Body and Soul
(page 2 of 5)
EAST MEETS WEST IN MEDICINE
Erin Resko: Local Chinese Herbalist and Acupuncturist
When traditional Chinese medicine arrived in the U.S. in the late 19th century, its methods were quite different from those being used by Western doctors who were still practicing bloodletting, blistering and harsh purging to rid the body of illness. The Chinese approach was to use natural herbal remedies to treat the body as one whole, interconnected system.
Thankfully, Western medicine has changed over the years. However, the Chinese medicine practiced today is basically the same as it was centuries ago, said modern practitioner Erin Resko, owner of My Essential Healing in Ketchum and Hailey.
Resko, who has a Master’s degree in acupuncture and oriental medicine, a degree in physiology, and additional training focusing on sports medicine, said Chinese medicine is about bringing the body back into a state of balance and harmony so that each system works well on its own and doesn’t tax another system.
Like practitioners of old, Resko uses both acupuncture and herbs, either alone or simultaneously, to treat a myriad of conditions such as sleep disorders, hormonal issues, women’s issues, and pain, the latter being one of the most common complaints she sees. She treats each condition and each individual with a different approach.
“If someone comes in with back pain and another comes in with ankle pain, we wouldn’t treat them with the same formula,” she said, noting that the herbs she treats with are guided into different cells and areas of the body just by changing the formula composition. “We use food as medicine. Everyday herbs like mint or licorice work together synergistically depending on the way they are put together.”
The Chinese figured out how the various herbs work by looking at the whole plant and what the different parts did for itself. They then transferred that concept over to how plants would affect the human body. “For example, the lighter flower parts of the herb work on the upper body, the heavier herbs, like seed and roots, work on the lower part of the body,” Resko said.
Likewise, she noted, an acupuncturist might use single acupuncture points to do a job or, as with the herbal formulas, put a number of different acupuncture points together to treat multiple organ systems and the body as a whole.
How does acupuncture work? Resko uses the analogy of a string of Christmas lights with one bulb burned out, which causes the other lights along the line to short circuit. “We are largely made up of water, electrolytes and different chemical constituents that carry a different charge,” she said. “If there is a malfunction along the circuit, as with a string of lights, the rest of the lights no longer function as they should. Acupuncture needles work because they are electrical conductors, promoting flow along the meridians and within the body, connecting this circuitry from organ system to organ system.”
Because the Chinese didn’t have research, blood tests and ways to see into the body, they observed the changes in the landscape of nature and saw how that overlapped with, and changed, the landscapes of our bodies, both inside and out.
“Like the seasons, our bodies are constantly changing and adapting to our environments,” she said. “In Chinese medicine, each organ system is represented by a corresponding season and element.”
Many of Resko’s clients come to her after hitting a dead end with other medical treatment. “Maybe they’ve been told that it’s all in their head, or there’s nothing more medically that can be done,” she said. “Doctors look at blood tests or imaging because that’s how they diagnose, and sometimes there’s nothing they can see, but that doesn’t mean the patient isn’t feeling pain or that their symptoms aren’t real. You can have pain that’s real to you but there is nothing physically or structurally wrong.”
Like any health care practitioner, Resko knows her boundaries and what health issues she can and cannot treat. She said she refers clients to other specialists when necessary. “Acupuncture works very well in conjunction with other treatments,” she noted. “Our bodies are different today than centuries ago and we’ve adapted the treatments to how people are now, but still, the basics of Chinese medicine have remained the same.” - Patti Murphy