Turning Back the Clock
“You’re not getting older, you’re getting better” only goes so far. If the effects of aging make you cringe whenever you pass a mirror, consider a holistic remedy. From homeopathic medicines to acupuncture, these treatments have one thing in common: they help you from the inside out.
Making time stand still: Dr. Ronald Whitmont is a homeopathic physician in Rhinebeck and NYC
Photograph by Michael Nelson
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I hate to burst your bubble, but “anti-aging” — it’s a misnomer. No matter how badly we may want to, there is no way to stop time from marching on. While mainstream cosmetic procedures like Botox, acid peels, face-lifts, nose jobs, and liposuction may promise to smooth away wrinkles and unsightly lines, in many ways they are merely Band-Aids. In a month or a year, there’ll be another line, another spot, another creak or crack.
But proponents of holistic medicine — a health-care system which addresses the whole person, body, mind and spirit — believe that a comprehensive approach to wellness can restore vitality not just to your skin, but to your organs, teeth, bones, and muscles. In fact, most holistic anti-aging treatments aim not only to make you look younger, but to feel younger, too.
In some ways, this should come as no surprise: after all, as your mother always told you, beauty is more than skin deep. “Taking care of ourselves internally reflects externally,” says Cassandra Currie, a psychotherapist, certified Ayurvedic nutritionist, and holistic health counselor based in Kingston. “Accepting where you are in your life and not holding onto negativity helps loosen things that will bring you down.” Stress, like cigarette smoking, accelerates the aging process, and can manifest itself physically as illness and decreased vitality.
Incorporating some form of stress relief into your weekly routine can encourage peace of mind and better sleep, both of which will help you feel a lot younger. Getting a massage, meditating, or practicing tai chi (a Chinese martial art that brings about mental calm and clarity) can all help relieve stress. Reiki (a spiritual healing practice that promotes homeostatic balance and well-being) and craniosacral therapy (which improves the functioning of the central nervous system by releasing restrictions in the skull and spinal cord) are also gaining in popularity.
Homeopathy is another form of holistic medicine. Originating in Germany in the late 1700s, homeopathy seeks to stimulate the body’s defense mechanisms to prevent or treat illness. “A visit usually involves getting information from the patient on the illness and how it affects their emotional, mental, and physical well-being,” explains Dr. Ronald Whitmont, a homeopathic physician with offices in Rhinebeck and New York City. “Then I prescribe a homeopathic medicine; but not one med for the skin and another for the stomach,” he says. “I look at how these [symptoms] are connected, and prescribe something that can deal with both.”
Dr. Whitmont points out that homeopathic medicines are not the same as herbal supplements; they are produced in a pharmacy and regulated by the FDA. The medicines, made from natural substances, are based on the law of similarities: If you have a headache, you take a medicine that will replicate the headache. Infinitesimal doses of the substance then push your immune system to eradicate the ailment. “They appear to become more powerful the more you dilute them,” says Dr. Whitmont, adding that no one knows exactly why this happens. Naturally, this less-is-more approach appeals to many health-conscious consumers who fear toxicity from antibiotics and other powerful medications. Dr. Whitmont recently treated a patient who was basically bedridden with Lyme disease. “She must have been on 10-15 different antibiotics — including intravenous antibiotics, antimalarial agents, and antidepressants — from all the side effects,” he says. “Antibiotics are given out like candy. I stopped all her medications, looked at all her symptoms, prescribed a single homeopathic medicine she took daily for a couple of months, and little by little she improved gradually until she felt perfectly fine.”
There is even a homeopathic version of the controversial human growth hormone (HGH), which homeopathic doctors claim has broad therapeutic potential in promoting anti-aging without some of the troubling side-effects of synthetic HGH. Of course, some in the mainstream medical community sneer at homeopathic solutions. “There’s no contradiction between conventional medical sciences and the homeopathic view of the body,” says Dr. Whitmont, who has a medical degree from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. But he does find that homeopathy delves deeper. “It’s sort of like comparing tic-tac-toe to chess,” he says.
Homeopathy isn’t alone in helping us beat the clock; for centuries, various holistic practices have been used to heal and encourage lifestyles that promote longevity. Here are a few of holistic medicine’s “anti-aging” alternative treatments, all of which address the body on the inside, on the outside, and in between. Keep in mind that a combination of a good diet, regular exercise, relaxation and recreation, and pampering beauty treatments offer the best chance of combating those persistent hands of time.