IN a room on the second floor of the Wellness Centre on Boon Street, I stretch out on a massage table as Emmeline Taylor applies oil to my back.
She lights the end of a stick, placing the flame inside a small glass cup, and then quickly attaches the cup to my exposed back. The heat creates a vacuum inside the cup that allows it to suction to my skin.
The treatment is called fire cupping – a type of alternative medicine and one of the many services offered by Emmeline at her clinic. It’s supposed to help with muscle soreness and also be a detoxifier.
Emmeline uses about four or five cups, letting some rest and moving others around my back and shoulders. She operates swiftly but gently – often detailing what she is doing and why – and also asking me how I’m feeling.
With her warm voice and friendly demeanour, Emmeline is positively suited for this role.
But she hasn’t always been a traditional chinese acupuncturist and medical herbalist.
Before entering the profession 15 years ago, she worked as a lawyer.
Her work in law stemmed from her long-time passion for helping people, but, after she was referred to a wellness clinic by her own doctor, she began to envision a new way of assisting others.
“I didn’t know that acupuncture existed when I studied to be a lawyer,” she says. “And then
I found out that it did, and I just thought it offered a fantastic health option. And I knew that it was what I wanted to do.”
Emmeline was drawn to the holistic, whole body approach that aims to pinpoint the root cause that may express itself in several different symptoms.
Clients come to her seeking help for different issues: depression, insomnia, digestive disorders, and even fertility issues. In addition to inquiring about their physical symptoms, Emmeline will also ask about their lifestyle and emotional wellbeing.
“It’s an artform,” she says. “It’s been around for more than 3000 years. It was initially trialled on people, and it was a very systematic, medical, written examination of people as well as the idea of chi.”
A combination of acupuncture, massage, herbs and movement are employed to find the best combination suited to each individual’s health needs.
“A huge thing about traditional Chinese medicine is that treatment is directed exactly for that person,” she says. “So I go into my apothecary, or choose my acupuncture points, depending on what that person needs. That’s where the artform comes in, to make a perfect formula for that person and diagnose that person with all your tools.”
After the fire cupping, we move on to acupuncture. Emmeline selects points on my hands, face and the top of my head that are meant to help with pain relief and difficulty sleeping.
A quick, painless tap and the needles are in.
“Acupuncture is all about chi,” she says. “It’s about working with people’s life force. So, you put in really, really fine needles to stimulate the flow of chi and to help balance it, and so support the body to be healthy and to recover.”
In no time at all, I begin to relax. The traffic below fades to a distant rattle, and a soft, white light streams in through the windows. My hands and face feel warm and buzzy. I could probably nap, but it isn’t a heavy sleepiness. Instead, I feel perfectly calm, like a still lake.
Once the needles are removed, she then takes me over to her collection of herbs and puts together a concoction of kava and passionflower.
“I am a western clinical herbalist,” she says. “So that means as well as Chinese herbs, I use herbs from all over the world. They are in tincture form and they are standardised, so you know that they’re safe.”
Emmeline invites me back for another treatment and seems genuinely pleased that I stopped by to see her. “Traditional Chinese medicine is used in empowering people to improve their health,” she explains. “The philosophy is that it’s a privilege to treat people, not that it’s people’s privilege to be treated by us.”
Acupuncture Awareness week runs from November 16 to 22. If you would like to learn more, or to schedule an appointment, call Emmeline at 021 1060229.