologist? Not surprisingly, the answer came to me through my own physical health.
During this time, I became chronically ill with bronchitis, sinusitis, and reactive hypoglycemia. My doctors prescribed multiple rounds of antibiotics, to the point that when I stopped the drugs, my symptoms returned within 5 days and my recovery was stunted. After about a year of this, I needed sinus surgery for a deviated septum, blocked sinuses and a chronic cough, that had been persistent for the entire year. On and off of antibiotics, I was also prescribed inhalers such as flovent and serevent, which left me feeling slightly nauseous and dizzy most of the time.
I was getting tired of feeling tired and out of it so I decided to view my heart rhythm on the EKG monitor by placing some electrodes on myself. The EKG read that I was in a sinus tachycardia at rest of 110 bpm (beats per minute). Normally, my resting heart rate is about 60-65 bpm. It was clear that these powerful western medicines that were treating my symptoms were also making me more ill at the same time. My doctors were treating my medical symptoms and not my whole self. It was time to look for other solutions.
The first natural medicine practitioner prescribed herbal medicine as well as dietary recommendations that addressed my allergies along with my various medical conditions. In place of the powerful drugs, she prescribed herbal remedies for my sinuses and dietary changes such as eliminating sugar, white flour, pasta, yeast, and dairy from my diet. I ended up moving forward with sinus surgery since there was structural damage such as blocked sinuses and a deviated septum that needed treatment, but I had also discovered that I could treat my broader symptoms with the age-old reliance on herbal medicine and dietary adjustments.
Improving my diet and augmenting it with herbal medicines, I noticed immediate improvements in my overall health, and decided that the path of natural medicine was indeed the path for both my personal and professional future. I became passionate about helping people who were struggling with the same vicious cycle of stronger and stronger drugs that I had experienced. I wanted to learn more about how to treat the body naturally so that recovery would not be a temporary band-aid for 5-7 days but a permanent improvement.
If it worked for me, I knew that other people could get to the root of their problems and resolve the repetitive cycle of illness that plagues many of us. I learned that plants and natural cures can heal, and my field of advanced study would become natural medicine and its many uses — namely a graduate program in Oriental Medicine.
In my first interview at a graduate school I learned that Oriental Medicine is rooted in Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine, but I also found that studying hundreds of years of natural and alternative cures was much more challenging than I had ever anticipated. Most importantly, I learned that to become an Oriental Medicine practitioner you have to be an herbalist first because the first line of treatment in Oriental Medicine is herbal medicine, then acupuncture, cupping and other modalities. Herbal medicine has always been my love and passion and I continue to learn things about the medicine every day through my study and clinical experience.