AOMA Blog

From Liberal Arts to Acupuncture

Posted by Jessica Johnson on Fri, Jul 24, 2015 @ 02:30 PM

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I had just graduated from Austin College in May 2012 when I felt a sense of impending doom. I had completed my bachelor’s degree without deciding what I wanted to do for my career, what I wanted to be now that I was all “grown up”. This was a big deal at the time because I have always been the girl with a plan. I am always thinking about my future goals and what I need to do to accomplish them. Once I walked off the stage of my graduation, I felt that I had a big decision to make, and I wanted to make it quickly.

For a while, I was at a loss for what career I should pursue. I have always wanted to do something that helps people, that makes people’s lives better, but I did not know which career would suit me best. I had gotten my degree in Spanish because I really enjoyed the language and I wanted to travel during school, but I did not really want to be a Spanish teacher or a translator. I could use my Spanish speaking skills in almost any work environment, but I did not want it to be the focus of what I did or what I could offer people. I knew in my heart that I wanted something more.

I thought about my options for a little over a year. I spent some time figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be. At some point, I got tired of being sick all the time.  And even though I went to a liberal arts school and learned a lot, I had never heard of integrative medicine or acupuncture. My undergraduate education taught me to be open-minded and that there were things in the world which I did not understand, but that did not make them any less valid. So I went to an acupuncture clinic on a whim. And as strange and unfathomable as acupuncture was at the time, I am so glad that I chose to try it.

"If I had not taken that leap of faith, I would not be here telling you my story or even getting my master’s degree in oriental medicine."

Growing up, I was constantly developing new illnesses that needed prescriptions from the doctor. Unfortunately, I had not felt much relief of my symptoms working through modern western medicine, so I thought it was time to try something different. By the time I met Dr. Chapa at Valley Ranch Acupuncture in Irving, Texas I was on five different medications. Now, a little over a year later, with the help of acupuncture, herbs, and some hard work of my own, I am symptom free, 40 pounds lighter, off all of my medications, and happier than ever. Being open–minded and willing to try new things, like acupuncture, has deeply influenced my life in a very positive way.

If I had never tried acupuncture, I do not know where I would be now. If I had not taken that leap of faith, I would not be here telling you my story or even getting my master’s degree in oriental medicine.  And acupuncture has not only improved my life, it has improved the lives of my patients. There is no greater feeling in the world than knowing that you have made a real impact on someone’s health and life. My patients give me that utmost sense of accomplishment- the handshakes and hugs I get in thanks for listening to them and treating them are the most rewarding part of this life I have chosen. It turns out that the gift of serving others is more rewarding than any work I have done for myself. 

Finally, if I have learned anything from going to school, both at the undergraduate level and now in graduate school here at AOMA, it is that my degree is a stepping stone that I can use to accomplish anything I desire.  When I first sought out acupuncture it was because I wanted to feel healthy. However, in turn, my own quest for health inspired me to show others that they could feel good too. Never be afraid to try something new. Do not worry if people will think you are crazy. Nothing stands in your way in dictating your own life. Do that which you truly desire and what really speaks to your soul; get there as quickly as possible. Trust me, it is worth it. 

 

Topics: acupuncture school, acupuncture students

The Path to Licensure: Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine

Posted by Justine Meccio on Wed, Jul 22, 2015 @ 02:00 PM

For students considering a career in acupuncture and Chinese medicine, it can often be confusing to interpret the landscape of professional licensure for practitioners in the U.S. Though it might seem daunting, developing a clear understanding of the licensure process for acupuncturists before you even begin your studies is an important part of preparing yourself to be successful after graduation.

  1. State Licensure

Just like other medical professions, licensure for acupuncturists is governed on state-by-state basis. Currently, forty-four U.S. states have laws regulating the practice of acupuncture. In most of these states, the laws governing licensure –such as eligibility, and scope of practice - are overseen by the state’s medical boards. Here in Texas, for example, the Texas State Board of Acupuncture Examiners is responsible for granting licenses to acupuncturists. As a new practitioner, you’ll apply directly to the board in your state for your professional license.

For students entering the field, where they choose to practice can impact their eventual scope of practice. Likewise, the requirements for eligibility and process of applying for licensure may vary from state to state.

