What’s old seems to always be new again and the ancient practice of acupuncture is no exception. At Alive and Wellness Mag we entrust a bevy of the best health and wellness practitioners as not only brand consultants, but as keepers of our personal health. Our “go to” for acupuncture is Erika Weber, who operates 16th Street Acupuncture in New York City. We spoke with Erika to learn more about her practice, her personal health adherances and what is new when in comes to acupuncture treatments.
Erika’s practice constantly evolves and is shaped by her patients needs. Often the case for her patients who live busy lives in bustling New York City is that they are looking to create more balance in their life or need pain relief from repetitive strain issues. However, a new of patient has emerged, one looking for better skin health.
Acupuncture for beauty may be more readily used and gaining popular, but it certainly isn’t new. Erika tells us that acupuncture was used thousands of years ago in China as part of a beauty regime designed to keep the skin looking young and bright, with a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles. Erika has offered facial rejuventation treatments at her practice since its establishment over a decade ago.
Erika sometimes targets (painlessly) specific needle points in the scalp, which she says, “stimulates a lift in the facial muscles.” Another technique she employs are “thread” needles inserted under wrinkles, causing a pumping effect. The needles also relax tight facial muscles that contribute to the development of wrinkles. After the needles have been inserted for twenty minutes the patient receives a facial massage with facial cupping, using jojoba oil and a suctioning cup.
If you’ve ever had a cupping treatment, where the blood is lifted to the surface via suction,, you might have ended up with large circular bruises on your back where it is most commonly administered. Facial cupping is a bit more gentler. The cup is slide upward to create a gentle pull that gives the muscles of the face and skin a lift with the addition of greater circulation to the area. “Clients often find this very relaxing and leave the office with a glowing and bright complexion,” adds Erika.
Another technique traditionally used since ancient times is “gua sha.” Some describe this as a “scraping technique,” while Erika prefers to call it a “sliding technique.” She does not employ a razor. Instead, a jade stone is glided over the skin to encourage blood flow to the area. The increased circulation can firstly move lymph, which can causes puffiness. This sliding is done in an upward movement, giving the skin a little lift, while also relaxing muscles that cause wrinkles. It is not unlike the concept of Botox, in which muscles are paralyzed that cause wrinkles. Instead, no botulism or harmful chemical toxins are jabbed into the face to disable the muscle.
“Gua sha works well around the eyes and helps chisel the face, especially around the cheeks and chin line. Doing this every day will give a lift, glow and brightness, because you will be continuously flushing out the toxins underneath the surface under the skin. We give tutorials in the office on how to use the gua sha tool so the patient can do it at home,” Erika says. Both gua sha and cupping (as previously noted) are done elsewhere, particularly on the upper back and neck. When used to relieve muscle pain the suction much stronger than that used on the delicate skin of the face.
Another popular service at Erika’s clinic is a cupping technique performed on the legs to reduce cellulite. She notes that patients are seeing dramatic changes in the appearance of leg cellulite with this treatment. This technique can also be done at home with a supplied tool and instruction. Like most regiments, the more that it becomes daily routine, the more the effects can be seen. “When added to your daily routine, sliding cups can smooth out and break up cellulite in the adipose tissues. Sliding cups help release the rigid soft tissue through negative pressure and suction. Cupping on the legs can also assist in the draining of toxins and fluids retained by the body,” she says. Basically, the small connective bonds of fat tissue to the skin that cause dimpling are released.
The time of day you incorporate such cupping and rolling techniques into your routine stipulates how it can affect the body. For example, using a jade or rose quartz roller in the morning will reduce puffiness that accumulated during the night. Meanwhile, employing such devices in the evening relaxes muscle tension incurred during the day.
Besides offering patients these facial treatments and multitude of massages, energy work has also been incorporated into her practice. Acupuncturist Samantha Yurkosky MS LAc offers Reiki to patients at 16th Street Acupuncture. As much as these techniques are newly becoming popular, Erika still treats a lot of repetitive strain issues. It’s the type of pain you might get in the form of an aching back from endless hours in an office chair, or that tendinitis you get from your weekly tennis double. She also sees a lot of patients with fertility, digestive and stress issues.
Interestingly, Erika’s practice also largely serves the members of the Broadway community, which is where she is rooted as a former professional dancer. Erika may have found her first love in the art of dance, but she developed an early interest in eastern medicine. When she was a teenager a her mother gifted her a book about Yin/Yang philosophy and it’s correlation to the various parts of the body. “The drawings were fascinating to me. Years later, when I was a professional dancer, I picked up a book in Vienna about the complete guide to a Eastern lifestyle. As a dancer, I always wanted to be my most optimal and this system included diet, exercises and different healing modalities such as acupuncture and herbal medicine,” Erika says.
