Transforming an “Ancient” Medicine to Fit a “Modern” Spa Mold

By Pacific College - March 24, 2017
Transforming an “Ancient” Medicine to Fit a “Modern” Spa Mold

As an Oriental medicine student, you have a variety of career opportunities you can choose to pursue after graduation. As you begin to think about which path you’re going to take, let’s look at a few of the options. Of course, there are the popular venues: private practice, hospital setting, community-style… spa? Ok, you’re probably confused by that last one and you’re thinking: I can’t practice medicine at a spa! Au contraire, you can, and as a bonus, you’ll be introducing people to Oriental medicine who have never experienced its benefits. Sound like a rewarding opportunity?

If you’re not convinced yet, check this out:

It should come as no surprise that the spa market continues to thrive. It makes sense when you think about it; when people are stressed about life, where do they go? To the spa of course! Spas are known for their tranquil abilities to transport a stressed-out person to an island of relaxation, pampering, and overall wellbeing.

How exactly does Oriental medicine (OM) fit itself into the rising demand for the Western “spa” atmosphere? The answer is simple: Transformation. This does not mean altering the medicine itself in any way, but rather, evolving the presentation of the medicine to fit the spa mold. Eventually, as a direct result of this small change, the spa itself will become transformed as well.

Success Stories: Pioneering OM in the Spa Industry

So, what does this transformation look like? Pacific College Alumna Jenelle Kim, LAc, MSTOM, shared her spa transformation experience with us.

Kim is co-founder and formulator of Jadience Herbal Formulas and the Jade Spa Collection. The evolution of her skin and body care products has been a journey.  Kim described the transformation that the products had to undergo, before entering the Western spa world, as “forming a bridge” between East and West.

Forming a bridge isn’t something that comes naturally. The ability to integrate herbal formulas into a Western spa setting involves a different way of thinking for most practitioners of Oriental medicine.

As Kim explained: “In the beginning, if we were to try to bring these formulas to the Ritz Carlton, and here they are: yellow, sticky, smells like herbs, well of course, we think ‘this is amazing,’ but it’s hard to try to convince people of this.”

It was Kim’s desire to “break down the doors of the retail and spa industries,” she said, but it wasn’t going to happen by forcing the Jadience products onto the shelves in their natural state. The revamped Jadience line is now promoted in high-end spas including resorts like Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons.

 The key to the Jadience success?

Again, the answer is transformation. However, it’s important not to confuse transformation with conformation. The Jadience products would not be as successful as they are today if they completely conformed to the spa mold and lost their integrity as herbal formulas.

Kim described the necessary balance as: “staying true to the proper traditional formulas, but making them in such a way that they smell nice, feel nice, and look nice. That took a lot of work.”

Presentation is probably the biggest component of the transformation process and it applies to all forms of Oriental medicine, not just herbal formulas. Acupuncture is being transformed as well, and is booming in the spa market, particularly on cruise ships.

Within just the past 10 years, what began as one acupuncture program aboard a single cruise ship, has expanded to being aboard every major cruise ship in the world, according to Steiner Leisure Manager of Oriental Medical Programs Stephanie Kimber, LAc. (See our video on Acupuncture at Sea!).

The demand is there,” Kimber said, “our first acupuncture program was so successful that million-dollar acupuncture clinics are now being built right in the center of cruise ships.” Steiner Leisure Spas also saw how successful the acupuncture program was on Celebrity Cruises so they took it over and integrated the program into every major cruise line spa.

Another selling point for practicing in spas aboard cruise ships is the ability to share Oriental medicine with diverse groups of people, who are all on a ship and have nowhere to run off to. “You have a captive audience,” Kimber said, “and the number one reason for your success is this: people heal faster on vacation. Your patients are relaxed, you get to see your patients everyday, sometimes two times a day, and you’re in a conducive atmosphere for healing.”

When you have dramatic results like these, demand begins to grow dramatically as well. “In the spa world, it was never even a part,” Kim said, “and now all of a sudden, it’s the biggest part.”

The Evolving Role of Massage Therapy in Spas

Even massage therapy, which has always been a part of the Western spa experience, is transforming its offerings to include a wide variety of East Asian modalities and more. For example, high-end Las Vegas spas such as QUA Baths & Spas at Caesar’s Palace include not only Swedish massage, but shiatsu, Thai, reflexology, and craniosacral techniques.

As you can see, from acupuncture to herbal formulas, to East Asian massage techniques, Oriental medicine is transforming the entire Western spa persona, by transforming its own appearance to fit the mold.

Embracing Change and Educating the Public

Transformation is possible and the reward is great. “You have to be open, willing to be flexible, and help people to understand,” Kim said. When people begin to understand the medicine, all of a sudden this “wellness trend” that the world is experiencing becomes not just a trend anymore, but good health that lasts. What OM transformation will you make?

To find out more about Jadience, check out Pacific College’s alumni video featuring Jenelle here!

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