If you’re thinking about practicing in a particular state, it’s a good idea to research the scope of practice defined by that state’s regulatory board. You can find a full list of state licensing agencies online.

  1. National Board Exams

Though licensure itself may be regulated at the state level, there are national standards for the practice of acupuncture & Chinese medicine.

In the U.S., an organization named the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), evaluates competency for practitioners seeking to enter the field. The NCCAOM measures competency by administering a set of board exams that, when passed successfully, lead to nationally recognized certification in the following areas: acupuncture, Oriental medicine, Chinese herbs, and Asian bodywork therapy. Of the forty-four states that regulate the practice of acupuncture, all but California require the NCCAOM board certification as a prerequisite for licensure.

As a graduate student in the Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program, planning for the board exams is important. Students can choose to wait until after completing their degrees to take all of their board exams, or, choose to take each exam upon completion of the corresponding curriculum area. Preparing for the board exams does require extra study-hours, and students within AOMA’s graduate program prepare for the board exams through free board-prep, or “competencies” classes.

Currently, the pass-rate for AOMA students taking the NCCAOM board exams is 91%. 

  1. Professional Title

Just as the scope of practice may vary somewhat from state-to-state, so does the nomenclature used in professional titles. The most commonly used title is “Licensed Acupuncturist” and you might see this listed as L.Ac. or Lic.Ac. Other states, like New Mexico and Nevada, grant the title of “Doctor of Oriental Medicine” (D.O.M.) to practitioners who have completed a master’s degree. Currently the entry-level degree required for obtaining licensure in each state is currently a master’s degree.

In Texas, completing a doctoral degree program in acupuncture in Oriental Medicine, allows practitioners to add the title “Doctor of Oriental Medicine” to their professional names but does not alter their scope of practice.

If this sounds overwhelming, rest assured. The Registrar’s Office and academic advisors at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine are adept and guiding and assisting graduating students through the process of applying for licensure!

For quick reference, here’s a short overview of the process:

https://magic.piktochart.com/output/6945338-licensure-infographic

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Topics: acupuncture school, licensure, licensed acupuncture

5 tips for Applying to Acupuncture School

Posted by Justine Meccio on Fri, Jul 17, 2015 @ 11:02 AM

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Pursuing a master’s degree in Chinese medicine is a choice that will lead you to a rewarding professional career, one that enables you to have a real impact on the health of people in your community.

Now that you have made the decision to attend acupuncture school, what’s the next step? Your journey will most certainly start with the admissions department!

Check out these handy tips for students applying to the graduate program: 

  1. Connect with admissions before applying.

    Before you apply, it’s a good idea to contact the admissions staff. Not only can they address any questions you have about the admissions requirements, the required application materials, they can even help you decide what term to apply for. It’s important to keep in mind that the admissions staff is here provide guidance during the application process – they’re ready and available to help you!
  1. Apply Early.

    AOMA conducts admissions on a rolling basis, meaning applications are processed individually as they are received. Applying well in advance of the application deadlines ensures that you have plenty of time to gather all of the required application materials. Similarly, by completing the application process as early as possible, you are giving yourself plenty of time to prepare for classes and make your post-acceptance plans.  
  1. Order your transcripts first.

    Official transcripts from your undergraduate education are required as part of the application process. Unfortunately, obtaining official transcripts can take several weeks, potentially extending the length of the application process. To prevent issue, the first step after completing the application form, should be to request official transcripts from your previous school(s) be sent to the AOMA Admissions Office.
  1. Address concerns in your personal statement.

    If you are concerned about factors such as your previous undergraduate GPA, limited experience with health sciences, or anything else that you feel may be relevant to the strength of your application, it’s best to address these issues in a straightforward manner. The personal statement is a wonderful place to do this!
  1. Choose your references wisely.

    As part of the application process, each candidate is required to submit two letters of recommendation. The individuals you select to write these letters on your behalf should be able to address your skills and abilities that are relevant to graduate-level study. Choosing references who can speak to your academic or professional background such as former professors, professional supervisors or colleagues lends strength to overall quality of your application.

With that stated, if you have an author in mind, and you’re not sure whether they’re an appropriate reference, you can always contact the admissions team for guidance.

For more information about applying to acupuncture school, visit AOMA’s website at aoma.edu/admissions or contact the admissions office today!

