Business uses acupuncture,
Chinese medicine to heal
November 15, 2018 I THE WILMETTE BEACON
What's old is new once again.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are thousands of years old. The practice of them in western culture took somewhat of a back seat particularly with the advent of drugs like penicillin and antibiotics.
Now many health care providers are looking at acupuncture and Chinese medicine differently to determine how they possibly can help relieve pain and other maladies that often plague the human body and mind, sometimes alone or in tandem with modem, western medicine.
Many refer to the use of acupuncture and Chinese medicine as "holistic."
Wilmette's Catherine Zwergel, located at 1215 Washington Ave., is one individual who is a licensed acupuncturist and has a Master’s degree in Chinese Medicine from Evanston's Midwest College of Oriental Medicine.
"Holistic medicine looks at the whole body to determine what is causing a person's discomfort," Zwergel said. "There is no disconnect between the body and the mind. When you treat the body, you treat the mind."
She adds that acupuncture treatments can have a positive effect on just about any condition. They can also be a form of maintaining wellness.
"Acupuncture stimulates the body and its systems to come into balance," Zwergel said. "When an individual is dealing with pain, it can manifest symptoms in different ways - in the digestive system, with headaches or insomnia, for example. It is known to be a pain reliever, can help with hormonal issues, and even have a positive impact on fertility."
People who need to be eased into the idea of needles can try other modalities like acupressure, cupping, and essential oils.
"They are part of Chinese medicine, too," Zwergel said.
She says people with PTSD are being treated with acupuncture.
"We are waiting for Medicare to cover acupuncture and Chinese Medicine as a legitimate means of helping cure or alleviate the pain from illnesses," Zwergel said.
She says her mother planted the "seed" of interest in holistic medicine in her.
"We moved to Evanston when I was four years old," Zwergel said. "My mother was looking for a doctor who practiced holistic medicine because she was going through the "western route" to treat her kidney cancer."
Her mother began a diet of macrobiotics, which is a form of Japanese cooking, and started teaching classes in it.
"I picked up on my mother's macrobiotics diet and realized she was happy," Zwergel said. "It was not an alternative but rather a complement to her modem western medical treatments. She ultimately died from the cancer but my siblings and I knew she felt better and lived longer than any of us expected because she changed her way of eating."
Zwergel said she grew up thinking about the different kinds of holistic therapies and their possibilities for treating a variety of conditions.
"During my college freshman year, I developed inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), an autoimmune condition, and became even more interested in holistic medicine," Zwergel said. "I began looking for what might help to ease my symptoms along with medications. I wanted to take a deeper look at the disease and its roots."
It took several things - a balance of diet and lifestyle changes, medication, and the use of holistic medicine.
"I discovered how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be used to help treat a chronic condition like mine but I continued using western medicine to help me stay in remission," Zwergel said.
She studied marketing and promotion at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
"It was not fulfilling," she said. "It was then I discovered the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine and decided to go there for my Master’s degree."
The program is about four years long.
"We study everything from bio-medicine and pathology to anatomy and physiology," Zwergel said. "We learn to help the body fight disease. Sometimes we use acupuncture and Chinese medicine together with western medicine in doing rehab. We learn to take time and listen to our patients."
She is a sole practitioner, having recently moved to Wilmette from her former location at Evanston's Lighthouse Yoga.
"One good thing about being a sole practitioner or having a small practice is we do not have to see a required number of patients in a given time period as is becoming more common in western medicine group practices," Zwergel said.
The use of acupuncture and Chinese medicine is becoming more popular even among athletes.
One well-known Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps, used a holistic therapy on his back called, "cupping" therapy. Visible little circles could be seen on his back when swimming during the Olympics.
"It is a form of massage," Zwergel said. "It helps muscle recovery, easing tension, improving circulation, and promoting the tissue to heal.”
She added some recent studies have shown the use of acupuncture may be useful with opioid addictions.
Zwergel also offers different Chinese teas and herbs, essential oils, supplements, and pain relieving patches to assist and maintain one's health.
"Some Chinese herbs have gotten a bad rap lately because of possible toxins in them," she said. "They are safe when bought from a reputable company or business, just as other foods."
Many insurance company plans cover acupuncture treatments. Payment is required upfront for Zwergel's services but she will provide the paperwork for reimbursement from one's medical insurance.
Zwergel also practices at Mindful Path Behavioral Health & Wellness in Chicago.