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The other morning my mother had a high-contrast scan of her organs to see if the chemo turned the Vin Diesel of her cancer into Verne Troyer. It’s basically like having a black light tapestry made of your insides. We get the results later on today and move on from there.

But in honor of the fact that my mother has been stuck, strapped, measured, massaged, weighed, waiting, biopsied, bloodied, pumped full of barium, Gemzar, saliene, Procrit, steroids, Darvocet, and now photographed with contrast imaging, I’m dedicating this post to a choice few homeopathic healing methods. And I’m going to try — try — not to be my usual cynical asshole self about it. After all, following several months of this rigmarole I can understand why some people opt for a laying of hands versus the lancing of flesh. So, without further snarky adieu, here are some alternative remedies you might want to try if you’d rather not get poked, prodded, or otherwise pummeled by Western medicine practitioners.

Leeches

These bloodsuckers don’t just make your blood run cold, they also thin it. The slug-like annelids have a compound in their saliva which acts as an anti-coagulant, and they’re basic dining habits can help to salvage tissue in situations like traumatic amputations, grafts, and severe cancer patients. They also help to relieve pain in certain cases of osteoarthritis.

Hey, I don’t mind the idea of having a few of these puppies stuck to me if it would help. Maybe if I put ’em on my face they could suck out the crazy. After all, leeches were regularly used in medicine from around the time of Hippocrates’ through the mid-19th century. These days, “devices” such as leeches and medical maggots are FDA-approved (the first live critters to be given that title) and are classified in a manner that’s similar to stimulators, prosthetic limbs, and pacemakers.

Leeches are kept in the fridge at hospitals, probably next to the crankiest secretary’s lunch, and are used most often one-at-a-time and replaced as they drop off, which, like most human males, is usually after about twenty minutes. This therapy goes on for a day or two straight, and then intermittently for a few days following. Medicinal leeches are sold for roughly about $7.50 a piece. Hey, that’s less than a prescription for painkillers. Or a burrito from Blockheads.

Douglas Chepeha is an ear, nose, and throat surgeon at U Mich. (Go Blue!) He uses leeches on about two or three patients a year. “I’ve never had anybody refuse,” Chepeha says. “They’ve come in with a serious cancer, they’ve had part of a critical organ removed, they want to get better. You say to them: ‘I think this could help.’ People have been amazingly stoic about it.”

Working medical leeches are paid in free meals. So long as they’re not medical maggots, which are way too closely related to the outcome of unsuccessful medicine, I’m on board.

Reiki

I have had Reiki. I was excited to try it, as it had always seemed a little mysterious and wacky. That, and a really hot girl from one of my old jobs was a “Reiki practitioner” and the idea of her hands hovering anywhere near my body was something I hoped to try out. Unfortunately, my Reiki session happened in a dance studio, with two grey haired old biddies. In spite of the supremely irritating CD that they played, and the awkward conversation about summoning “energy from the universe within us,” I fell asleep. Reiki left me groggy, disappointed, and ten dollars lighter. But it has a cult following, so maybe my attuntement was just a personal tune-out-ment.

This Japanese technique is the union of two words, rei, which translates into something like “Higher Power,” and ki, which translates into “life force energy.” When that so-called life force energy is running low, human beings get sick, or so the theory goes. When you practice Reiki, in sessions called “attunements,” you’re kind of acting as jumper cables for people’s life force energy. You lay your hands on (more like above) the individual and let energy, the energy that supposedly unites the world, flow through your hands and into the afflicted person’s energy force field thing. Or, you know, you hover your hands over somebody as they take a nap.

Like Pranic Healing, there’s the belief that you can send good juju to those who aren’t in the room, but you have to study in order to attain what’s called level 2, where you can channel the energy over great distances. For those of you trying to keep score, level 1 is the ability to practice face-to-face, and level 3 is when you get the badass title to put on your business card: Reiki Master. Obtaining the distance-Reiki skills to pay the bills, along with just the basic facilitation of energy, is demanding, and requires a lot of practice with a Reiki Master who is willing to help you out and show you the invisible ropes. This will involve discovering your personal mantra, as well as courses, practice, mentoring, and some financial commitment, but if you believe your professional calling  is to act as a Jedi master to channel life force energy, then more power to you. My mantra is something like Really?! Seriously?! It requires no patchouli oil and far less pan flute.

Pranic

Pranic healing freaks me out, maybe ’cause it seems so much more woo-woo than the rest of this stuff. Out there as it may be, there are universities in California that offer Pranic Healing Master’s degrees and Ph.D.s, and it has been approved by several governments including those of Malasia and Dubai. The World Health Organization has even hosted presentations about Pranic Healing and its impact on Maxillo-facial surgery patients, as it has been reported that it can speed their healing up to three times faster than the expected allopathic rate of recovery. So what the hell is it? Allow me to begin with this sentence, and I quote, “Pranic Healing uses the Auric and chakral energies for both diagnosis and for healing.” Okay. So…the aura and the chakras. If I was able to suspend my disbelief for even a second I’d be burning Nag Champa and signing my name as Moonbeam Flowerpot.

As a word itself, “pranic” is pretty straightforward. If you’ve ever taken a halfway decent yoga class, you learn that “prana” is Sanskrit for breath, or energy. Pranic Healing originates from a similar notion as Reiki, the idea that there’s a universal life energy, and everybody has a little shopping cart full. It’s like playing Mortal Kombat in an arcade, how much of a line do you have at the top of your screen? That’s what Pranic Healing can contribute. No extra lives, per se, but some extra playing time, and maybe the ability to shoot fire out of your eyes.