Begin Your Journey: Apply to AOMA Contact the Admissions Office

Topics: acupuncture school, admissions, acupuncture

Rosy CE's: Continuing Education for Acupuncturists

Posted by Cara Edmond on Fri, Jul 10, 2015 @ 10:00 AM

“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”
Alphonse Karr,

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There are many burdens that acupuncturists face. Not the least of which is trying to run a business on top of being a healer. Add to that maintaining a license, and continuing education units can feel like just one more burden on the back of an already stressed healer. And truthfully, from one licensed provider to another, I get it. I’ve been in courses that were supposed to be educational, supposed to be inspiring, supposed to contribute to my clinical practice—yet they felt as flat and limpid as the wilted romaine lettuce they served.

Let’s carve out a little space to talk about online continuing education courses. Have I done them? Yes. Will I do more? Yes – probably at 2 in the morning before I send in my renewal. Do I feel like they contribute to my clinical practice or inspire me? No, I don’t. I usually skip to the end and just take the quiz.

While we could rightfully argue that my bad experiences in continuing education are just that, mine—I think there are some common elements. If you, the practitioner, are going to close your clinic taking time and money AND take time from your friends and family, you want to know that you’re going to get something for your sacrifice. You want to know that the course you attend, be it online or in person, will give you clinical skills. You want to know that you’ll make business contacts, friends, and that you’ll leave renewed.

Granted, as director of Continuing Education at AOMA, I can’t promise you those things. What I can promise is that I strive for them. Each time we plan a continuing education event at AOMA I keep you, the practitioner, in mind. And our instructors want you to leave the course with concrete skills and improvements, they really and truly do.

For me, the reason I continue to plan continuing education events (sometimes I think the stress is going to short-circuit my limbic system) is because I feel strongly that acupuncturists need a community. I feel that you all need a place to come and be assured that you are going to be given high-quality education and a chance to make high-quality contacts. That is my intention.

The second piece of that goal, the high-quality contacts, rests with our community. I build the Field of Dreams each time I build a course. Seriously. I review course evaluations, review literature, and review instructors to try and find that magic mix of content that is going to be interesting to you all and fulfill your ethics, herbs and biomedicine hours. What really helps me is two things: First, tell me! Email me and tell me what you want to study. I am listening. That’s why we had Jeffery Dann and Dr. Wu at the Southwest Symposium this year. Because my community asked. That’s why I had the course credit breakdowns listed outside of the classrooms at the Southwest Symposium this year. Because y’all asked. I live to serve. Email me and point me in the right direction. Second, attend. Attend but really, ATTEND. Bring your all. Bring your questions, your passion, your enthusiasm. Show up and be ready to connect and engage. I can build the space, but you all bring the heart and enthusiasm.

As a community, both on my side and on yours, we can choose to see our continuing education requirements as a burden to be dealt with online at 2 AM, or we can see it as a chance to explore our profession and the people toiling in the trenches alongside us. I choose the latter. I choose to see your continuing education requirements as an opportunity--an opportunity not to be squandered, but rather, cherished; cherished and claimed on your taxes.

If you’re not ready financially to make the leap into attending a continuing education course, feel free to drop me a line anyways and let me know what your dream course would be. Would it be on a Saturday and Sunday? Four consecutive Thursdays from 6-8? Looking at Tunia? Looking at herbs?

In the meantime, I’m working to finalize our fall offerings. I’m looking forward to seeing y’all on the AOMA campus. Your energy always lingers and I love it.

Warmly,

Cara

Learn more about Southwest Symposium

Topics: acupuncture school, continuing education

Can you Love Acupuncture and still Fear Needles?

Posted by Stephanee Owenby on Wed, Jul 08, 2015 @ 03:13 PM

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Trypanophobia, or the fear of needles, is fairly common, affecting an estimated 10% of Americans. Chances are that either you or someone you know experiences stress and anxiety at the thought of a medical professional sticking them with a needle. And it’s no wonder! I’m sure that very few of us can say that we have ever had a positive interaction with a needle. From a very young age we’re taken to the doctor for injections, accompanied by promises that “it won’t hurt a bit!” This is of course a lie, which then associates needles with both deceit and pain. From tattoos to stitches to blood draws and vaccinations, all of our needle experiences are uncomfortable and/or unpleasant, which eventually takes its toll. In extreme cases the fear of needles can lead to people avoiding doctors and medical care altogether, which can definitely make acupuncture a tough sell. But hear me out.

