Owen Liao is featured on Express Night Out
Alternatives: Whole Health Medical Center Opens in Alexandria
sounds more like a dare than a medical treatment: Light moxa — tiny sticks of
mugwort — on fire and place them on your body until you're worried your flesh
will burn. "When I first heard about it, I said what the heck is
this?" admits Mike Petruzzi, who'd gone to Whole
Health Medical Center (6910 Richmond Hwy., Alexandria; 703-901-6588)
planning to get acupuncture to treat the diabetic neuropathy in his toes.
But when the 44-year-old
showed up complaining of freezing feet, Whole Health director Owen
Liao suggested he combine the needles with moxa, which are used in
Chinese medicine to boost circulation while expelling inner dampness. "I
got a feeling of energy that lasted three days," says Petruzzi, who has
since gone back for two more sessions. "When I go for walks, I keep
noticing how awesome it feels.
This is exactly how Whole
Health, which opened in June, is supposed to work. Liao and co-founder Rose Hong
wanted to create a place that brought together a range of alternative
practitioners, so anyone who comes in can get the benefit of an array of
services. "From the patient care standpoint, it's all streamlined,"
says Hong. Think of it as the Kaiser Permanente of alternative medicine,
offering chiropractic care, massage therapy, nutrition counseling, anti-aging
treatments and more.
encompasses plenty of options that aren't particularly common in the Washington
area. That includes moxibustion, which Liao uses on body parts that are cold,
reddish or pale. As he explains it, those conditions can come from a blockage
in, for instance, your liver meridian. "You don't want to put a needle
inside your liver," he says. So instead, you apply the moxa, relax, breathe
in the aromatic smoke, and voila, the flow of energy returns. (Rather than apply
the burning herbs directly to the skin, Liao specializes in an indirect version
that uses sticks with foil pads on the end to avoid any discomfort.)
Another treatment you won't
get anywhere else is Liao's system of Tai Chi therapy, taught privately or in
small groups. He asks patients to walk for him, and then based on how they move,
he teaches them simple exercises that will help improve their balance and body
posture. One sample: the applaud. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, raise
your arms to your sides to shoulder level with your palms facing forward and
then swing your arms forward so your palms meet in a resounding clap. Repeat.
"You will do it and feel good," promises Liao.
Liao and Hong realize this
sort of medicine isn't everybody's cup of tea — which, incidentally, they have
available in several varieties for patients before and after treatments. But
that may be because they haven't been exposed to it before.
Patient Vicci Lancaster, 59,
has made up her mind about using acupuncture and moxibustion to treat her
arthritis. "I've taken prescription medication that worked, but I always
wonder what's it doing to my liver and kidneys," she says. The only side
effects she's experienced so far with her Whole Health treatments are extra
energy and reduced appetite. Her one regret? She can't tell her late dad about
it. "If I had known about this 20 years ago, he would have come with
me," Lancaster says.
by Marge Ely/Express
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