The growth of the wellness genre is unstoppable. Fads will come and go, but the idea of taking what we know from studies and scientific research about traditional Chinese medicine and incorporating it into our daily lives is proving to be essential and everlasting. And if Harvard Medical School proved that acupuncture might be more effective than pain medication, it’s hard to argue with the facts.
On the front lines of the movement is Dr. Aimée Derbes, a licensed acupuncturist, diplomat of Chinese Medicine (DACM, LAc), and so much more. She promotes functional practices that are effective outside of medications and surgeries — as well as their side effects. “[Chinese medicine is] well documented, safe, and effective, but it’s also relaxing, enjoyable, and nourishing to receive,” said Derbes. “It’s safe and appropriate for almost all people… and it works. This medicine wouldn’t have survived and evolved along with us for thousands of years if it weren’t practical.”
Having spent years devoting her studies to practicing healing arts, be it through acupuncture, healing touch, gua sha, cupping, reiki, and, lest I forget, literally writing the book on ear seeding, she is thee modern day healer — utilizing her unpretentious attitude and extensive knowledge to bring inner peace and relief to her patients.
“The people who come to me tend to be working with things like chronic stress, pain, fatigue, migraines, depression, low immunity, hormonal cycle issues, digestive issues, and autoimmune disorders,” she explained, noting this encompasses a majority of the population in New York City. “A lot of people end up in my office when Western medicine’s understanding of their body and health issues have failed them in some way and they’re curious what else is out there for them… many of my patients are burning the candle at both ends, so anxiety, fatigue, and insomnia are super common.”
The healer has a unique way of getting her patients to open up and can gauge what is causing physical pain based on exterior stressors. She honed in on my TMJ pain and jaw issues, noting that it usually means you feel as though you can’t speak up about something that is bothering you.
The truth of that minor observation knocked me off my somewhat skeptical high-horse because she was exactly right. “The modalities I use — acupuncture, healing touch/reiki, and breathwork — can all help with physical, emotional, and spiritual issues since these issues are all intertwined and not separate,” Derbes noted.
Aside from the psychological aspect of the visit, the physical treatments were all I needed to become a devotee. She rubbed my temples and other symmetrical points with essential oils that immediately brought my focus to center. “I use essential oils as a part of every acupuncture treatment,” she said.
The needles were then gently placed in their appropriate places, followed by a period of quiet where I may or may not have fallen asleep. “An acupuncture treatment speaks for itself — in addition to building on previous treatments towards the desired outcome, each session is deeply relaxing and restorative to receive.”
Once the needles were removed, she used a gua sha and some CBD-infused, minty fresh oil to evaluate where my blood was most stagnant and to break up fascia and knotted tissues, emphasizing it “can be a game changer for people dealing with chronic neck, shoulder, and back pain, lung and respiratory issues, and low immunity.” Shocker: my shoulders, neck, and upper back were as purple as a grape Jolly Rancher afterward. (I carry my tension in these areas and it was pretty obvious they needed some TLC.)
Next, Derbes gently applied ear seeds with what felt like surgical accuracy. Ear seeding is based on the principles of acupuncture and East Asian medicine. As she went she gave me the rundown: “Auriculotherapy uses the ear as a tiny map for the whole body… there are hundreds of acupuncture points in the ear corresponding to just about every organ, hormone, and system. The pressure from a tiny stick-on seed (the kind she uses are made of gold-plated stainless steel) is enough to activate the points and create a healing response so you don’t need needles at all.” In a nutshell, they’re affordable, noninvasive, and you can apply them at home — just make sure to read her how-to before you dive in to get maximum benefits.
With the ear seeds in place, my good vibes continued long after I walked — more like floated — out of her office and back into the hustle and bustle of the city. She knows the feeling: “Most people leave my office feeling more grounded, resilient, and at ease in their bodies, less overwhelmed and reactive to stressors, less aware of pain or discomfort, and more in touch with their strengths, health, and wholeness,” she said proudly.
And her other treatments are gaining attention as well.
“The people who are initially drawn to healing touch are often dealing with emotional and spiritual issues, such as life transitions, loss and grief, depression, healing from trauma, and chronic stress, but it’s also incredibly helpful for physical pain,” she explained. “Breathwork tends to attract people when they are ready to face certain longstanding patterns, whether in their bodies, relationships, or lives, and really shift the way they are showing up and the path their life is on.” She offers live breathwork groups throughout the city to bring the benefits to those who can’t fit in an appointment.
Working on two more books about practical self-healing techniques, new low cost virtual offerings in 2019, and immersion in a two-year mentorship for Chinese herbalists to deepen their herbal skills, Derbes has no plans to stop learning. The goal is to fill her brain with more and more knowledge on these healing modalities so she can spread the word and continue to help others.
“My dream result is not that everyone has some imaginary perfect health, because I live in a reality where living in an imperfect body that changes over time is part of the deal and where shit happens,” said Derbes. “But what I am aiming for is a greater willingness and ability to listen to, respond to, and respect your body and its needs and requests… and to be able to roll with whatever comes your way.”
Charlotte Farrell is a freelance writer and editor who loves nothing more than a piping hot matcha latte — with almond mylk, of course — and subjects like wellness, fashion, self-care, food, climate change, feminism, beauty, fitness, and travel. She graduated with honors in Communications and English Literature from the University of California, San Diego, and is now based in NYC where she enjoys reading, writing, exploring, and dreaming about gluten-free croissants.
Illustration credit: Juliet Romano.