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6 Natural Therapies to Heal the Body and Mind

By Sophie Pettit 8 December 2015

For many Hong Kongers alternative therapies are an effective solution to treating various ailments of the body and the mind. Curious to find out more, we catch up with six of the city's leading practitioners to ask exactly how it works and better understand the healing powers of Mother Nature.


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1. Aromatherapy

479930837 Aromatherapy is a holistic therapy that combines essential oils and massage to treat the mind and body. When the oils are applied to the body during a massage, they enter the skin through the hair follicles where they are absorbed into the blood stream and circulated around the body. This treatment has many benefits to the person being treated and can enhance mood and general feeling of well-being, improve blood and lymphatic circulation, strengthen the immune system, reduce pain, and encourage restful sleep. “One of the reasons that aromatherapy has been so successful is because it uses a holistic approach, whereby the therapist takes into account a person's medical history, emotional condition, general health, and lifestyle before planning a course of treatment,” explains Nigar Qureshi, owner of Spa BPZ. “The whole person is treated, not just the symptoms of an illness, and this is in direct opposition to the modern trend of just treating present conditions. The benefits are unlimited and aromatherapy can be used for stress, which can lead to depression, backache, irritable bowel syndrome, or headaches." Curious to find out more? Click here.

2. Reflexology

187492659 Who knew your foot could hold the key to curing your health woes? Reflexology has been practiced for thousands of years in various parts of the world including Egypt, China, and native America. Much of the reflexology practiced today is influenced by research from the 1930s by a physical therapist called Eunice Ingham, who discovered the whole map of the body on the soles of the feet. Reflexology works by applying pressure to specific reflex points on the feet which correspond with organs, glands, and other body parts. The aim is to work on a problem and bring about balance where there is imbalance, treating the person as a 'whole' and stimulating the body's natural self-healing abilities, resulting in a balance of mind, body, and soul. "Anyone young or old can benefit from reflexology and as only the feet are exposed it is non-intrusive," explains Shelagh Ho, Reflexologist at Vitality Centre. "It can help many disorders and alleviate pain and stress. The number of sessions recommended varies from person to person and this is discussed at the first consultation. Each session will vary because as the body improves so the reflexologist adapts the treatment." Interested to find out more?

3. Reiki

-2 The popular Japanese alternative therapy, Reiki, rests on the notion that to be fit and healthy on an emotional, physical, and spiritual level, energy must be able to flow freely within our bodies. Reiki is a safe, gentle, non-intrusive hands-on healing technique which sets out to balance all the chakras of the body by using our own electro-magnetic energy (rather than pressure, manipulation, or massage) to treat physical ailments. These can include stress, insomnia, and even grief and depression. It can also be used to balance, heal, and harmonise all aspects of our body and encourage personal and spiritual awareness and growth. “There are many reasons why our energies get 'stuck', or blocked, hence causing our illness,” explains Keven Duff, Reiki Master at Integrated Medicine Institute (IMI). “Reiki can help with physical ailments by unblocking the energy in the body causing the problem. However, the source of the problem may actually have started as an emotional one, so as a result, it actually helps on a holistic level. It is one of the few modalities that help many problems at the same time. By balancing our energies, our emotional body becomes more stable, and as a result we feel less stressed. This has a knock-on affect on our health in general.” “Reiki works on all of our subtle bodies at the same time, (spiritual, emotional, physical), quite often the source of the illness can be pinpointed. It's not always what clients' expect. Receiving Reiki treatments is a unique experience for each client. Some feel intense heat, others feel energy 'moving', others feel a deep sense of peace and calm. But for everyone, it is a beautiful, natural, and effective treatment.” Click here to find out more.

4. Homeopathy

-3 If you're a firm believer that 'less is more' then Homeopathy might be for you. Developed in Germany at the end of the 18th century, this alternative therapy rests on the notion that the lower the dose of the medication, the greater its effectiveness, otherwise known as the 'law of minimum dose'. It also sits with the idea that a disease can be cured by a substance that produces similar symptoms in healthy people, the theory of 'like cures like'. Recognising that many symptoms of ill health are expressions of disharmony within the person, Homeopathy assists the natural tendency of the body to heal itself and works in harmony with your body to gently restore it to health. “Homeopathy is often effective when conventional medicine is not,” explains Dr. Benita Perch (ND), Licensed Naturopathic Physician and Homeopath at Integrated Medicine Institute (IMI). "Take for example, a case of insomnia. The conventional way to treat this is by giving a drug to bring on an artificial sleep, which can often cause side effects or addiction. The homeopathic way is to treat insomnia by giving the patient a minute dose of a substance, which in large doses causes sleeplessness in a healthy person, such as coffee. Surprisingly, this will enable the patient to sleep naturally." Homeopathic remedies are derived from substances that come from plants, minerals, or animals, such as red onion, herbs, crushed whole bees, white arsenic, poison ivy, belladonna (deadly nightshade), and stinging nettle. These remedies are often formulated as sugar pellets to be placed under the tongue or other forms, such as ointments, gels, drops, creams, and tablets and are tailored to each person. According to Perch, most people can benefit from treatment, but only if they suffer from a dynamic disease i.e. not lifestyle induced like diabetes or cardiovascular disease. It is useful for immunity, asthma, allergies, eczema, depression, anxiety, hormone imbalance, autoimmune disease, pain, insomnia, anger and irritability, and more, and because there are no side effects and it is non-addictive, it can be used safely in babies, children, and during pregnancy. Want to find out more?