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Most people that I talk to about acupuncture have one major question: does it hurt? The quick answer: no it doesn’t. But we’re going to explore that question a bit more. Let’s talk numbers. Needle widths are measured in a term called gauge, with the gauge of commonly-used hypodermic needles (the kind used for injections) being anywhere from 7 (largest) to 33 (smallest). To compare, the largest commonly-used acupuncture needle is 28 gauge, and the smallest is 42. That’s anywhere from .35-.14 millimeters in width! To the naked eye, acupuncture needles are thinner than a human hair. Additionally, hypodermic needles are hollow to allow for fluid transfer, whereas acupuncture needles are solid. This combined with their thinness allows for a lot of flexibility in acupuncture needles. They are less invasive than hypodermic needles, and as a result you feel them significantly less. Upon insertion you might feel a tiny tingle, or a warm sensation, which is completely normal and usually fades within seconds. You may also feel very relaxed or drowsy during your treatment; I generally nap through my acupuncture sessions. After your treatment you will probably leave the clinic with an increased sense of well-being or even mild euphoria. This is also completely normal, and is one of the best side effects of acupuncture.

The other main question I often get asked about acupuncture is if it’s safe. At the AOMA clinics we take great care to make sure that our policies and practices follow the strictest guidelines of cleanliness, and patient safety is our highest priority. All of our clinicians, including student interns, are required to take and pass the CCAOM’s Clean Needle Technique (CNT) course prior to treating patients in our clinics. Acupuncture needles are factory-sealed to ensure sterility, and open packs of needles are properly disposed of if not used. Acupuncture needles are used once and only once; we never re-use them. Following CNT guidelines, once they are selected by your practitioner the necessary acupuncture points will be cleaned with a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol. A clean cotton ball will be used to close the points once each acupuncture needle is removed.      

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Now that we’ve talked about needle size and clean needle techniques, let’s talk about the overall experience. An acupuncture session will be the most positive needle experience you will ever have in your life. The acupuncture experience is highly focused on relaxation, as relaxed bodies heal more quickly than tense ones. You will rest on a massage table in a dimmed room with soft music playing, and your practitioner will do their best to make sure you are comfortable and relaxed. The temperature of each room can be adjusted with fans or heaters, and we have blankets, pillows, and bolsters available for your comfort. Your acupuncturist will spend time with you before your treatment discussing the points they’d like to needle and why; please feel free to ask as many questions as you’d like! We love for our patients to be actively involved in the care they receive at our clinics.

I am a huge fan of acupuncture, and not only because I work at an acupuncture clinic! I myself have experienced the amazing transformative power of this medicine; I have witnessed its healing potential on numerous friends and family members, and I am privileged every day to see the positive changes it brings into our patients’ lives. Give acupuncture a try, even if you’re nervous or afraid. It’s definitely possible to hate needles but still love acupuncture!

Request an appointment at our Austin acupuncture clinics below:

Request Appointment

Topics: efficacy of acupuncture, acupuncture clinics, acupuncture, acupuncture needles

Oriental Medicine 101: 5 MORE Reasons to attend Acupuncture School

Posted by Justine Meccio on Wed, Jul 08, 2015 @ 09:58 AM

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Choosing to attend acupuncture school may seem like an unconventional choice, but for the students who choose this path, that’s okay. Completing a master’s degree in Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can lead to a rewarding career – one where your personal values are aligned with your professional ambitions.

A Career That Matches Your Values

Many of the students who attend AOMA cite a desire to change the way health care is practiced in the U.S. as a motivating factor behind their decision to study Chinese medicine.  For some, it’s Chinese medicine’s inherently integrative approach – viewing the impacts of physiological, mental, emotional, and environmental factors, as equally important elements in human health – that makes it so different from other systems of care. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that many acupuncturists seek out opportunities for professional integration and collaboration with other medical practitioners. For others, the practice of Chinese medicine provides an opportunity to address the health care needs of underserved patient communities and to expand access to genuinely patient-centered care.

