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Some get point of alternatives

Medicine doesn’t have to be one-size-fits-all.

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  • | 3:20 p.m. November 13, 2015
Ruan Jin Zhao, a doctor of Oriental medicine, prefers to use herbal concoctions to treat his patients. Some herbal remedies come pre-mixed, and others he has to make himself.
Ruan Jin Zhao, a doctor of Oriental medicine, prefers to use herbal concoctions to treat his patients. Some herbal remedies come pre-mixed, and others he has to make himself.
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Medicine doesn’t have to be one-size-fits-all.

When drugs can’t offer a solution, there are alternatives. 

Fourteen years ago, Sarasota resident Barre Yeager was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the lymphatic system. Yeager suffered from blood clots and tumors and couldn’t get out of the hospital. 

Then he went to a radiologist who referred him to Ruan Jin Zhao, a doctor of Oriental medicine with the Center for Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Yeager is in Stage 4, but has been seeing Zhao for almost 13 years to receive acupuncture treatments and herbal remedies.

“I was about to die, and he saved my life,” Yeager said.

Before seeing Zhao, Yeager said he had been prescribed oxycodone and given morphine to combat the pain from cancer and chemo. But, he didn’t want to continue taking the drugs because he didn’t want to become addicted, and the drugs produced worse side effects for him than the disease. 

He started receiving acupuncture treatments before and after his chemotherapy sessions.

“At Stage 4, I should be in hospice… I’m doing better than anyone else I know,” Yeager said. 

“At Stage 4, I should be in hospice… I’m doing better than anyone else I know.”


– Barre Yeager, a 13-year alternative therapy patient

Zhao has been practicing in Sarasota since 1993. He focuses on a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal mixtures. Some herbal remedies come pre-blended, but Zhao can also make his own and tailors the recipe to fit a patient’s specific needs.

“With a difficult case, like an autoimmune disease, I will have to make my own remedy blend,” he said. 

From the beginning of treatment, it’s personalized to the patient. The herbal concoctions are often compressed into swallowed capsules, but some must be taken in a liquid form.

Zhao cautioned that herbs aren’t something to attempt at home by just buying them online. 

“These have to be done by a trained professional,” he said. “One formula for headaches isn’t for all headaches.”

Zhao’s treatments of herbs and acupuncture are used for a variety of ailments, conditions and diseases — pain management, viral infections and menopause, just to name a few.

“We treat a big spectrum, like a general practitioner,” he said. 

Many of Zhao’s patients are referred to him by local doctors. The two varying sides of medicines can work collaboratively. If someone comes to Zhao with a problem he cannot fix, such as a bone fracture, he sends him to another doctor’s office. But that patient could come back to him for pain management treatment, he said.

Zhao is one of several alternative medicine doctors in the area. He said oriental medicine has different branches but comes from the same roots, so while there might be variations on how practitioners deliver remedies, the differences aren’t significant.

Michele Louiselle, a doctor of Oriental medicine,  has been practicing in East County since 2007 at her office, Center of Integrated Medicine, near State Road 70. Although she does offer acupuncture, Louiselle’s homeopathic method focuses on essential oils rather than dried herbs. 

Both Zhao and Louiselle concentrate on functional medicine, which finds the root cause for a condition rather than treating symptoms.

For example, Louiselle said if her patients aren’t all those who were inclined toward alternative medicine — some she’s gotten because they had not found any traditional Western medicine that would help.

“Anything can be treated — acupuncture rebalances the body so it can heal itself,” she said. 

The ancient method is often used for pain management with patients with internal disorders, cancer and other pain-inducing conditions. Louiselle said one session usually isn’t sufficient. She starts with a couple sessions a week and tapers off to once a week or less as the patient improves. 

Acupuncture causes “microtraumas” at the site of the needle puncture. The needles are miniscule and don’t hurt, but the break in the skin causes the body to react by sending natural healing mechanisms, such as endorphins, to that part of the body.

Louiselle also uses essential oils to treat her patients, some who receive acupuncture and some who don’t. Some doctors use herbs to accomplish the same goals, however Louiselle said she found her patients were receptive to oils, which are less expensive. 

“They’re the life blood of a plant,” she said. 

The oils of different plants contain natural anti-viral, anti-bacterial and antibiotic components. She uses the brand DoTerra oils, and although she mixes some herself, they also come pre-blended for different conditions. 

“The oil does for us the same thing it would do for the plant,” she said. 

Niki Newall, an East County resident, started getting treated at Louiselle’s office after being diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in April. 

Her final chemotherapy session was Oct. 29. 

Newall has been meeting with Louiselle once a week, as well as receiving treatments the nights before her chemo. She believes the treatments help her recover more quickly from chemo, and she  also  credits them with her avoiding many of the unpleasant side effects from chemo, such as nausea and excessive pain.

“It’s been so impressive just how much these sessions have contributed to the way in which I’ve handled my chemo,” Newall said. 


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