RUSSELL BROWN, L.Ac., MTOM, founder
After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in journalism, I came home to Los Angeles and enjoyed a successful career in feature film development. We made some fun movies—like the near-Academy Award-nominated The Fast and the Furious films, Not Another Teen Movie, and Cruel Intentions—and some terrible ones for which I secretly fear I may someday be karmically punished.
I was at breakfast one morning in 2002 when I overheard and then eavesdropped on a conversation at the table next to me where a young woman was talking about how she was about to start school to become an acupuncturist. I’m not generally a risk-taker, and had never had acupuncture or even considered it, but something sparked in me. I enrolled at Emperor’s College of Traditional Chinese Medicine the next day, quit my career, graduated summa cum laude with a Master’s degree in TCM four years later, and was licensed by the California State Board of Acupuncture soon after.
I have a fairly different attitude about Chinese medicine than many of my peers. I’m not a hippie and I never was; I don’t own billowy yoga pants; and I’ve never heard a Caucasian person say namaste or love and light without sounding gently deranged. I understand how many of the more typical “woo-woo” trappings of acupuncture might make someone uncomfortable as a patient. That said, I absolutely believe in the power of this ancient medicine.
I believe pain and disease are not inconveniences but communication between your body and your brain. They are the body’s way of signaling for help; pills and injections often just silence that call.
I believe that if the things that you are doing for your health are making you resentful of your health, well, that’s bad medicine.
I believe that 100% adherence to every “You should….” health mandate is impossible and unhealthy, and makes for a very boring life. Health and medicine should be about electrifying the pursuit of living, not dampening it.
If I can offer any advice to my friends who have found themselves adrift, I always come back to this: Forgive yourself. We are all meeting each other at the level of our own inadequacies, running too fast and carrying too much. Lighten your insane expectations and offer yourself—at the very least—the same generosity and compassion you would offer a stranger, and—at the very most—the same kindness and forgiveness you would offer the people you love best. You deserve that as much as anyone else.
*While acupuncturists don’t typically specialize, areas I treat most include emotional disorders, stress-related conditions, women’s health, pain, sports injury, and contemporary existential crises.
ALEXANDRA BRUEHL, L.Ac., MTOM
I’ve always been interested in culture and biology. My curiosity about how organisms function is innate; my fascination with culture stems from growing up under the influence of wildly different cultures: my dad is German, my mom Peruvian, and I was raised primarily in the States (hablo español und Ich kann auch ein bisschen Deutsch sprechen).
In college, I studied the powerful role of culture in shaping lives. My major, Medical Anthropology, showed me how the interaction of culture and biology impacts health. I went on to get a Masters and start a PhD in Medical Anthropology at Emory University, but left because I felt that academia wouldn’t fulfill my need to help people. However, the underlying theory that culture is inextricably linked to health has stayed with me and guides my practice of acupuncture.
I came to the field by chance. For years, I’d been using Western drugs to stop my migraines, but they had negative side effects and I worried about long-term use.So I decided to try acupuncture. Combining a few treatments with an herbal prescription, I was able to reduce my medication and my quality of life improved exponentially.
Wanting to share my experience, and recognizing an opportunity to help others, I enrolled at Dongguk University. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Masters in Oriental Medicine and then passed the California Boards shortly thereafter. I started acupuncture school somewhat skeptical, but I’ve seen it work over and over again. Sometimes results are instant, sometimes they take time. But I have full faith in this medicine and there’s no better feeling than helping people with it.
I believe in Eastern and Western medicine. Both can be powerful tools, and I think you should have as many tools in your kit as possible. But Eastern medicine understands that our physical state is impacted by the macro—the environment and culture—and the micro—our constitution, lifestyle, and mental state.
A macro-level problem we all face is stress. We put off dealing with it, not realizing (or ignoring) how bad it is for us, when in fact, stress impacts the micro: it is associated with weakened immune systems; bone degradation; and impaired metabolism, digestion, mental, and endocrine function. Eventually these issues become impossible to ignore and we are forced to address them. Western Medicine usually prescribes a pill to lessen symptoms. Eastern Medicine, however, will examine what’s causing them, the interplay of lifestyle, constitution, psycho-emotional state, and biology. Acupuncture and herbs treat these underlying causes to eliminate symptoms. I understand that if it ain’t broke, you’re not going to come in and fix it. But when it does break, I encourage you to shift your thinking and try acupuncture. It addresses your symptoms, but more importantly treats the underlying issues causing your distress, so that you’re better off down the line.
I have experience treating a wide variety of issues, but am particularly interested in treating migraine/headache, sleeping issues, and pain.