Interview with Traditional Chinese Medicine Dr. Felice Chan, L.Ac., Dipl. OM, Doctoral Candidate

Meet Dr. Felice Chan, L.Ac., Dipl. OM, Doctoral Candidate, who is a board-certified practitioner of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine.

A while ago I discovered Dr. Felice Chan through her Instagram content which she adds a modern twist to the time-honored ancient practice. As I scrolled through her engaging feed, I was captivated by the blend of educational posts, personal stories, and stunning visuals that brought TCM to life. Her passion for holistic healing, balanced living, and the wisdom of TCM was evident in every post. Needless to say I reached out to her to interview this ray of light of a human being to gather more of her wisdom to share here. I hope you love this interview and comment below what you'd love to learn in future interviews!

Dr. Chan's journey into the world of medicine began in her childhood in Hong Kong, where she was introduced to the powerful efficacy of at-home Chinese herbal remedies. This early exposure ignited a lifelong passion for healing and an insatiable curiosity about the natural world and its medicinal potentials.

Her academic pursuits led her to Bowdoin College, where she studied neuroscience and delved deeply into the intricate mind-body connection. This scientific foundation allowed her to appreciate the complementary aspects of Eastern and Western medical traditions. In her practice, Felice integrates these methodologies to address both the symptoms and the underlying causes of health issues, aiming to provide longer-lasting and more comprehensive benefits to her patients. 

Felice’s philosophy of care is rooted in the belief that preventative care and personally tailored treatments are key to helping her patients lead happier and healthier lives. She finds immense fulfillment in her role as a healer, knowing that helping others is her true purpose. Her goal is to empower her patients through education and compassionate care, guiding them on their journey to optimal health and well-being.

1. What’s been your journey into Traditional Chinese Medicine and what inspired you to pursue this path?

I started out with a background in Western medicine and neuroscience. My college years were spent pursuing pre-med, and I practically grew up in hospitals, interning and learning the ropes. I always knew I wanted to be a doctor, but it wasn't until I began my formal education in TCM that I realized how perfectly it aligned with me. Growing up in Hong Kong, TCM was always a part of my life, especially at home with food and nutrition. My grandmother and parents would add Chinese herbs to our soups and meals. Eating clean, fresh, whole foods was a big deal in our household. But the real turning point came after college when I was working as a clinical research assistant in a hospital. I started craving a more holistic approach to health—something that wasn't just about treating issues as they came up but was also about prevention and emotional well-being.

I found that in TCM. It allowed me to see health in a completely new light, integrating emotional health into overall well-being. Plus, it brought me closer to my roots, helping me embrace and fall more in love with my culture. TCM just made sense to me in a way that nothing else did.

2. What are the core principles of TCM, and how do they differ from Western medicine?

Absolutely! Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is this beautiful, holistic approach to health that’s been around for thousands of years. It's all about balance and harmony within the body. The core idea is that our health is influenced by the flow of energy, or "Qi," through a network of meridians. Picture these meridians as invisible highways in our bodies that Qi travels along.

When there's a blockage or imbalance, that's when health issues arise. In contrast, Western medicine tends to focus on specific symptoms and treating them directly, often with medication or surgery. For example, if you have a headache, Western medicine might give you painkillers. TCM, on the other hand, would look at the headache as a signal of a deeper imbalance in the body, such as liver Qi stagnation, and treat the root cause rather than just the symptom. This might involve acupuncture, herbal remedies, and lifestyle changes to restore balance and prevent the headache from returning.

3. What are some common misconception about TCM that you’d like to dispel?

There are quite a few! One big one is that TCM is just about acupuncture. While acupuncture is a significant part, TCM also includes herbal medicine, dietary therapy, Tai Chi, Qigong, and more. It’s a complete system of health care. For example, if someone has digestive issues, TCM might use a combination of acupuncture to stimulate digestive function, specific herbs to strengthen the stomach and spleen, and dietary advice to avoid foods that might exacerbate the issue.

Another misconception is that TCM is "unscientific" or just placebo. It’s based on centuries of observation and practice, and there's a growing body of scientific research supporting its benefits. For instance, studies have shown that acupuncture can be effective for pain management and reducing inflammation, aligning with modern understandings of how the nervous and immune systems work.

Lastly, some people think TCM can only treat minor issues, but it’s very effective for a wide range of conditions, from chronic pain to digestive problems to mental health issues. I've seen patients with chronic migraines find relief through regular TCM treatments, and others with anxiety who benefit from the calming effects of acupuncture and herbs.

