While acupuncture is far from a recent invention, for me, it’s a relatively new undertaking. If someone would have told me a year ago that I was going to climb aboard the acupuncture train and become one of its biggest cheerleaders I would have laughed in said person’s face. Like actually laughed. In their face. Aside from two non-life-changing encounters in my early twenties when I was battling chronic headaches, I knew very little about the ancient Chinese practice.
Then a few months back, I had my first cosmetic acupuncture treatment and my eyes were opened. Then a second encounter came after smacking my foot on a rock that was hidden in the sand and breaking two toes (I was able to fit into my heels for a wedding the next day — result!). So, when the opportunity to have another treatment arose, I jumped at the chance. I was curious to see how different the experiences would be, if at all. Turns out it can be like night and day. I am in no way knocking the previous cosmetic acupuncture experience because I thought that one was pretty amazing, but this experience was definitely more intense. Let me explain.
For about two months, I had noticed that the black circles under my eyes were getting worse by the day. I woke up every morning looking like I had two black eyes. My skin had also gone very, very, very dry. My face was flakey when I woke up, my body was constantly itching and my legs were so dry that I layered body oil and then lotion in the mornings—and still, by midday they were scaly again. I chalked it up to the dry air in Southern California. But when I started to wake up and see a sallow-skinned corpse in the mirror (I’m not exaggerating — it was bad), I knew it was time to call in reinforcement.
Funnily enough, I just had blood work done and everything came back saying I was in excellent health. And honestly, I felt absolutely fine — I just thought, I can spent all my money on under eye concealer and body lotion or I can ask some questions and see if someone knows something that will help. As kismet would have it, and just as I was about to fall into full desperation mode, I met Nadia Ramo.
Nadia was referred to me by Missy Bunch (you’ll remember Missy from her tips on yoga for the face and lessons on facial asymmetry) so when I arrived for my treatment I knew I was in for something good. After bonding over our love for all things mushroom-related, Nadia took my pulse and asked some seemingly unrelated questions: Do you have anxiety? OCD? Food intolerances? Do you wake up in the night? But one question in particular seemed to rattle me: “Do you drink coffee?” she asked. I told her, yes, but only one to two cups in the morning and it’s organic. (Side note: I love coffee. The smell, the ritual, the taste… there was no way I was giving that up. Like ever.)
Apparently, all the things I told her plus a “wiry” pulse pointed to my liver. Slightly concerned that I might be dying of liver disease, I made a mental note to do some research on liver qi stagnation. She didn’t seem worried, so I laid back and let her do what she does best. She started by pulling a jade gua sha stone across my face and forehead to stimulate circulation (it’s also said to smooth out wrinkles). It wasn’t particularly soothing, but in terms of skin treatments, it beats a scalpel or big needle any day. She then proceeded to insert various needles in my feet and shins, a few in my belly and rib area, and a few more in my chest and face.
She left me to bake for 20 minutes and I was told to relax. Which in theory seems easy enough, but there were two needles in particular that I can only describe as slightly annoying. Sometimes they burned or ached briefly, but nothing that was intolerable. When Nadia came back into the room she asked if any of the needles were bothering me, and when I told her about the two niggles, she confirmed that both of them were liver-related. Weird.
Interestingly, the needles that she used on my forehead expression lines were tiny and round — who knew that such a thing existed? And what a difference they made! We took before and after pictures and the lines were visibly shallower. Like the previous treatment, my skin had a slight glow, but this time the sinus area (below the eyes, either side of the nose) was immediately plumper. The next morning, I woke up and the forehead lines were even less noticeable, as were the marionette lines. I was hoping to see a little difference, but this was seriously impressive.
But the best part hadn’t even unfolded yet. Rather determined to see what this liver qi stagnation was all about I set about googling. In no time at all, I had uncovered a very curious thing. I suffered from many of the symptoms of liver qi stagnation—and it goes much further than dark circles under the eyes and dry, itchy, dull skin. Seemingly unrelated things like damaged nails, the lips randomly going blue, dizziness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dry, irritated eyes, sighing a lot (what?! I sigh constantly!) and plum pit qi (the feeling of something being stuck in the back of the throat). Separately, I thought nothing of these things, but seeing them all together was surprising if not downright shocking.
And guess what the first thing it said to do? Give up coffee. After a few days of mourning my love of coffee, I made a deal with myself. I will try this for three weeks and see if it makes any difference. You can do anything for three weeks, right? (Insert that wide-eyed, worried-looking emoji here.) It was also suggested that I stay away from spicy foods; I literally ate something spicy every day. According to Aryvedic medicine, spicy food only further dries out the body for someone with a cold, dry constitution like mine. Interesting.
As a replacement for my beloved cup of morning coffee, I switched to matcha (the powerful compound EGCG that green tea is known for stimulates elastin production, which adds volume to the skin, and protects it against free radicals that cause the skin to age. It also quells sebum production—so win-win all around) and dandelion coffee (caffeine-free and it detoxifies the liver). And as a last-ditch effort to bring some color back into my cheeks, I started adding spirulina to my smoothies.
You might want to sit down for this: I saw a HUGE difference in three short days. The dark circles had begun to recede, the area around my mouth was no longer flaky when I woke up, the itchiness went away completely and the biggest difference was in the dryness on my legs. They looked like normal legs again (instead of fish scales). Three days!
It’s now been a month without coffee and life is fine. Better than fine actually because my ears no longer ring, my throat feels clear, my skin is the color of human skin again and I haven’t felt dizzy in yoga once. Were any of these things causing me real damage? Probably not. But acupuncture and Chinese medicine are preventative treatments. Where as western medicine treats things once a problem presents itself, Eastern medicine heads problems off at the junction. Would it have caused problems down the road? Who knows, but I will add that to the list of things I no longer have to worry about.
Nadia Ramo received her Master’s Degree in Chinese Medicine from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in 2016 where she studied both acupuncture and massage. Shortly after graduating from UC Berkeley in 2011, she went on an expedition to India where she completed her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training. She is also certified as a Reiki Master and in Acupuncture Facial Rejuvenation. Besides healing, Nadia’s other passions include Chinese Tea Ceremony, surfing and mycology. Nadia is a member of the San Diego Mycological Society and utilizes the medicinal benefits of mushrooms in her practice. She works out of the Urban Healing Center in Hillcrest or True Motion Human Performance in North Park. You can contact Nadia at 858-952-9519 or firstname.lastname@example.org.