5. Acupuncture

Photo courtesy of Oriental Health It may look painful but it's not. Acupuncture covers two distinct treatment methods; one is the painless insertion of very fine needles in human skin with the aim of stimulating the body, and another is the burning of moxa sticks on human skin to stimulate the body's own healing mechanism with heat. Both approaches work to encourage the nervous system to release chemicals such as opioids and serotonin in the muscles, spinal cord, and the brain, which increase the body’s pain tolerance or trigger the release of other chemicals such as endorphines. This results in reducing stress and balancing the autonomous nervous system. Acupuncture is successful in the treatment of many more types of diseases since it releases hormones that help to regulate the body’s health system and well-being. These include stress and depression, chronic pain, digestive health, insomnia, and even weight loss. “With acupuncture one can feel immediate results and pain release,” explains Dr. Grace Yu, TCM Practitioner at Balance Health and Oriental Health. “The patient’s whole energy level can increase along with a better well-being of body and emotions; it’s as simple as that. Acupuncture is an effective healing method with scientific research behind it. We have patients that even come in regularly for acupuncture as part of their wellness and illness prevention program. It can act similarly to massages that help maintaining a healthy balance and retain good looks.” According to Yu, the number of acupuncture treatments and needles used depends on the condition of the individual and can range from 2 to more than 30. These can be quickly adjusted if the patient feels any discomfort, but if any unpleasant sensation is experienced during insertion, it is often compared to a gentle electric or tingling sensation. Find out more.

6. BodyTalk

You know that saying, 'listen to your body?' Well it turns out our bodies can actually speak to us - and BodyTalk therapists are here to listen. First developed in the 1990s by Australian chiropractor and acupuncturist Dr. John Veltheim, this holistic therapy is grounded in the belief that living organisms have the capability to heal themselves more effectively than any technology used today, and BodyTalk practitioners can help make this happen. They do this by listening to the body, engaging its ability to heal itself, and enhancing communication between bodily systems. They "ask" the body questions and get answers by muscle testing, which is carried out by techniques such as gently tapping various points (or "energy circuits") throughout the body, such as the head and chest, to signal the brain and heart to prepare to heal and restructure. Using the feedback gathered, the practitioner attempts to connect these broken lines and facilitate open communication between all of the elements of the body in order to promote healing from within. Once systems are restored and energy can flow between them, more efficient and effective healing can take place. "While BodyTalk does not diagnose, or treat specific ailments, it allows the body’s own healing abilities to effect change", explains Angie Tourani, Advance Certified BodyTalk Practitioner and Instructor at Integrated Medicine Institute (IMI) and Dr. Susan Jamieson Integrative Medical Practice. "It can be used to address symptoms of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, insomnia, immune system disorders, digestive issues, and learning disorders. Clients have exhibited long-lasting, ongoing improvements in all areas, including mood, energy level, muscle tension, and overall bodily function." According to Tourani, initial treatment is one hour and she usually recommends five follow-up treatments to see changes and results for various health conditions. Chronic health issues such as cancer and autoimmune disorders require ten. With no side-effects or drugs involved, this safe and non- invasive therapy is definitely worth looking into. Find out more.

7. Hypnotherapy

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It's mind over matter when it comes to this alternative therapy. Broken down into two words, 'hypnosis' and 'therapy', Hypnotherapy is a natural process that allows the patient to access their subconscious and find root causes to an issue. The therapy process uses guided relaxation, intense concentration, and focused attention to achieve a heightened state of awareness where they can begin to address a problem. The number of treatments required to treat a particular issue varies case by case and depends on the client and the issues involved, but in most cases, a treatment course consists of three one-hour-sessions held a few days apart. “There are many benefits to hypnotherapy as it can help improve on a broad scope of areas such as relaxation, stress release, enhance self-confidence, eliminate bad habits, and improve self understanding, just to name a few,” explains Shakti Healing Circle’s Hypnotherapy Practitioner, Rhoda Choi. “All of these are done by finding root causes to an issue, affirming client's correct values and beliefs, and providing positive suggestions to the clients. Once root causes to issues were worked upon, problems generating from these root causes will be eliminated. Most importantly, hypnotherapy is a natural therapy.” Click here to find out more. What do you think about natural therapy? Have you tried and tested any of the treatments above? If so, we'd love to hear about your experience.
Read more? Explore the rest of our Health & Wellbeing section.

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Sophie is always on the lookout for a great story and her next big adventure and loves nothing more than discovering the city’s hidden gems—and most delicious cocktails. When she’s not exploring new places, she’s off travelling and ticking countries off her bucket list.

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