Transforming your Life

One of the key themes expressed by students graduating from AOMA is just how truly transformational their experience in the graduate program was. Put quite simply, by the time you graduate from acupuncture school, you won’t be the person you were when you started. You’ll be someone different – a healer.

The decision to become a health care provider isn’t one that is made lightly. It’s often the result of much soul-searching, of listening to that persistent voice whispering of your desire to help others, of a vocation. No matter where you start from – whether it’s a corporate boardroom or undergraduate classroom – when you finish your studies at AOMA, you’ll be a competent, skilled health care professional ready to step out in the world and make a real difference in peoples’ lives. Getting there takes a lot of hard work and personal dedication, but it is this very work and the overcoming of challenges that fosters personal growth.

You’re an Explorer at Heart

Despite its history spanning over two millennia, the prevalence of acupuncture and Chinese medicine in contemporary health care is often considered a relatively “new” phenomenon within western medical communities. While organizations like the World Health Organization recognize the efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of dozens of conditions, research into the mechanisms behind why and how acupuncture works is still relatively new within the scientific community. For curious students who always find themselves asking “why”, the field of acupuncture and Chinese medicine provides many avenues to explore uncharted territory and to enhance our understanding of human health and the human body.

You Want to Pay it Forward

Spend even a few minutes in AOMA’s student lounge on the first day of classes, and you’ll most likely overhear a new student talking about the impact acupuncture or Chinese medicine had on their own life. Graduate students often start out as patients – maybe acupuncture was the only form of treatment that provided relief from chronic pain, or maybe qigong helped restore balance to an unsustainable lifestyle, or perhaps acupuncture and herbal medicine even aided in the conception of a first child. Whatever the experience, many students often start out by experiencing the power of this medicine first hand before deciding they want to play a role in ensuring that others can find the same relief and benefit.

Your Social Network will get Bigger

One of the most interesting things about describing a “typical acupuncture student” is how hard it is to do. Students of Chinese medicine come from all walks of life – they’re former nurses, massage therapists, computer programmers, teachers, military veterans, biologists, social workers, yogis, writers, doctors, lawyers, corporate executives, and so much more. Despite these differences, there is a common theme – the desire to help others. Studying Chinese medicine introduces you to not only a new system of medicine – but also a new network of people with whom you can connect and relate to. After a few terms studying acupuncture and Chinese medicine, you might discover yourself feeling at ease amongst a whole new set of peers.

Can you think of another reason you’d like to study Chinese medicine? If so, feel free to leave a comment. To learn more about studying at AOMA, visit: https://aoma.edu/admissions.

Contact Admissions

Topics: acupuncture school, admissions, acupuncture students

INFOGRAPHIC: Liver Qi Stagnation

Posted by Rob Davidson on Thu, Jul 02, 2015 @ 11:02 AM

Here is a great infographic explaining liver qi stagnation from our friends at Acupuncture Now Foundation:

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Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine

5 Things To Look for in An Acupuncture Clinic

Posted by Arden Yingling on Mon, Jun 22, 2015 @ 12:01 PM

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So you've decided to check out acupuncture? Awesome! Acupuncture is a wonderful way to treat many health conditions, from the common cold to chronic pain to insomnia (and so much more). How do you decide where to make that first appointment, though? In a city like Austin, we're fortunate to have many options for our healthcare, including acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Here are a few tips on finding an Austin acupuncture clinic that meets your needs:

1)     Choose a licensed acupuncturist: While other professions sometimes incorporate acupuncture into their practices, receiving treatment from a licensed acupuncturist is the best choice for accurate diagnosis and safe, effective treatment. Licensed acupuncturists in Texas possess master's degrees and have completed nearly 3,000 hours of education, including coursework in Western medicine and supervised clinical hours. They must also pass four national board exams before receiving licensure from the Texas Medical Board. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, which handles national certification, is a good place to start looking for someone in your area.

2)     Look for someone who works with you as a team: Depending on your diagnosis, your acupuncturist may ask you to consider lifestyle changes such as eating differently or exercising more. Incorporating such changes can be a key part of improving your health, so you want to do so in a way that's realistic. Don't hesitate to be honest about what feels possible for your life, and find a practitioner who listens to your concerns and works with you to develop an achievable plan. 

