St. Anna’s Episcopal Church wanted to provide support for musicians and residents as they struggled to reclaim their lives after Hurricane Katrina. So, the church began a Wednesday night donation-only supper, jam session and medical clinic, supported through a Musicians’ Clinic grant, to foster unity and healing.
One of the health care offerings was ear acupuncture — alternative medicine based on the concept that the ear is a microsystem of the whole body.
Ear acupuncture, along with blood pressure and diabetes screenings, HIV and blood lead testing, will be offered at a health fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, at St. Anna’s Episcopal Church, 1313 Esplanade Ave.
“Acupuncture is good for the disaster setting. It has a strong effect,” said Quang Kim Huynh, who established St. Anna’s ear acupuncture clinic after the storm. The clinic continues to provide treatments on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Thursdays, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., under the supervision of Sandra Dixon, one of only 16 licensed ear acupuncturists in Louisiana.
Traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine has used acupuncture for thousands of years. Thin, sterile needles of pure metal pressed into points on the body are believed to stimulate and open up energy where the chi, or life force, flows. The five ear points in the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association protocol address the sympathetic nervous system, “Shen Men” or spirit gate, kidney, liver and lung.
In the ’50s, a French physician developed ear acupuncture, or auriculotherapy, but the particular NADA protocol used at St. Anna’s was formulated at Lincoln Recovery, a New York community clinic for recovering addicts.
Detoxifying with ear acupuncture can help people suffering from insomnia, fear or anxiety, Quang said.
Dr. Michael O. Smith, former director of Lincoln Hospital Recovery Center, modified a system of auricular acupuncture as an alternative to methadone. A psychiatrist, addiction specialist and public health planner, he is internationally known for using acupuncture in the field of chemical dependency. His method is now used in 2,000 treatment programs worldwide.
After Katrina, Wendy Henry, who ran an acupuncture clinic for New York trauma victims after 9/11, started working with New Orleans firefighters and first responders. Henry taught Quang the protocol so he could help hurricane victims.
“After Hurricane Katrina, there were no tables at the community center,” Quang said. Ear acupuncture enabled him to treat 10 or 20 individuals sitting in chairs.
Dixon was treated for stress for 30-40 minutes at a time for several weeks.
“It was a lifesaver,” she said.
Dixon became so enthusiastic, she completed clinical training and became licensed. Now, she runs the clinic with several regular patients who praise the therapy.
“I was exposed to mold, living without heat and going back to places that were unlivable,” said Marsha Masterson, a regular visitor to the Wednesday clinic. “It helped lower my blood pressure and balance my health.”
Irven Spear has been going weekly to the clinic since 2010. He contracted dengue fever in the Yucatan in 2002, which affected his nervous system. The treatments reduced inflammation in his joints and help him stay on an even keel, he said.
Dixon, Henry and Quang traveled to Vietnam in 2007 to train blind massage therapists in ear acupuncture techniques.
“The students were so receptive, learning and receiving the acupuncture,” Dixon said.
“We brought the light of acupuncture knowledge to the blind community,” Quang said.