As part of our faculty Q&A series, we sat down with clinic supervisor Paz Vizcarra. She’s best known among students as a spunky, energetic practitioner whose clinic shift keeps you on your toes. It’s never boring and nearly always consist of multiple modalities including plenty of herbal topicals for any skin condition under the sun.
Read on for Paz’s favorite self care rituals and her best advice for embarking on the TCM education journey.
Paz Vizcarra, LAc
- Edu Background: Licensed Acupuncturist in California, 1997; Diplomate in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology, NCCAOM, 1993
- Hometown: Chile
How did your journey in Chinese medicine begin?
I began studying occupational therapy in Chile. Then, in 1985 I started practicing neuromuscular therapy in Miami. I took a Tai Chi class in 1989 and the students were talking about a Chinese herbal teacher. I became interested in Chinese herbs and enrolled in school in Miami that same year. I graduated in 1993, traveled to China and then came to San Francisco where I became licensed in California in 1997. I started working at ACTCM in 2000.
Then I took a sabbatical from ACTCM to work for three years on cruise ships doing acupuncture. It was incredible, I saw 120 ports throughout the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Baltic Sea and Black Sea and crossed the Atlantic from the US to Europe three times. I mostly treated pain, arthritis and seasickness. I essentially had to start a practice from zero every time the guests embarked on a cruise so I got really comfortable talking to people about TCM.
What is your role at ACTCM?
I supervise three clinic shifts and typically host one annual workshop on topical herbs.
What is your style of acupuncture/area of focus in the clinic?
Whatever people need. Patients come in with a variety of issues. Pain is a big one, women’s health, digestive disorders, cancer care, autoimmune diseases, and HIV care. I also see a lot of emotional issues including PTSD.
What makes your clinic shift unique for students?
I do a lot of herbal topicals for patients. Patients receive acupuncture, cupping/tui na, and a topical or compress which could be for a skin condition or just tired eyes from staring at a computer all week.
We also often make a tea from raw herbs so students can learn herbs by tasting them. That is very important. Sometimes we select a formula that students are studying that week in their other classes. I focus a lot on herbs on a practical level.
What takeaway do you think students gain from your shift specifically?
They become more comfortable with Chinese herbs.
What do you think is the most pressing issue in health care/integrative medicine today?
Over-medication of patients. As a practitioner of TCM, we’re often dealing with side effects of medications, whether its pain meds, cholesterol medication, etc.
What is one thing that amazes you about Chinese medicine?
I’m continually amazed by the power of the medicine, how well it works for so many people and how it provides very deep and profound healing. As a practitioner I like to hold space for people’s needs and feelings.
What is the most inspiring thing about this medicine?
The connection with the people. Sharing the love.
Herbs you always travel with?
Yin Qiao San
Huang Lian Su
Chuan Xiong Cha Tiao Wan
Bi Yan Pian
Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tong
Favorite acupuncture point combinations?
Four Doors + SP15 + GB26 to harmonize digestion
ST36 + SP6
Buddha’s Triangle (HT7, LU9, PC6)
The Crown (Du24, GB13)
Si Shen Cong
I also really like using Du points to treat the spirit. Some of my favorites are Du20, Du4, Du9, Du10, Du14, Du16.
Favorite self care practice?
Salus Per Aquam (SPA) which translates to “health through water.” I love taking baths and I use a lot of medicinal herbs to nourish my skin.
I use rose for facial rejuvenation, Dang Gui to nourish dry skin, promote blood flow to the facial area and anti aging, Bai Zhi to regenerate skin, Gan Cao to brighten the skin, Ginseng to fight the aging process/prevent wrinkles/lift sagging, Huang Qi to strengthen skin/prevent wrinkles/ improve facial puffiness and Dan Shen promotes qi and blood to face.
There are so many ingredients right in our kitchens that benefit the skin. One of the best for dry, aging skin is a combination of honey, apple cider vinegar, banana, cream (or raw goat’s milk), avocado and slippery elm. You blend it up like a smoothie and pour it into the bath. Your skin feel so amazing and soft afterwards.
Your morning routine?
I stretch on my exercise ball.
Your evening routine?
I’m back on my exercise ball for a good stretch. Sometimes I also roll on tennis balls under my low back and neck. I visit the gym often and like to go jogging barefoot at sunset on the beach.
Advice for students entering into ACTCM/beginning on their TCM education journey?
I think Chinese Medicine is so much more than just studying the medicine. It is about a calling and very profoundly changing your life and really embracing and enjoying it.
Learning TCM is one of the most profound ways in which you can grow as a human being. It is very transformational to understand the energetics of hot and cold, damp and dry, the way the emotional and spiritual are joined together, the different souls like Shen, Po, Hun, Yi and Zhi.
Advice to emerging practitioners in regards to this medicine?
Be gentle with yourself. It takes time to develop a practice.
About American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine
American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) has provided affordable, quality health care to the public and trained professionals in acupuncture, massage and Chinese medicine since 1980. In addition to its graduate curriculum, ACTCM offers continuing education, public education, community outreach and clinical services in acupuncture and herbal medicine. ACTCM has been the recipient of many awards for its curriculum, faculty and clinic, and has been voted “Best of the Bay” by both the San Francisco Weekly and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. ACTCM is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and is a private, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization