Asian Women in Wellness: Dr. Debbie Kung
After experiencing the incredible benefits of Traditional Chinese herbs and acupuncture herself, Dr. Debbie Kung not only changed her approach to health but made a drastic career switch to become an acupuncturist. Dr. Kung prioritizes education for her patients, teaching them about their own bodies, treatments and Traditional Chinese medicine practices. She believes it is crucial to help them fully understand their own bodies and for true healing.
What made you realize Traditional Chinese Medicine was so restorative and healing?
I used to work in fashion and during that time I was experiencing a lot of stress. I would self medicate and I realized that wasn’t working. Then someone actually suggested acupuncture. I wasn’t really familiar with it at the time but I decided to try it. Afterward the treatment I had the best night of my sleep. I was working with Diane von Furstenberg at the time and the next morning I walked into work and Diane saw me and said, ‘You look amazing, did you get a facial?’ I told her I had gotten acupuncture. Everyone kept saying that I looked so well-rested. That got the wheels turning and it was an epiphany — it was my Saturn’s return. I decided to leave fashion and start from scratch, learning about acupuncture.
You have your own practice, so did you feel there was a strong need for a traditional Eastern Medicine studio in New York City?
For me, I thought I was a segway and bridge between Western culture and Eastern culture.
There’s actually not a lot of acupuncturists that are Asian American and a lot of practitioners don’t explain what’s really going on in the body. I used to be on the side of not knowing much about Chinese medicine and when I tried to learn, not many practitioners could explain it very well. What differentiates me from other practitioners is when I look at how I can help other people, it’s first by explaining Chinese medicine in a way that all my patients can easily understand. Three things I try to do for my patients are prevent, treat and educate. It’s about teaching patients so they can understand and appreciate how our bodies are self-healing, intelligent machines.
How would you describe Qi and how does it affect overall health?
In ancient textbooks and Chinese medicine, a lot of them describe Qi as ‘life force.’ It’s energy and energy is everywhere. Qi is energy that promotes life.
How does acupuncture help balance Qi?
Qi is like a highway system in the body — there are so many routes and offramps, and that energy goes everywhere in us. Sometimes there’s an accident or traffic, so the needles redirect the traffic so Qi is flowing again. What we like to say in Chinese medicine is that if Qi is flowing smoothly in the body, there are no ailments.
From a Western medicine standpoint, acupuncture helps to lower cortisol levels, the stress hormone. Once the stress hormone is lowered, the body isn’t in a state of inflammation so it can start healing itself.
Due to the culture we live in, we’re always on the move and tackling our to-do lists. Do you think you’re seeing more clients due to stress related illnesses?
Absolutely. In New York City, I always assume that every person walking through the door has a higher level of stress. It’s pretty incredible what stress can do to the human body in the destructive way. I believe almost every illness stems from an emotional imbalance — prolonged stress, prolonged grief, prolonged fear. I believe that causes a lot of infertility for women and men. There’s so much pressure for women to have a baby by a certain age.
How often can people receive acupuncture?
For new patients, usually twice a week for the first 2-3 weeks. For patients coming in for facial rejuvenation, it’s twice a week for 5 weeks. We work on the skin’s natural skin cycle, which is about 28 days.
What would be a good way to encourage more people to care about their health and be open to traditional medical practices?
More exposure in the media would be great for this field. Personally, I try to make it fun on Instagram with my posts and videos, so viewers can be entertained and still learn.