4. What’s the role of preventative care in TCM and how it can benefit our long-term health?

Preventative care is huge in TCM! The whole system is designed to keep your body in balance, so you don't get sick in the first place. This can include regular acupuncture sessions, herbal teas, and dietary adjustments tailored to your specific needs. For example, during the cold and flu season, TCM practitioners might recommend herbs like astragalus to boost immunity or suggest dietary changes to include warming foods that strengthen the body's defenses.

By maintaining this balance, you can boost your immune system, improve your energy levels, and overall, just feel better. It’s like giving your body the support it needs to stay healthy and resilient against illnesses. Imagine it like maintaining your car; regular check-ups and maintenance help prevent breakdowns. TCM aims to do the same for your body.

5. How can TCM support mental and emotional well-being?

TCM has a lot to offer for mental and emotional health. The mind and body are deeply connected, and TCM treats them as such. Acupuncture and herbal remedies can help alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression by promoting a sense of calm and balance. For example, acupuncture points like Yin Tang, located between the eyebrows, is often used for its calming effects.

In TCM, each organ is associated with specific emotions. Here’s a quick rundown:

Liver: Anger and frustration. When the liver Qi is stagnant, you might feel more irritable or angry.

Heart: Joy and excitement. Imbalances can lead to either excess excitement or lack of joy, contributing to anxiety or depression.

Spleen: Worry and overthinking. An imbalanced spleen can cause you to feel more anxious or stuck in your thoughts.

Lungs: Grief and sadness. Healthy lung Qi helps you process grief, while imbalances might leave you feeling stuck in sadness.

Kidneys: Fear and insecurity. Strong kidney energy helps you feel more secure and resilient, while imbalances can lead to fear and anxiety.

Practices like Tai Chi and Qigong are also fantastic for reducing stress and improving mental clarity. These gentle movements combined with breath work help to balance Qi and calm the mind. Plus, the holistic approach means you're addressing the root causes of emotional issues, not just the symptoms. It’s all about nurturing your overall well-being.

6. What are some of your fav ways to incorporate TCM practices in your daily life?

I love integrating TCM into my daily routine, especially through nutrition with food and teas. My mornings often start with practices like Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and yoga to set a balanced tone for the day. When it comes to healing my body, I reach for herbal medicine rather than Western options—I haven’t touched Advil in over four years! This approach has helped me understand the root causes of my symptoms, whether it's fatigue, a headache, or irritability.

As a woman, TCM has been incredibly impactful in guiding me through my monthly cycle. I can understand my hormonal imbalances from a Western perspective and then integrate that knowledge with TCM patterns to achieve a healthier cycle. My daily habits have shifted to drinking warm water and teas, eating warm, cooked, nourishing foods, and avoiding cold foods.

These changes have made a huge difference in how I feel overall.

7. What are some simple TCM practices that people can do at home to improve their health and wellbeing?

There are plenty of simple TCM practices you can incorporate into your daily routine to boost your health. For starters, paying attention to your diet is key. Try to eat warm, cooked foods and avoid cold or raw foods, especially in the morning. Drinking warm water or herbal teas can also help support digestion and overall health. For digestive health, teas like ginger tea, peppermint tea, and chamomile tea are excellent choices. They help soothe the stomach and improve digestion. Another great practice is incorporating gentle exercises like Qi Gong or Tai Chi. These movements help balance your Qi and promote relaxation. Even just a few minutes a day can make a difference. Acupressure is another easy method; you can learn basic points to press for common issues like headaches or stress. For headaches, try pressing the point between your thumb and index finger (LI-4, also known as Hegu) or the point between your eyebrows (Yin Tang). These points are easy to find and can provide quick relief.

8. What are some summer TCM self-care or wellness tips?

Summer in TCM is associated with the Fire element, which means it's important to keep cool and hydrated. Drinking herbal teas that have cooling properties, like chrysanthemum or mint tea, can help. Eating lighter, cooling foods such as cucumbers, melons, and leafy greens is also beneficial. My favorite are hydrating fruits like watermelon and strawberries, which not only cool you down but also provide essential vitamins and minerals to keep you feeling refreshed and energized. It is also important to not overeat cold fruits as it can put your body off balance!

The key is listening to your body and tuning into how you feel that makes you feel your brightest and lightest.

Try to avoid excessive heat exposure and stay hydrated with plenty of water. Incorporate mindfulness practices, like meditation or gentle stretching, to keep your body and mind balanced. And don't forget about sleep! Make sure you're getting enough rest to recharge and support your overall well-being.

You can learn more about Dr. Felice Chan, L.Ac., Dipl. OM at her practice Felice Acupuncture and her Instagram account @Felice.Acupuncture where she shares more easy and accessible TCM content. 

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