The seeds, bark, petals, roots and stems from shrubs and trees - as well as scorpions, cockroaches and chicken gizzards that he stores in 250 glass jars - synthesize thousands of years of trial and error that produced healing remedies used today, Todd Flemion says.
Flemion, who opened Root and Branch Medicine, dedicated to Chinese medicine and acupuncture, in Durango last year, is one of the latest arrivals on a growing list of alternative or holistic medicine practitioners in La Plata County.
Holistic medicine regards body and mind or body, mind and spirit as one and looks for underlying causes of ailments or illnesses instead of treating symptoms with drugs or surgery. Tai chi, yoga, acupuncture and chiropracty are familiar names. Others such as reiki, rolfing or Bach flower therapy could send you to the dictionary.
Flemion earned a degree in economics at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and worked in the field before studying Chinese medicine in Tucson, Ariz., and Seattle. A bum knee he developed as a triathlete turned him to Chinese medicine and acupuncture.
Among his patients are people who naturally gravitate to holistic solutions and disappointed users of mainstream medicine, Flemion said. He treats people with joint and back pain, facial paralysis, digestive problems, multiple sclerosis and addiction to tobacco or drugs.
Mercy Regional Medical Center has embraced alternative healing and offers it to the public through its Integrative Care Services.
"We introduced alternative treatments free to inpatients," hospital spokesman David Bruzzese said. "They became so popular that we launched them for outpatients."
Among Mercy's holistic treatments are music therapy and aromatherapy, acupuncture, massage, conscious breathing, healing therapy, imagery and meditation/prayer.
"We've seen that in preparing for surgery, patients benefit from therapies that reduce anxiety," Bruzzese said. "Post surgery, the therapies can control pain and promote relaxation.
He added: "Some traditional medical practitioners have doubts about alternative therapies. But they really do work."
Among the holistic healers in the area:
•Amita Nathwani at the Ayurvedic Center of Durango specializes in digestive disorders and lifestyle counseling.
"We believe that most disorders come from indigestion, so we use food as medicine," Nathwani said. "As an example, if there is heat in the body - inflammation, acid reflux, gout - we treat it with cooling food such as aloe vera or coconut."
Nathwani also counsels people who feel something is missing in their life. Nathwani will delve into diet, exercise according to body type and changes in routine to rebuild a "blah" lifestyle.
"The key word is balance," Nathwani said. "Balance in everything we do."
•Sharon Hargett at Ancient Art of Healing in Bondad practices therapeutic touch, a technique developed in the early 1970s by Dolores Krieger, a professor of nursing at New York University. A practitioner directs positive energy to a patient's energy field through their hands, held a couple of inches from the patient.
"Everyone has an electromagnetic field, which can get out of balance," Hargett said. "A common cold, fatigue or distress can put the body out of balance."
A physically and emotionally balanced facilitator can re-establish the balance, said Hargett, who has practiced therapeutic touch and clairvoyance for 25 years.
•Teresa Arney is a spiritual healer at Pathways Center for Natural Healing in Bayfield, the home of seven practitioners of various holistic practices, including shamanism, massage, prayer and reiki.
"Internalized trauma that doesn't find release becomes dense matter that, over time, causes physical problems," said Arne, who spent time with a spiritual healer in Brazil. She returned with seven crystals used in realigning "energy" fields in people who have "derailed themselves."
•Liz Volz, a physician assistant and principal of Health Consultation and Coaching, said she does a health assessment, then tries to help people whose lab tests are normal but don't feel well.
She could recommend herbal supplements or refer the patient to a physician, acupuncturist or hypnotist, Volz said.
"I go deeper to find out what's going on in their life," said Volz, who taught at Northeastern University and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston. "We sit down and decide together why their life is out of control and how to get past impediments to self-care."