Like all dancers and active individuals Erika was prone to injuries from the strain placed upon her body. After tearing her MCL while water skiing she tried acupuncture and could not believe how quickly the treatment offered her relief. This revelation developed into an appreciation that would guide the rest of her life. “When I finally had enough of dancing, physically and mentally, I decided to take my love of the body and study acupuncture and Chinese medicine,” she says.
Essentially, Erika treats a broad range of issues for patients not wanting invasive procedures. Children are not excluded from her practice. Erika addresses her younger patients differently as needle pokes are not always so welcomed. If a child is afraid of the needles she might employ an herbal route, enlisting the help of Chinese herbs.
Acupuncture can be great for the whole family, not just the humans in your households. Although Erika does not treat pets (only an licensed veterinarian can practice animal acupuncture), she has seen the technique to enhance pets’ lives. She notes that she has seen it to be particularly beneficial to animals with spinal issues, in need pain management and even for pets enduring chemotherapy, which Erika says acupuncture can help relieve the accompanying side effects.
Needles, cups and rollers are not the only tools Erika has to offer patients. Herbal medicine has also long been a part of Eastern medicine. These herbal pills and sometimes tonics do everything from help sinus congestion to assist with sleep disorders. Some are even great for beauty concerns and skincare regimes. For example, Erika says that mun beans remove toxins from the skin and the powder derived from the plant, called “green gram,” works as a great exfoliator. “Applying a paste made of green gram, lemon juice and yogurt removes dark spots blemishes, pigmentation and acne scars,” Erika says.
Another substance particular to Eastern health and beauty that Erika and many skin and haircare brands incorporate into their products is “camellia oil,” otherwise known as “green teal oil.” This oil not only reduces the appearance of scars, fine lines and wrinkles, but also offers additional protection from harmful sun rays. “You can add camellia oil to your homemade sunscreen to up your SPF by five points,” she adds. Herbs used traditionally in China can also help the skin when ingested in pill form. Some formulas aid in the treatment acne, rosacea and eczema.
Whatever the health concern, Erika treats each patient as an individual with individualized needs. “Diagnosing their specific patterns takes time to understand the underlying cause of their issues. It is key to giving them the best treatment plan possible. We look at the whole system; the spirit is not disconnected to the physical body, so we need to take into account the person‘s whole story,” Erika says.
Like any new health regime that poses to generate change, a person might have to change some bad habits and be adamant about their new regime and the program prescribed by Erika, her team or your trusted and skill acupuncturist. If your current regime has failed you or seems stale, perhaps this ancient technique can bring a new vitality to not only your body and general health, but also to your skin.
Erika, who has also founded a line of beauty products called Urban Tonics, will be hosting retreats in Europe with the Life Essence Council. The all female collective includes not only Erika’s talents, but that of intuitive counselors, an astrologer and an integrative movement specialist. The aim of the group is to promote the use of environmentally conscience products and techniques for healing and living a well-balanced life. You can join the group for a retreat this October in Cremolino, Italy at Casa Wallace, a biodynamic vineyard in a sixteenth century farmhouse. In May of 2019 the group heads to Provence, France.
For more information please visit www.lifeessencecouncil.com
Q & A - Erika’s Favorites
If you aren’t using a dry brush daily, I recommend you start. The lymph system can be sluggish and dry brushing should become as daily a habit as brushing your teeth. It can have lasting benefits and also heps with day-to-day sluggishness.
Urban Tonic’s Rose Quartz Facial Roller. I’ve seen such a noticeable difference with the condition of my skin. My 11’s (lines) between my eyebrows have completely gone away. My face has a glow and my tender sinus points on my forehead have reduced significantly. Urban Tonics is a company I started last year that explores healthcare from a western and eastern prospective. I also focus on beauty and sell beauty tools on the website: www.urbantonicsinc.com
There are so many but I suggest if people aren’t familiar with Functional Medicine they start reading up on it. Anything by Dr. Mark Hyman is a good start.
I have always been a runner however, tennis - is my obsession! An hour or two on a tennis court clears my mind of any over-thinking. It’s great for my brain, physical fitness and brings me joy to excel at the sport.
I am an advocate for the LGBTQ community. Even though our society has come a long way, there is still discrimination and stigma. Many individuals in this community do not have access to good healthcare, have a hard time finding work, and can face high rates of violence victimization. At our clinic we welcome and support all types of family structures and diversity.
Erika Weber MS LAc
Owner, 16th Street Acupuncture
205 East 16th St M2A
New York, NY 10003