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Herbs and Needles Complementary medicine gaining in popularity, especially among women


hen Diane Hawk injured her back in a bicycling accident, she went the traditional route – using muscle relaxants and painkillers. But in addition to not really helping the pain, they also had side effects, and Hawk felt she couldn’t think clearly. Open to trying something else, the former immunologist, with a PhD in pathology, tried acupuncture and chiropractic medicine. When the chiropractor also gave her herbs, she found them effective. “I started reading about herbs and dabbling in them,” says Hawk. “They haven’t gone through clinical trials, but they have been used for thousands of

By BARBARA TRAININ BLANK years in a lot of different countries. Thirty to 50 percent of prescribed medicines came from plants originally, but their components have been isolated.” Hawk believes that whole herbs have fewer side effects, and the “body seems to know what to use—so the dosage is not too high or too low”— unlike what may happen with conventional pharmaceuticals. She also became interested in natural healing and ended up going back to school for a doctorate in naturopathic medicine. Based in York, the practitioner uses natural, noninvasive remedies such as herbs, homeopathy, nutrition, hydrotherapy, and vitamin and mineral

Dr. Hawk can help relieve pains from conditions such as a pinched nerve with acupressure or herbs.

Herbal tinctures can be added to water and then drank. They are used for treating a broad range of symptoms.


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supplements to treat patients. “They’ve gone the traditional route and not gotten enough relief, or may not like taking medications long term,” she says. “They want to make changes in their lives.” Among the conditions treated by Hawk are type-2 diabetes mellitus, menstrual irregularities, menopausal difficulties, fibromyalgia, fatigue, pain, irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies, eczema and skin issues, reflex disease intolerances, and insomnia. She has worked with MDs and ODs collaboratively, like some complementary-medicine specialists do. “Naturopaths treat patients as individuals, by addressing the environmental, lifestyle, attitudinal, and emotional aspects of health,” says Hawk. “Our ultimate goal is to teach people how to heal their bodies and keep them healthy.” Natural forms of healing—used in conjunction with conventional Western medicine or alone—are becoming more popular. Many Americans realize that good health is not merely the absence of disease, and many of these have seen a complementary-care practitioner. Women, in particular, tend to seek the services of these practitioners, often for menstrual or menopausal difficulties. Some universities have research departments that coordinate the findings of Western and alternative medicine; the National Institutes of Health has a complementary medicine website. “C ompl e m e nt ar y - m e d i c i n e practitioners give patients more attention, more treatment time, and a

broader selection of healing therapies,” says Linda D’Agostino, a registered nurse for 33 years (now retired) who is a licensed acupuncturist in Pennsylvania. D’Agostino works out of PinnacleHealth’s Fredricksen Outpatient Center in Mechanicsburg as well as Fox Chase Cancer Center at Osteopathic Hospital. Trained at the International Institute of Chinese Medicine in Albuquerque, D’Agostino is also certified in Oriental medicine by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. After moving to Albuquerque in 1996, she saw an ad in a local yoga journal about a school that granted a Doctor of Oriental Medicine degree. “It felt like a calling,” she says. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been in existence for about 3,000 years and is used to treat symptoms of pain, stiffness, stress, anxiety, and grief. Among the conditions TCM has been used for are allergies, arthritis, colds and flu, depression, headaches, infertility, neck pain, obesity, sexual dysfunction, and toothache. TCM has several modalities— nutrition, herbal medicine, acupuncture, and lifestyle—including meditation, all based on getting energy back into balance D’Agostino teaches Qigong, which are postures that help build energy, prevent illness, boost the immune system, calm the mind, and regulate the hormones. Mu Ming, one specific type of Qigong, is particularly targeted to breast cancer prevention. Qigong can be done in a group or individually; no special clothing or equipment is required.

Left: Linda D’Agostino demonstrates a Qigong pose.

skin and eye disorders, respiratory allergies, tension headaches, and the early stages of upper-respiratory infection. Since women tend to seek out medical help for chronic and acute conditions more than men, they are often also the ones to suggest complementary medicine to traditional physicians. “In Central Pennsylvania, going to complementary-medicine practitioners tends to be consumer driven,” says D’Agostino. “Usually it’s the patient who asks the doctor, ‘What do you think of this?’”

Below: A patient uses acupuncture, which places needles in specific points, to treat certain conditions.

“The ancient Chinese discovered that patients’ Qi, or energy, flowed along 12 pathways called meridians,” says D’Agostino. “They learned a way to manipulate the flow of Qi.” Acupuncture involves the insertion of special hair-thin needles into specific points on a given meridian. Their purpose is to redirect

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Qi so it flows properly. “With good Qi flow, blood circulation is improved, essence is nourished, and healing begins,” D’Agostino says. “The patient may experience warmth, pressure, or tingling during acupuncture but will not ordinarily feel any appreciable discomfort.”

