If you follow me on Instagram you can tell from my Stories that not only do I love acupuncture and cupping, I love my Acupuncturist, Dr. Kara MoraMarco-Kendrick. She gives the best acupuncture in Los Angeles. In addition to exuding all the goodness she aims to heal, she's a total wellness boss babe--making it all happen while healing people, which makes her perfect for the 'Conversations With...' series. Continue reading to find out what acupuncture and cupping are really all about (in language you'll actually understand!), the health trend she thinks is totally bogus, and--like always--her philosophies on life, style, and travel.
Jess: How did you get into practicing acupuncture?
Dr. Kara: Both of my parents are Doctors of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, so I literally grew up into this healing tradition. My dad was actually one of the first licensed acupuncturist in the state of California in 1976.
J: Wow, to say it's in your blood would be an understatement. The world of Oriental Medicine and healing is vast in terms of all the different areas it encompasses. What are the things you 'swear by' for wellness?
Dr: True! There are so many different wonderful alternative or complementary healing modalities. Things I swear by for wellness: acupuncture, cupping, herbal/nutritional medicine, healthy diet, routine exercise, sleep--and during the right hours, ideally being in bed by 11:00pm. I know that may seem early and impossible for some but you will be your healthiest getting the proper sleep. There is no amount of coffee or energy drinks that can make up for lack of sleep--and stress relieving practices like acupuncture, yoga, meditation, animal petting, hugs and cuddles are great too!
J: Let's start with acupuncture and cupping, two of my favorite forms of self-care. Give me the simplest breakdown of how each works. I'm totally aware I just asked you to explain quantum physics to a kindergartner.
Dr: Yes, it is a very complex and complicated question but let me break it down for you.
Acupuncture dates back thousands of years. The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy (meridians) run in regular patterns throughout the body and over its surface. When these energy channels flow freely the body is harmonized, balanced, and healthy. But if there is an obstruction (blockage due to stress/injury/ unhealthy lifestyle) the energy can become stuck or stagnant and this creates a disharmony or imbalance in the body. By applying the acupuncture needles to specific points we tap into our bodies own natural resources to bring the body back into balance. A scientific way of explaining this is that acupuncture has an effect on the brain by releasing different neuroendocrine hormones like endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and opioids. These are our bodies happy and pain relieving hormones that give us a natural and healthy high! Another way of explaining it is that acupuncture increases oxygen and blood flow which promotes circulation and healing. Acupuncture needles are very thin, sterile, single-use, and are placed in various points of the body depending on each individual condition. The needles are generally left in place for 20-30 minutes while the patient relaxes. Most of my patients will even fall asleep...it's that relaxing!
J: And what are some possible side effects of acupuncture?
Dr: I like to call them 'after-effects' and they are improved sleep, making it deeper and more restful; clearer, more creative thinking; better digestion; stress reduction; more energy for mental and physical activity; an overall greater sense of well-being.
J: All so true!! Okay, so how does cupping work?
Dr: I love cupping and so do my patients because it fees so good!
For centuries cupping has been used as an essential part of traditional medicine all around the world and in many different cultures. The cupping effect is produced by using heat to create the suction action of the glass cups (fire cupping). The cups can be left in place or moved along the affected area, which feels like an amazing massage. It's one of the best deep tissue therapies available. It's really great for tightness and tension in the neck, shoulders, and back. It can also help clear congestion from the common cold and relieve anxiety and stress. It's super relaxing and great in combination with acupuncture. It does leave a mark which will fade away usually within a few days to a week. If you watched the Summer Olympics you can see Michael Phelps and other olympians sporting their cupping marks.
J: Yes, I have had some gnarly ones! What exactly are they?
Dr: I know those marks can look quite gnarly and scare people away from getting it but the benefits are so worth it. I actually think the marks are pretty cool and call them cupping kisses. The suction action of the cups draws up old, non-circulating, stagnant blood from the area, bringing it up to the surface and away from the injury so that healthy blood flow can be restored to the area, creating space for oxygen and a faster recovery. The darker color purple the marks are, the more stagnation. If no stagnation is present a pink marking will appear and disappear very quickly. It's really cool to see that the more cupping you do and the healthier you are the lighter the marks will be.
J: I have found acupuncture really is the best feeling but it's really difficult to explain what it feels like when people ask. 'Releasing' is the best way I can describe it. And you know I am obsessed with cupping. It did wonders for the tension pain in my neck/shoulders. In addition to being great at what you do, you have your own practice. How did that come about?
Dr: Thank you! Growing up I was a competitive figure skater, so injuries were a given. I would get treatments from my dad and also watch him treat my fellow skating friends and I was amazed at the results. So I decided to get my BS in Kinesiology Exercise Science because I love the body and then I went on to get my Masters and Doctorate in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine because that is how I want to treat the body. The final step was opening up my practice to share this amazing and effective medicine to as many people as possible. I absolutely love what I do and helping others feel their best is such a rewarding feeling!
J: Your passion for this radiates off you in your presence. If you weren't a Doctor of Acupuncture what would you want to be?
Dr: Good question! Hmmm...a ninja!
J: I have seen your flips. They're insane!
J: Okay, can't live without article of clothing...I'm guessing it's something pink?
Dr: My pink Timberlands! They are cute and comfortable!
J: I knew it! Describe your perfect day.
Dr: Waking up leisurely in a tropical paradise. Having my morning coffee then breakfast with my husband. Relaxing and then going for a delicious, healthy lunch. Getting a Thai massage. Do some Capoeira training together, which is an Afro-Brazilian martial arts. We are pretty chill so one of our favorite things to do is cuddle on the couch and watch movies. And, of course, have some dark chocolate. That would be a pretty perfect day!
J: That sounds super delightful.
Right now there is so much talk about all the things people should do for health and wellness. The coconut oil and the Matcha and Kombucha, and blah blah blah the list is endless and expensive. What do you think is the most overrated craze that you're just not bought into and the most underrated that you can't stress enough the importance of?
Dr: Most overrated craze right now I think is the gluten-free craze. While a very small percentage of people do have a true gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease, most of us do not. It's really the wheat that can be the issue because it is filled with pesticides and GMOs. A lot of the gluten free products on the market are highly processed and unhealthy. Just because something is gluten free does not make it healthy. Most underrated is eating lots of organic fruits and vegetables, daily. The inside of your fridge should look like a beautiful, colorful garden! And of course, acupuncture. You don't have to 'believe' in it for it to work.
J: Okay, last one! Three philosophies you have: one on life, one on style, and one on travel.
Dr: Enjoy life, be kind and compassionate to others and yourself. Live a drama free life. Style: always be yourself. Wear what you like and what you are comfortable in, literally and figuratively. Travel: make it a priority. Some of my best memories in life are from traveling.