As a child born to two Western physicians, I used to ignore any treatments that did not come from a pharmacist. If I had an infection, I was prescribed antibiotics like candy. If I had a pimple, I was prescribed a slew of hormonal medications. 

No one taught me that health could also mean preventative measures. I am forever grateful for my parent’s vast knowledge of western medicine as they treated my illnesses as a child. 

However, I have since encountered several other medical issues that couldn’t be fixed with a simple prescription. Eastern medicine has come in to help.

This journey began in high school, when I studied Mandarin and learned about East Asian medicinal practices. After attending a tea show during my trip to China’s rural villages, tea culture intrigued me due to its many healing benefits. 

I began drinking green, oolong and jasmine tea, because the bitter tastes and warm sensations soothed my soul. 

Unbeknownst to me, tea was the trigger to my fascination with and exploration of East Asian holistic medicine. I feverishly researched the effects of green tea on acne and its potent antioxidants astonished me.

How had Western science never informed me and most of my peers about the powerful benefits of green tea? And more than that, of East Asian holistic practices? 

Meditation is also a popular ritual within many East Asian cultures. I never learned about meditation and its healing strength until suffering  from excruciating anxiety. 

From childhood until recently, my brain ran rampant with uncontrollable and frightening thoughts. I now can experience my day with mostly positive thoughts, and the ability to quickly expel negative ones. Meditation has been a huge part of that.

Originating of Buddhist origins in South Asia, meditation is now implemented into many health professionals’ methodologies. Meditation is scientifically proven to mitigate symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, and more. 

I can first handedly declare that meditation does mitigate my anxiety. 

While I was riddled with anxious thoughts, my anxiety induced hormonal acne, insomnia and irritable bowel syndrome. My traditional Western-based dermatologist prescribed me three different treatments. 

But the acne around my chin (known to be hormonal acne) still persisted for months. I eventually became anxious about having acne. This, of course,  manifested as more acne in a vicious, self-inflicting cycle.

My anxiety about my skin, school, and friendships also manifested in insomnia. My chronic worrying prevented me from sleeping. While I lay awake in bed unable to sleep, my anxiety worsened due to not sleeping.

If chin zits and insomnia weren’t bad enough, irritable bowel syndrome resulted as well. Incessant stress causes the colon to not function properly because this organ is controlled by the nervous system. 

After my therapist introduced me to meditation over a year ago, my life has exponentially improved. I no longer suffer from false and frightful thoughts from my anxiety. 

My chin is not covered in zits. I don’t experience unbearable stomach pains. I now sleep within minutes of hopping under the covers. 

Meditation is not the only East Asian approach I’ve tried. Yoga has been an essential part of my life for three years now. 

Yoga began in India over 5,000 years ago, which other Asian countries soon adopted. Once I adopted this Eastern practice, I slept significantly sounder, managed my stress much more efficiently, and found a supportive community of fellow yogis. 

Although meditation and yoga significantly improved my life, I still experienced low-grade anxious thoughts and depressive symptoms for a while. I finally decided to incorporate anti-depressants into my daily routine.

In this way, a mix of holistic eastern and western medicine have become a part of my routine to combat anxiety. SSRIs along with meditation, a healthy diet, yoga, and walks in nature are a mighty combination for my overall health. 

After twenty years, I actually feel in tune with my body. 

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Hannah Keenan

Hannah Keenan is a student at the University of Southern California studying International Relations and Mandarin. Hannah’s interests are human rights and culture.
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