Traditional Chinese medicine also offers insights about nutrition. A practitioner can make dietary recommendations: Different times of year are considered the optimal times to eat certain fruits and vegetables. Some plants, such as chrysanthemum, can help with various health conditions, including

Note: In Pennsylvania, naturopathic doctors and TCM practitioners are not licensed, though acupuncturists are. Only 15 states at present license naturopathic doctors as primary care physicians. Therefore, most insurance companies won’t cover the visits, although people with health-savings accounts or flexible-spending accounts can get reimbursement, Hawk states. There are currently four schools in the United States and two in Canada that offer the four-year program leading to a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine.

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‘Ditch the e h t n i o Workout, J ’ ! y t r Pa


iet and exercise are important components of a healthy lifestyle, but just as dieting often bears negative connotations, exercising is rarely described as a fun experience. Until Zumba, that is. With a name as exotic-sounding as Zumba, some might be wary. Others simply may not know what it is— knowledge that instructor Sandy Stotsky is only too happy to share. Zumba, said Stotsky, is a dance/fitness program created by Miami-based choreographer Alberto “Beto” Perez. Although it began in the 1990s, Zumba has experienced a recent surge in popularity. Because of its South American origins, Zumba utilizes a variety of Latin musical genres. Stotsky explained that the songs are choreographed, and each hour-long lesson teaches easy-to-follow moves. These moves are based on what Stotsky termed as four “basic rhythms” and their accompanying dance styles: salsa, merengue, cumbia, and reggaeton. Stotsky also added that Zumba has recently added many more rhythms to include flamenco, tango, bhangra, belly dance, African rhythms, and others. “Zumba follows a ‘formula,’ where each part of the song encompasses a choreographed move or combination of moves, i.e., every time you hear the chorus, you do this; every time you hear the verse, you do that, etc.,” Stotsky explained. “This allows people to learn the routines quickly and almost without realizing it.” Many people around the world have tried the distinctive fitness program, which basically consists of dancing to fast-paced music. After years of running, Stotsky, who instructs Zumba classes at Hempfield



Rec Center in Lancaster, has finally found an enjoyable means of exercise. “It’s a blast!” said Stotsky. “‘Fun’ and ‘exercise’ don’t belong in the same sentence for most people, but they do for Zumba enthusiasts. Zumba’s motto is, ‘Ditch the Workout, Join the Party,’ and I believe that is exactly why it has been so successful. It’s designed to feel more like you’re in a club dancing with friends and less like you’re taking an aerobics class in a gym.” And, more than just being fun, Zumba also burns calories without putting too large a strain on the body. According to Stotsky, it’s possible to burn between 600 and 1,000 calories in a one-hour Zumba class, due to the constant movin’ and groovin’ the program requires. “It is definitely a heart-pumping workout, but because you use your whole body to do the dances, your muscles will benefit and become more toned,” Stotsky said. Additionally, people of all ages can participate. “I’ve had classes with 16year-olds dancing right next to 65year-olds,” said Stotsky. “It really runs the gamut.” Each class varies, as instructors can decide whether or not they want to add new songs and different choreography. And in addition to toning muscles and burning calories, Zumba offers other health benefits. “Like most forms of exercise, Zumba can reduce stress levels. It’s a great program for weight loss and can improve sleep. What it does better than most exercise classes, however, is keep people coming back for more,” said Stotsky. Jennifer Rowland, of Lancaster, can attest to the draw of Zumba. Rowland said she was looking for an exercise class that “didn’t feel like exercise” when she saw an ad for Zumba.

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“I wanted to try something different, and I didn’t really know what it [Zumba] was, but I decided to try it,” she said. Giving Zumba a go is something Rowland hasn’t regretted. “It’s exercising, it’s dancing, and it’s fun,” she said. “It’s kind of like you’re having a party, in a way!” Rowland enjoys being around the other people in her Zumba class, and she also enjoys her instructor, Stotsky. “If you saw Sandy— well, she’s amazing,” Rowland laughed. More than just a social event, though, Zumba is an allround routine that burns calories, provides fun, and relieves stress. “You’re sweaty when you get out of there, so you’re definitely getting a workout,” Rowland explained. Both Stotsky and Rowland emphasized that stellar coordination and dancing skills are not required to enjoy Zumba. Sandy Stotsky, black top and red pants, is shown leading a Zumba class.

“A lot of people that aren’t really coordinated tend to just stand in the back, but as long as you’re moving, you’re gonna get something out of it,” Rowland explained. Stotsky admitted she felt a little awkward when she first tried Zumba, but was soon hooked and “shaking it with the best of them.” It seems that not having professional dancing skills is no excuse to shun Zumba. “I have people of all ages, all fitness levels, and all dance abilities in my classes. It’s more about having a good time and less about performing well,” said Stotsky. “And you need not worry that everyone is looking at you. Everyone is watching the instructor and having a great time.” Stotsky, who said she’s spent “nearly a lifetime” as a fitness devotee, has never experienced a more “captivating” workout. “I never found myself saying at the end of a 12-mile run, ‘If only I had time to do 5 more,’” she said. “But you will frequently hear me say at the end of a Zumba class, ‘You wanna do one more song?!’” By all accounts, those looking to get some fun out of exercise might as well give it a try: “Ditch the Workout, Join the Party.” BW

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