Unlike Reiki, Pranic Healing only uses the prana (energy) to heal the afflicted. Popular in China, India, Egypt, and other countries, it requires no touching and no drugs, not even the kind that would make you believe that there are auras,chakras, and hippies living under your stairs.

It may surprise you to discover that there’s a lot of studying involved in becoming a professional Pranic Healer, and the levels of training range from Certified Pranic Healing Associate, to Certified Pranic Psychotherapist, to my personal favorite, Certified Grand Master Pranic Healer. The best resource on learning how to turn coin with the chi is to contact organizations of certified pranic healers, such as the MCKS, or any group associated with the grandpa of prana, Master Choa Kok Sui.

Pranic Healing is said to cure high fever, headaches, toothaches, and serious organ ailments, but perhaps its biggest draw is that it’s said to speed the rate of healing. Practitioners also believe that there are no roaming charges for this sort of thing, as Pranic Healing can be done from great distances. All a healer has to do is undergo systematic training, and then learn how to “easily absorb, modulate, and transfer solar, air, ground prana and divine energy, which can be used to heal many types of ailments.” Excluding inherent skepticism.

Crystals

I might have rocks in my head, but those are about the only stones that I own. I’m not a huge fan of what the kids used to refer to as “bling,” though I can respect a diamond encrusted human skull and a brassiere made of black diamonds. But healing everything from insomnia to dog bites with gemstone therapy? Well, let’s just say that I’d be slightly more receptive if Adrianna Lima was demonstrating its benefits in her skivvies.

The idea, from what I can glean before my eyes glaze, is that human bodies have “energy vibrations” which manifest in the aura. Gemstones also have vibrations that are unique to their specific forms and varieties. By placing these crystals, with their natural vibrational rates, within the human aura, the stones’ energy can contribute and heal the person’s energy by sort of retuning the investment on their energy rates. Believers in gemstone therapy wear “high-quality round beads” as necklaces, often with indentations in the stones to increase their potency. Metal can’t be a part of this jewelry, as it inhibits the energy transfer and can tamper with the stone’s powers. Yes, I actually wrote that sentence. Crystals can balance energy in forms other than baubles, they can be placed on the body, near their bed, or in the bath.

It’s believed that crystals “cleanse” the spiritual energy that can get out of whack and cause you to get sick. “Crystal healers” are people who know which stones work best for what ailments, and some registered nurses have even gotten in on the act, studying the art of gemstone healing and applying these techniques in tandem with Western medicine. Much like prescription drugs or being given the goods via an IV, the beauty of gemstone therapy is that you don’t need to believe in it for it to work. Or so they say.

In the 1980s Harry Oldfield, a British inventor, decided to up the gemstone ante by integrating an electromagnetic generator and some conducting tubes into the mix. Electrocrystal therapy, with its tube-encased crystals and electric charge, is believed to cure migraines, heal stroke victims, and to help broken bones mend.  I have no idea if this stuff is covered by insurance, but Aetna’s InteliHealth website provides detailed information about what crystal therapy and electrocrystal therapy can do for you.

puff puff pass

Aromatherapy

Do you smell what the rock is cooking? Perhaps crystal therapy didn’t do it for you, maybe essential oils will give you some relief. Unlike herbalism, aromatherapy only employs herbs that contain essential oils, making them fragrant and, to some, medicinal. Back in the day, alchemists used aromatic plant oils to heal their patients, and India’s Ayurvedic techniques have often called upon stinky plants to get the proper doshic balance to keep people fit as fiddles. These days essential oils, and their awesome application technique of massage, have been used to assuage the aches of everything from spinal cord injuries, MS, and flatulence.

To become licensed as an aromatherapist you have to graduate from a 200 hour Aromatherapy Training Program, and you can get certified through the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy. A career in aromatherapy gives a new meaning to the saying “put your nose to the grindstone.”

Of course, then you become the butt of jokes, like this verbal cartoon, plucked from the fragrant fields of McSweeney’s.

Licensed Aromatherapy
By Dan Liebert

I always scoffed at alternative healing. Then one day I had a horrible accident and I ran next door to my neighbor, a licensed aromatherapist.

She made my broken arm smell really good.

Take all of this with a grain of Epsom salt, as I’m poking fun at something I admittedly know nothing about. I don’t mean to get any Pagans, Pranic Healers, or purists riled up. Trust me, I mock Western medicine just as much.

All good juju or hate mail can be sent to AinsleyDrew at gmail dot com. Feel free to enlighten me if you know more about this stuff and think I misspoke. Thank you to everyone who donates! It means a lot, especially in these rough times, as I have to buy my mom ice cream after every doctor’s appointment. My first child will be named Baskin.

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3 Comments

  1. AinsleyDrew,

    I was tickled by your description of Medicinal Leeches. My scalp started tingling as I read through your description Pranic Healing. By the time I read your description of how crystals realign the vibrations of my aura, I felt the pain in my shoulders subside and a lightness in my core. As a career skeptic I’m loath to admit reading about alternative healing had a physiological effect. A word doctor by profession, a verbotherapist by vocation?

    S.G.

  2. Excellent information on alternative forms of treatment. More and more people are opting for gentle and natural treatments that don’t invade and destroy.

  3. I share your bewilderment about Reiki as well. Love the post, love the blog.


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