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Improving the Immune System: Alternative Health in Takoma Park

Two Takoma Park-based holistic practitioners explain how alternative medicine can have numerous benefits, including strengthening the immune system during flu season.

When conventional medicine doesn’t seem to be effective, some people with health concerns might wonder if other options exist.

Alternative and complementary medicines provide individuals with additional choices for healing and also prevent sickness during flu season by enhancing the immune system. Takoma Park has a number of wellness centers and practitioners that state they help with health issues and promote overall wellbeing.

Bodil Meleney, a practitioner of traditional Chinese herbal medicine who owns Midnight Sun Herbal Health, located in Old Town Takoma Park, said alternative medicine has largely expanded over the last 10 years. However, she added that people should understand what might be helpful for one person might not work for another, and a trained practitioner will be able to determine what will help.

“I do think Takoma Park has been very open [to alternative health], but I think the area is still into ‘self-health,’ often without understanding what they are buying,” Meleney said. She has a blog where she wrote about how readers can revive their immune systems during fall and winter.

Although conventional medicine is essential in clearly defined cases, Meleney and Mary Morrison, an acupuncturist who founded Your Access Acupuncture, also based in Takoma Park, agree that alternative health practices can offer individualized attention to patients that conventional medicine doesn’t necessarily offer. In fact, Meleney, who was a registered nurse, said it is possible for her treatments to work with any other doctor’s recommendations.

“Nutrition is a huge component in getting better, or in wellness … the focus is on wellness in Chinese medicine,” Meleney said. “In Western society there has been, until recently, little focus on wellness, but rather, ‘run to the doctor and get a pill that's going to work instantly.’ My specialty is to create formulas that are specific and targeted for that person.”

A major difference between Western and traditional Chinese medicine is Chinese medicine doesn’t have labels assigned to certain ailments, according to Morrison.

 “If you come in and say you have asthma, I know what you mean in my mind … but [that label] doesn’t really have any meaning in Chinese medicine,” she said. “I’m more interested in how you experience asthma -- shortness of breath, how long [it lasts], where you are when this is happening, [if it’s] some type of pattern … all these details feed the treatment and help me understand you better. I don’t have any ‘cookie-cutter’ treatments for people.”

Morrison, who earned her master’s degree in acupuncture at the Tai Sophia Institute, added that acupuncture is known to boost the immune system, so people who receive the treatment have fewer colds and flus. Taking time to get enough rest also improves the immune system.

“We’re going through the deepest part of the year where it’s all about being quiet and still, but in our culture right now, it also ramps up the holidays,” Morrison said. “We have nature that’s about to go into deep rest, [and] that is what’s happening in our bodies. When we keep going, going, going, we deplete vital chi [the body's vital energy] to fend off different pathogens.”

Meleney and Morrison emphasized that healing takes time and requires cooperation between the patient and practitioner. Following a practitioner’s lifestyle suggestions appropriately when seeking treatment is crucial in achieving solutions to health problems.

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