Lifestyle » Vol. 3

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

By Linnea Sheldon

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) has been used by non-Western cultures for centuries. These health care practices that exist outside of conventional medicine have been growing in popularity around the globe. The list of CAM is ever-changing because as a practice becomes accepted into conventional medicine, it is no longer considered CAM. While some practices are becoming more common, like acupuncture and reflexology, others still lie on the outskirts of medicine.

Acupuncture originated in China, and is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine that dates back over 3,000 years. According to Brigitte Hartmann, L.AC., of Artemesia Center for Acupuncture & Natural Medicine in Northboro, the intent of the therapy is to promote health while also alleviating pain and suffering. “The perspective from which an acupuncturist views health and sickness is based on concepts of vital energy, or ‘Q,’ and energetic balance and imbalance,” she explained.

Hartmann said that the acupuncturist assesses the flow and distribution of this vital energy within the pathways, known as meridians or channels. By stimulating certain areas along these meridians an acupuncturist is able to influence health and sickness.

Susan Sullivan

Susan Sullivan

Acupuncture itself is a painless process, with tiny needles that are laser sharpened and sterilized like surgical tools, then placed in the skin with a slight tap. According to Hartmann, the patient may experience a mild tingling or heaviness around the point of insertion, but then often times experiences a deep level of relaxation. The needles remain in place for 5 to 20 minutes before they are removed and disposed of.

Acupuncture is highly effective for acute pain problems, but can also help with a long list of other conditions ranging from allergies and arthritis to menopausal problems and fatigue. For more information on Acupuncture, visit the Artemesia Center for Acupuncture & Natural Medicine website at

Reiki is another form of CAM that comes from the East. It is described as a gentle, hands-on healing art that works by tapping into the body’s energy systems (called ki in Japan, chi in China, and prana in India). According to Sue Sullivan, a Reiki Master/Teacher and licensed occupational therapist, certified health coach, and ARCB licensed reflexologist who works out of Northboro, Reiki facilitates the body’s own natural ability to heal and restore balance. “The practitioner is a conduit for the universal life energy to flow through the practitioner’s hands to the person being treated,” she explained.

During a Reiki session, the patient generally lies on a massage table, and the practitioner places his or her hands on or over the body with gentle pressure, starting with the head and working systematically down to the feet. The intent is to allow the body to balance itself and facilitate the healing process. “The results are very individual,” Sullivan said. “They range from subtle to profound, and some people may even experience a deep emotional release and healing, followed by a sense of peace, calm, and well being.”

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Reiki has many benefits, including stress reduction, pain relief, and enhancement of the immune and endocrine systems. It is gentle enough that it can be used on people of all ages and conditions. For more information on Reiki, visit Sullivan’s website at

Jo Ann Blanchard, 54, has been receiving acupuncture and acupressure treatments since June of 2004. After developing shingles, she decided to look for complementary treatments. “The acupuncture helped to alleviate the residual pain that lingered,” she explained. “I think the sessions helped me regain my energy and improved my general well being.”

Blanchard received acupuncture treatments three times a week for the first four months and continues the therapy with one session a week. She has also been receiving regular Reflexology treatments from Sullivan since 2001. Reflexology is a form of massage that focuses on the feet and a system of zones and reflex areas that reflect onto the zones in the body. “I found it fascinating that you could find a point on my foot that would correlate with another party of my body,” Blanchard said. “I enjoy my sessions and use them as a form of relaxation.”

With growing interest in CAM, it is becoming more and more accessible and more types of CAM are being recognized. Linda Russell is a certified herbalist and owner of Scentsibilities in Boylston. She opened her store about five years ago to sell herbs and related herbal items. She puts on workshops on herbal teas, growing herbs, using herbs, aromatherapy, and many other herb related topics.

Russell describes aromatherapy as the use of essential oils from a plant. “These oils contain the chemical structure of the plan, and can be used for physical, spiritual, and emotional health,” she explained.

The oils are typically used topically, both put on the skin or in the bath, and inhaled. The chemicals in the plant trigger neurological responses in the brain.

“These practices are very popular nowadays because I think people are looking to get away from other medications, so they are looking to herbs to help them with their health,” she said. “I do caution people that just because it’s natural doesn’t mean that it is always safe.”

Russell stresses that if you’re on prescription drugs you always consult your doctor before using any herbs. You can visit Russell’s website at or her store in Boylston for more information.

Amethyst Point, a Holistic Center for Well-Being at 232 Chandler Street in Worcester, has been in the business of CAM for 20 years. Arlene Dorischild is the Director of Amethyst Point and is a Registered Nurse and Licensed Massage Therapist. The center has 15 people on staff, including a nutritional counselor. Its treatments include body work such as massage, yoga, Tai Chi, and Reiki, and there are many workshops available.

“I think more people can feel good, and that always great,” she said. “Most of the treatments we do reduce stress on the body.”

Dorischild believes that CAM has become so popular in recent years because it works. For more information on Amethyst Point visit

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