3)     Check out areas of specialization: All acupuncturists are trained to work with a wide variety of conditions. However, some choose to focus in certain areas. There are acupuncturists who work specifically with sports injuries, with pregnancy, with autoimmune conditions, and so on. If you'd like help healing a chronic or complex health issue, see if anyone in your area has a relevant specialty. Don't hesitate to call an acupuncture clinic and ask if they have experience working with your condition! 

4)     Financial policy: If affordability is a concern, you'll find lots of options. Many private practitioners are willing to work with those in financial need. If your health insurance covers acupuncture, some Austin practitioners accept insurance. Community acupuncture clinics offer lower-cost treatments in a group setting. And of course, schools such as AOMA have a student clinic, where you can receive affordable acupuncture from interns supervised by licensed professionals. 

5)     Make sure you like your acupuncturist: Here's the the most important part! Just as there are all kinds of people in the world, there all kinds of acupuncturists too. The most effective healing comes when you feel safe and supported, so follow your instincts and work with someone who listens with compassion and takes care to make you feel comfortable and relaxed while you're in their acupuncture clinic. Enjoy your treatments!

About the Author

Arden Yingling, LAc, is a graduate of AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine. Her south Austin private practice, Songbird Acupuncture, focuses on wellness for mothers and children. She also works as a graduate teaching assistant at AOMA classes and clinics.

 

acupuncture appointments in Austin

Topics: AOMA clinic, acupuncture clinics

The Essential Benefits of Holistic Healing in Modern Times

Posted by Devan Oschmann on Fri, Jun 19, 2015 @ 10:00 AM

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The term “holistic” seems like just another buzzword that is often used interchangeably with others like alternative, natural, complimentary, etc. But what does holistic really mean? And why is holistic healing so beneficial and important in this day and age?

The answer is simple. It’s because we are more than a physical body; we are sentient beings. Moreover, we are highly sentient beings living in diverse and complex social structures. Taking a holistic approach to healing means we will consider all realms of existence, not just the physical body. To many, this may sound like mind-body medicine, but that is only the foundation of holistic healing. As such, the benefits of holistic healing are conceivably vast. To condense the benefits and analyze them in correspondence to changes in physical, emotional, spiritual, and behavioral health, it becomes evident that there is only one all-encompassing benefit to holistic healing: a dramatically positive change in lifestyle. 

Holistic healing aims to identify the root cause, or causes, of an imbalance (whether it is physical pain, stress, poor sleep, etc.). As a result, a patient feels completely considered and cared for, a benefit missing from many modern medicine practices. Instead of solely seeking to resolve symptoms, practitioners will ask the patient to both discuss and consider how not only their physical body relates to this imbalance, but also how their psychosocial, spiritual, and mental states contribute. And to help the body shift towards a healthier balance, a practitioner may guide the patient in processes such as emotional recognition and release, dietary modification, spiritual connection, and more. Not only will the patient be making improvements towards their original imbalance, but also in many realms of their life.

So now it is easy to understand the benefit of holistic healing. But why is its benefit so important? In modern societies, where people are often prone to feeling without purpose, place of belonging, and direction, a holistic perspective is far more than beneficial; it is essential. As sentient beings in an individualized and competitive society, we need to find spiritual and emotional connections in order to maintain our mental and physical health.

Fortunately, some of us are beginning to recognize this. Movements can be seen at many levels: within relationships, small communities, health and wellness establishments, and even major cities like Denver, Portland, San Francisco, and our very own Austin! These holistic lifestyles (which stem from a holistic healing perspective) may include, or go beyond, opportunities for the physical body to move within and experience nature, access to whole, locally sourced foods, and chances to participate in community events—being spiritual, religious, or cultural. In reflection, holistic healing isn’t just another module in the healing arts or a buzzword, it is an evolved and expanded concept of lifestyle that is helping humans to become human, once again. 

Download Guide to Career in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Devan is an intern and student in the Masters program at AOMA. A Wisconsin native, she has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with focuses on pre-medicine and sociology. She is also active in the yoga and wellness community through teaching classes and privates, and writing for yoga subscriptions.   

