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Interview with Bernard Unterman,OMD, L.Ac.

With Ann T. Brode, CST

Bernard Unterman is the former clinical director of the Santa Barbara College of Oriental Medicine, a Santa Barbara City College Adult Education teacher, and a successful clinical practitioner of herbal medicine and acupuncture. He has been living and working in Santa Barbara since 1987.

Could you tell me something about your practice of acupuncture as a health modality?
When this medicine works, it means the body has healed itself. One of my intentions is to empower people to take care of themselves. Using acupuncture, medicinal essential oils, and herbs, we are able to activate the body's own ability to return to normal. The very definition of health in Chinese medicine is "balance" and, when we are "in balance", normal function returns and everything works.
I know you have been a teacher and health practitioner for many years. I wonder, what are you particularly passionate about currently in your practice?
I have incorporated medical grade essential oils in my practice...using them much like the needles to stimulate or calm certain acupressure points. Since I have been using the oils, patients hing results. I think the reason for this is that essential oil is the essence of the plant and contains its vitality.
How does this work?
Essential oils are distilled from the living qualities of plants and interact with what is alive in us. Unlike herbs, they do not need to go through the digestive tract and, applied to acupuncture points, they can target specific doorways to bring a body into balance. The oils target the energetic field. I am using the oils either alone or in combination with acupuncture. Often, the oils have an added benefit of simpl;y making treatments easier for people.
Where did you study this?
For over ten years, I have been fortunate to be a direct student of Jeffrey Yuen who is an 88th generation Taoist priest and alchemist in the Jade School lineage. This is an oral tradition of ancient Chinese medicine, passed down from generation to generation, which uses essential oils as well as gem stones, herbs, and needles. The Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao eliminated much of the esoteric knowledge from the study of acupuncture and it has survived only through the interaction of master and student.
Could you give us an example of how this technique has helped your patients?
Bernard Unterman,OMD, L.Ac.
Often in menopause, it is necessary to nourish the "yin" (feminine principle) in order to balance the yang (masculine principle). The list of symptoms of estrogen deficiency in Western medical text books is identical to the list of symptoms of kidney yin deficiency in classical Chinese medicine. From my point of view, in order to come into balance a woman does not need to take hormones...she needs to nourish something that is deficient! When we adjust the diet and apply needles and oils to specific points, the body can find its balance and the "yin deficiency" symptoms of hot flashes, dryness, night sweats, insomnia, irritability, and so forth will disappear.
I can imagine that many health maladies would respond to this re-balancing protocol with essential oil/ acupuncture point treatments.
Absolutely! Additionally, people can continue to treat themselves at home as I give them a vial of specific oils, a map of points, and home treatment instructions. One of the delightful aspects of using essential oils is their appealing fragrance.

Dr. Unterman studied traditional Chinese Medicine at the California Acupuncture College and completed advanced studies in China at the Nanjing University of traditional Chinese Medicine. In addition, he received an OMD from SAMRA University, and completed a year long, intensive study in Pediatric Acupuncture. Find out more about Dr. Unterman
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