Balance & Qi
Traditional Chinese Medicine
by Nirmala Nataraj
Trying to balance your qi this new year? Consider traditional Chinese medicine, a millennia-old science with therapeutic benefits that are confirmed by modern research.
Licensed acupuncturist and herbalist Lydia Akhzar, whose cozy Marina District practice oozes both serenity and pragmatism, will divest vigilant patients of their aches, pains, and even doubts.
Akhzar, whose informative, personable, and holistic approach to medicine has quickly earned her a place among the most highly respected wellness mavens in San Francisco, knows that TCM needn’t be relegated to “alternative” care. Her patients come to her, addled with everything from insomnia to chronic pain, high stress to fertility issues.
Akhzar has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2009, but has practiced from 2005, since she was a student at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. While many of her patients come in with specific complaints about their health, there are some who see her without being “100 percent sure of what’s going on. It becomes my job to ask the right questions to get a more complete picture of a person’s health,” she explains.
Akhzar’s therapeutic approach is multi-pronged, and an acupuncture session will typically include empowering her patients with tips on managing stress, developing good sleeping and eating habits, and incorporating overall wellness into their lifestyle.
“Many times, people tend to normalize their ailments, but if they become more attuned to their bodies and aware of their health, they are better equipped to take care of themselves,” Akhzar says. “Obviously, if someone is coming in for a treatment once a week, but they are drinking heavily five nights a week, they aren’t going to see the maximum benefits.”
What sets Akhzar apart from many practitioners is her deft blending of practices in western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. Akhzar majored in biology and environmental science as an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she conducted research and also led courses in female physiology and gynecology (now, many of her female acupuncture patients come to see her for fertility issues). But Akhzar also began to seriously study Chinese medicine about 15 years ago, when she experimented with creating herbal tinctures for friends and loved ones.
“It wasn’t until after a few years of casual study of Chinese herbs that I figured out I wanted to make it my life path,” Akhzar says.
Akhzar believes that traditional Chinese medicine can offer an efficient way of “getting to the root of a person’s issue. If a patient comes in with a list of symptoms, a western doctor will give them medicine to mask those symptoms. But in Chinese medicine, you look carefully at those symptoms and develop a diagnosis and way to treat the patient’s basic imbalance, not just their symptoms,” Akhzar says.
One of the primary benefits of seeing a traditional Chinese medical doctor is that treatments are preventative.
“Chinese medicine strives to create balance in a person’s constitution,” Akhzar says. “Although it’s hard to prove empirically, a traditional Chinese doctor can identify whether or not a patient might be susceptible to something like future heart disease or other illnesses that are part of the aging process. By coercing the body into a state of balance, you make someone far less susceptible to disease.”
Typically, 6-10 treatments administered about once a week will complete a “course” of treatments; however, if someone is coming in to treat something like the common cold, 1-3 treatments within a week will suffice.
Often, simply looking at someone’s face or eyes will give Akhzar a strong idea of a patient’s constitution and some of the health issues they may be contending with.
“Ancient methods of touching, looking, and feeling to figure out where the imbalances are can be very sophisticated,” she says. “These are methods that were developed without the assistance of complex or invasive medical tools and procedures, but they can give you a lot of information.”
Akhzar also offers a full-service herbal pharmacy; with the price of acupuncture, patients get an herbal consultation in which Akhzar can create a custom formula for them. For certain disorders, such as fertility issues, Akhzar recommends that her patients take herbs in addition to getting acupuncture, to receive the maximum effect.