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HUNTINGTON — Many doctors and conventional health care institutions in the United States have shown a new acceptance of treatments and philosophies that historically have not been part of mainstream medicine.

For nearly three decades, Tonia Zanter has used integrative and traditional Eastern medicine practices to tend to her clients’ needs at Zanter Acupuncture in Huntington.

“Integrative and holistic treatments such as acupuncture and diet are being recognized and accepted more and more by the traditional medical world,” Zanter said.

Zanter says that integrative medicine addresses the full range of a patient’s physical, emotional, spiritual and environmental influences. She says it also deploys therapies that extend beyond the surgeries and drugs that have historically defined the American medical establishment.

Zanter uses traditional Chinese medicine, also called Eastern or Oriental medicine, to help people achieve their wellness goals.

Traditional Chinese medicine explains that health is the result of a harmonious balance of the complementary extremes of “yin” and “yang” of the life force known as “Qi,” pronounced “chi.” In traditional Chinese medicine, illness is said to be the consequence of an imbalance of the forces, according to Zanter.

“The movement of Qi is the foundation of acupuncture treatment,” said Zanter, a licensed acupuncturist.

Acupuncture involves inserting needles at certain points of the body. Research suggests that it can help relieve pain, and it is also used for a range of other complaints.

She said Qi is a concept unique to Chinese philosophy and medicine.

“It has no true translation. It is both energy and form. We relate to Qi by observing the natural world and understand that we, our human bodies, are part of the natural world. This is the observed science of wellness,” she said. “Qi is interdependent duality as expressed in the concept of yin-yang.”

Zanter says yin-yang is the interdependent, intertransforming action of opposites where neither is ever absolute.

“Yin is predominant in relation to yang, just as night is predominant in relation to day,” she explained. “At night there is only night. In day there is only day. And yet, we know during the day night will come. In illness we know health will come. In health we know illness is possible. Maintaining balance maintains health.”

Zanter believes that this dynamic cohesion creates a balance.

“Pain, illness, the sense that precedes illness that ‘things just aren’t right’ is the indicator that this balance has been disrupted,” she said. “Creating a pathway to restore balance is the core objective of treatment using traditional Chinese medicine.”

Zanter claims one key benefit of acupuncture, herbal treatments and other alternative medicine practices is that they are noninvasive and cause few side effects.

“Acupuncture and other traditional Chinese medicine treatments are becoming more commonly used as a first-line approach,” she said.

The American College of Physicians guidelines suggest acupuncture and other Eastern medicine treatments as a first-line approach for low back pain, most likely due to concerns over growing opioid use.

“Acupuncture does not run the risk of negative drug interactions, nor does it have as many side effects,” Zanter said.

According to a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, acupuncture may even be more effective.

Zanter added that many Americans are not making the best lifestyle choices concerning exercise and diet, and the preventative and whole body care that Eastern medicine practitioners offer are more needed than ever.

“Eastern medicine provides more preventative care that works to make sure body systems are functioning at their best,” she said. “Many times, these whole body systems, when not working properly or in disharmony, can be the underlying cause of diseases. My goal is to help people have a healthier and more balanced life.”

Zanter says integrative medicine’s supporters do not reject conventional or allopathic medicine.

“There is room at the table for all options,” she said.

Western and Eastern medicine both offer unique perspectives fundamental to health care in today’s world.

Zanter says many people may be surprised to learn just how many Eastern medicine practitioners are already working interactively at health care facilities across the United States.

Research shows that many prestigious medical centers including Mayo Clinic, University of California San Francisco and Duke University Medical Center currently offer Oriental medicine and other complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments to their patients.

“We want you to continue to go to your doctor, therapist or other Western medicine providers,” Zanter said. “While the types of care can be very different, I believe both have a place in today’s current health care landscape. More and more Eastern and Western medicine practitioners are finding ways that their treatments can complement each other.”

Trudy Hesse comes from Ohio to get treatment from Zanter.

“I have a lot of sciatica pain and have had back surgery,” Hesse said. “Nothing was really working for me, but I was very impressed with the results I got from acupuncture treatments. I can’t believe the results I got after just two treatments.”

