Alternative Medicine in the Hudson Valley

Author: Robert Lachman
Posted: Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Modern medicine has done wonders for many people around the world. As a result, we can expect to live longer. However, experts in alternative medicine say many Americans have come to rely on medications that treat our symptoms instead of the underlying causes of our afflictions. There are alternatives to complement a doctor’s diagnosis. Practitioners believe that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, holistic healing, Reiki, Karma Release, Naturopathic medicine, and even bio-feedback all have a place in the world of healing.

Alternatives in the Valley

Here in the Hudson Valley these alternatives are available in abundance. For this article, Hudson Valley Life visited an acupuncturist-herbalist as well as a Reiki master to discuss some of the options that are available.

When it comes to eastern medicine, it’s important to understand its emphasis on the flow of energy or Qi (pronounced Chi). “Loosely translated it means ‘the functional life force or vital bio-electrical energy’ and it’s so much a part of Chinese thinking,” explains acupuncturist Carolyn Rabiner from her bright and comfortable office outside of Red Hook. Rabiner opened High Ridge Traditional Healing Arts in the summer of 2008 after practicing in Boston. A Bard College graduate, she is board certified in both acupuncture and herbal medicine.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture originated in China thousands of years ago. Patients are treated by the insertion and manipulation of needles in the body to relieve pain, treat illnesses, and even infertility. The needles are placed in specific locations called acupuncture points. The Chinese believe that energy or Qi flows through invisible paths in the body called meridians. The acupuncture points are located on the meridians.

“These meridians are depressions, nerve endings and blood vessels,” says Rabiner, pointing out some of the depressions on her hands. “It’s the oldest, continually practiced, literate form of medicine in the world.”

Chinese medicine includes not only acupuncture, but also herbal medicine. Special attention is paid to both diet and exercise. Before Rabiner treats a new patient, she gives an exam. “I feel the pulse at the radial artery on both wrists, check the tongue and listen to the voice,” she says. “Western diagnosis is just the beginning. For the acupuncturist to form their diagnosis, they look for the underlying causes of the ailment.”

East versus west

Rabiner feels eastern and western medicine complement one another. While she knows that some hospitals in the northeast have acupuncturists on staff at their pain management centers, she says she doesn’t know of any locally.

“There are things I would not treat without western medicine, such as cancer,” she says. “If you have a very serious medical emergency, such as a stroke, you go to the hospital to get stabilized. Down the road, after you've been stabilized, eastern medicine can help. Western and eastern medicine should work together because they can find things we can’t and we can find what they can’t.”


Another fascinating alternative is the practice of Reiki, a Japanese healing art that has become very popular in recent years. It’s commonly called “palm healing” because it involves the flow of energy from the palms of a Reiki practitioner's hands to the patient’s body without any physical contact. While Buddhists are credited with some of the theories behind Reiki, the system was developed 1922 in Kyoto, Japan by a Christian minister named Dr. Mikao Usui.

Reiki Master Gerda Veneman runs The Center for the Inner Light from her magnificent home outside of Red Hook. She also uses her talents and energy to practice a form of mediation called Karma Release, an intense session that forces the body to release toxins and divest itself of past life problems that cannot be resolved otherwise.

Karma release

This writer was treated to a firsthand experience of Reiki and Karma Release. Gerda, who has been a certified Reiki master for 12 years, explains that the object of Karma Release is to purge all of life’s “clutter” that inevitably builds up over the years to keep you from your full potential.

First you must make two lists: one of the things you wish for, and the other with things you want to release. I made my lists the night before and Gerda, with her elfin smile and warm personality led me to a side room where a bed was surrounded by healing stones, including Tourmaline and Snowflake Obsidian for pulling out the toxic energy and amethyst and others to replace it with fresh energy.

Go with the flow

I lay down on the bed, my lists were placed on my chest, more stones were placed on top of the lists, I was covered with a blanket and bid to close my eyes. She began to read words that were to help me to visualize where I would be traveling. She asked me to visualize a bright white light and a golden floating pyramid over my head. As I followed her instructions, I actually began to feel like I was getting lighter. After the reading stopped, I sensed her in the room and I suppose her healing hands (which never touched me) were working their magic because I felt more and more relaxed and lighter. I felt as though I was floating amidst the stones and the light. The one thing that kept me from floating away was the fact that I have been suffering from tennis elbow and my right arm was hurting like crazy. When I opened my eyes at the end of the session, I explained this to Gerda and she began to move her Reiki Master’s hands around the sore area (again without contact) and the pain subsided.

“You look 20 years younger,” Gerda says afterwards. “You know, the soul we come in is part of God. On life’s journey, we sometimes forget who we are.”

Robert Lachman is an award-winning journalist who lives in Red Hook. He has worked for many local newspapers and is also a singer-songwriter, who performs in the area.

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