Topics: holistic healing, lifestyle

5 Things You Didn’t Know About AOMA Herbal Studies

Posted by Jessica Johnson on Tue, Jun 16, 2015 @ 12:15 PM

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Before I started the master’s degree program at AOMA, I did not realize the degree to which herbal studies would be a major part of what I would learn in acupuncture school.  It turns out that Chinese medicine is a vast field that encompasses much more than just the practice of acupuncture. In fact, herbs are an important facet of how we as acupuncturists help our patients get to a better state of health. They can be used in addition to acupuncture or as a stand alone treatment and they are an important staple of Chinese Medicine. So, in honor of being “in the know”, here are 5 things you may not have known about herbal studies here at AOMA!

  1. You don’t need to read Chinese to study Chinese Herbs: The herbs you learn about here at AOMA are all named in Pinyin- the phonetic system for transcribing the Mandarin pronunciations of Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet. For instance, we learn fresh ginger as “Sheng Jiang” and ginseng is “Ren Shen”. Often times, the pinyin names give a description of the herb itself, like Da Huang translates to “Big Yellow” in English. It is a very powerful herb that is yellow in color. Wu Wei Zi translates to “5 flavored seed” because this herb is said to contain all the 5 flavors in Chinese Medicine- sour, bitter, sweet, salty, and pungent.
  1. Herbs can multi-task:  Some herbs are highly versatile and can treat a wide range of illnesses and health issues. Many times, it is baffling how many seemingly unrelated illnesses one herb can help treat. For instance, Huang Qi, one of the most commonly used herbs in Chinese Medicine, can be used to treat bleeding disorders, general fatigue, organ prolapse, dizziness and vertigo, the side effects associated with radiation and chemotherapy, excess leakage of body fluids (like profuse sweating and urine due to deficiencies), compromised respiratory and digestive function, chronic sores and ulcers, various types of edema, numbness and pain experienced because of lack of blood flow to extremities, post stroke complications, and the wasting and thirsting symptoms of diabetes. Yet, this speaks to the complexity of natural substances made up of a myriad of compounds. And in combination with other substances, there is a synergistic effect that focuses on the target – the condition being treated.
  1. Not all herbs are plants: Some herbs used in Chinese medicine are in fact, unfathomable under common notions about what comprises “herbal medicine”. Certain insects make it onto the list of important herbs used in Chinese medicine. For instance, Ban Mao is derived from a type of beetle and can be used to treat various skin conditions. Also there is Ge Jie, which is derived from a type of gecko. Ge Jie is great for treating chronic cough, weakness and soreness in the lower back and knees, impotence, and diarrhea. Yes, it is a little gross to imagine ingesting these things, but they can be very helpful to some of our patients.
  1. You can find many Chinese herbs at your local grocery store: Goji berries or Gou Qi Zi are really great for brightening eyes and treating blurry vision. With other herbs Gou Qi Zi can also treat great for dizziness, lower back weakness, night sweats, and tinnitus. Also, if you ever eat pho, a type of noodle soup, you are probably eating Zi Su Ye or Purple Perilla Leaf. This herb is not only tasty, it helps treat certain types of colds, alleviates nausea, vomiting, and seafood poisoning, and it helps quell morning sickness. Gui Zhi or cinnamon twig is also a Chinese herb that treats pain, edema, dysuria, irregular menses, and is commonly used today to treat myocardial infarction, angina pectoris, and cardiac insufficiency.
  1. It matters what part of the herb you use: Different parts of the same plant can be different herbs with different qualities. For instance, Ma Huang, also known as Ephedra sinica, is the body (aerial or above ground portion) of the plant and treats the common cold by opening the pores and allowing a slight sweat, stops cough, relieves edema, and warms the body. Ma Huang Gen, on the other hand, is Ephedra sinica root, and only treats the symptoms of excess sweating. Further, in Chinese medicine, these different parts of the same plant treat opposing problems- Ma Huang releases the exterior while Ma Huang Gen does the opposite by stopping sweating.

Through AOMA's challenging graduate program I have been able to learn extensively about herbs and their uses, furthering my own practice in Chinese Medicine. Here at AOMA, graduate students complete over 500 hours of herbal education and take courses such as Herb Singles, Herbal Formulas, and Herbal Treatment of Disease. Though these courses can be difficult, they are also very valuable in an acupuncture practice. And no, I am not going to explain what “releasing the exterior” is. I will leave that for when you come to herb class!

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Topics: herbal studies, chinese herbs, herbal program

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