Dr. Skip Hart says he bridges the gap between conventional, or Western medicine, and alternative medicine, such as traditional Chinese medicine or Eastern medicine.

Hart’s business,, is located at 1000 5th Ave., Suite 100, in Huntington.

For nearly 20 years, Hart says he has used his knowledge of natural and alternative therapies, Oriental medicine techniques and holistic well-being to recommend noninvasive, natural remedies to target his clients’ wellness goals and keep them on the path of optimal health.

“I offer Oriental, naturopathic and homeopathic therapies for infertility and other women’s health concerns, as well as complete holistic health and wellness for the whole family,” he said. “We have a very high efficacy at getting women pregnant with our therapies that work with us, so it is one of my favorite things to do here.”

While Hart offers acupuncture medicine services, he also offers oxidative and functional medicine services.

Hart says oxidative medicine services treat symptoms of oxygen deficiency and are used for immune and fatigue issues, typically caused by virus, bacteria, yeast pathogens and more.

“Those symptoms can include weakness, fatigue, poor circulation and digestion, muscle pain, memory loss, behavioral changes and bronchial and pulmonary problems,” he said.

Another thing Hart says he enjoys is working with veterans.

“We see a lot of vets that come in to see us for pain,” he said. “We do a specific type of technique called ‘Battlefield,’ and that also has a high efficacy rate for dropping someone’s pain levels down in real time when they come in.”

Hart says functional medicine is a comprehensive approach to finding the root cause of chronic conditions that may include things like autoimmune, thyroid, hormones, reproductive, cardiovascular, digestive, chronic pain, inflammatory issues and more.

“We do discovery through labs, office visits and symptoms,” he said. “I want to know what you are eating, what you are doing, and your stress levels, your bowel habits and your medical history, and all that is taken into consideration when doing functional medicine. We are working on the root cause of your condition.”

Hart says there is a huge percentage of the population that is actually malnourished.

“We find that all the time in labs,” he said. “If you are not eating good foods and your body is not absorbing properly, then disease processes are going to take place from all of that, so functional medicine is a way to know individually with someone what we need to focus on.”

Hart says while Western medicine tends to focus on diagnosing and treating disease based on a patient’s symptoms, Eastern and integrated medicine considers a patient’s symptoms in addition to an individualized diagnosis in relation to the whole person.

“This involves analyzing both detailed health history and cutting-edge diagnostics to evaluate how your environment, lifestyle, personal beliefs, psychosocial experiences and genetics may be impacting your health,” he said.

Oriental medicine practitioners use natural, noninvasive forms of treatment that typically include herbs, acupuncture, nutrition, mind and body exercise or massage. Western medicine practitioners often recommend pharmaceuticals, physical therapy, surgery or psychological counseling.

“It’s not us versus them,” Hart said. “Today, more and more doctors, hospitals and VA facilities are referring patients to us, and we are referring patients to them as well. I have always wanted the integration of Western and Eastern medicines, because I think that is how we can get the best results.”

J. Forsyth, chief of operations at Hart’s office, says the most frustrating thing currently for those seeking alternative medical services, like acupuncture and Oriental medicine, is the lack of insurance coverage.

“Especially with West Virginia’s Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA),” Forsyth said. “It was apparently in it several years ago, but pulled out of it. There is not a week that goes by that I don’t get a call from someone with PEIA that doesn’t have coverage for these types of medical services.”

Forsyth said some other insurance carriers are seeing the benefits of alternative and integrated medicine practices, and it is also becoming more mainstream.

“The unfortunate side effect of the opioid epidemic is that more insurance policies are realizing that they need to be inserting more natural things when it comes to pain treatment,” he said.

In 2019, BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS) of Tennessee removed Oxycontin from its list of covered drugs and will now cover acupuncture.

Acupuncture has been shown to have a relevant effect on chronic pain that persists over time that cannot be solely explained by placebo effects, according to research by the Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration, published in the May 2018 edition of The Journal of Pain, the official journal of the American Pain Society.

“We would love nothing more than for that trend to continue here in West Virginia and give people the chance to use natural methods and not have to use opioid medications unless they absolutely have to,” Forsyth said.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

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