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Sunday, July 29, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Heal: Ashland A Hotbed Of Offbeat Medical Practice

Daily Tidings

ASHLAND, Ore. - In Ashland, if you're not feeling as well as you would like, you can visit your local medical doctor, or your local naturopath, chiropractor, nutritionist, massage therapist, acupuncturist, herbalist, homeopath, hydrotherapist, iridologist, kinesiologist, reflexologist, psychic healer, Aurevedic body cleanser, Absuchan Ka therapist, rolfer, orthobionomist, hypnotherapist or crystal worker.

You can get your bowels irrigated or get your entire body wrapped with herbs, crystals and copper wires. You can sit in a steam bath with basil oil, lie under pyramids or simply relax while someone places his or her hands upon your shoulders.

Ashland is a place where people come for healing - all kinds of healing - and it has been that way for a long, long time.

Even before the first white settlers arrived, the Indians revered the area for its healing springs. Lithia water was a big attraction in Ashland's early days, and before World War I, Lithia water was piped all over town. People came to drink the water and soak in Jackson Hot Springs north of town.

Then, in 1931, Susie Jessel and her family moved here and began a healing practice that put Ashland on the map. In the 30 years that followed, the ``miracle woman'' with the gifted hands saw hundreds of patients a day, filling the local hotels and restaurants year-round.

Jessel died in 1966, but two of her six children inherited the gift. Her son, Joe, took over the practice until he died in 1975, and today her daughter, Alma, carries on the work.

Like her mother and brother before her, Alma does not advertise, and she does not ask money for her services. She tells her patients, some of whom are doctors, that she is not a healer. She is simply a vehicle for God's work.

Throughout the United States there has existed for some time a degree of animosity between the conventional practitioners of medicine and chiropractors, naturopaths, massage therapists and other alternative practitioners. But that animosity is not as evident in Ashland.

As the concepts of holistic medicine become more ingrained in our society, many practitioners are referring their patients to other disciplines, so much so that the word ``alternative'' is fading away.

``I prefer to call it `complementary' medicine,'' said Dr. Shandor Weiss, an Ashland naturopathic physician and author of ``Growing and Using Healing Herbs.'' He notes that many of his patients also see medical doctors and other practitioners.

Weiss said the people of Ashland are open and responsive to the more subtle and noninvasive techniques he uses, such as homeopathy, Shiatsu and electro-diagnosis.

``There's a high level of education here,'' he said. ``People come here looking for quality, and they study and analyze the options in their lives. . . . Complementary medicine offers individualized health care, and people want to be paid attention to as individuals.''

Naturopathic medicine experienced a decline in the 1940s and '50s as Americans gravitated toward new technology and the idea that drugs and surgery could eliminate all disease. Today it is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. The training naturopathic doctors receive is similar to that of medical doctors, with the addition of coursework in natural therapeutics.

One Ashland naturopath, Dr. Martin Osterhaus, shares an office building with several medical doctors and shares a number of patients with them.

``Ashland offers a lot of flexibility,'' Osterhaus said. In his general practice, he works with patients of all ages and with all kinds of complaints. He does hydrotherapy, minor surgery, nonsurgical hernia repair, scar-tissue therapy, and he works with herbs, vitamins, minerals and diet.

``I pick that which works with the individual,'' he said. ``It depends on their temperament and biochemistry, their individual uniqueness. You have to be a subtle observer.''

Naturopaths, chiropractors and even the more esoteric therapists spend a lot of time educating their patients. ``Some people want the magic pill, and others just want to learn how to take care of themselves,'' Osterhaus said.

An Ashlander who manages to work successfully across the disciplines of medicine is Donna Eden. She teaches what she calls ``energy kinesiology'' to doctors, nurses and the public.

Her workshops and seminars qualify for continuing education credits for California nurses, yet her work borders on the ethereal.

``I work with the energy fields of the body,'' she said. ``We are not solid, but rather latticeworks of energy. I can see and feel energy and tell where it is not in balance.''

She said she teaches people how to move energy around in the body, relieving pain and generally improving health without medication. Her techniques include exercise, acupressure and visualization. Many of her clients are referred to her following surgery.

Cleansing of the skin as a therapy is gaining acceptance and popularity in Ashland.

Susan Gabrielle offers a three-hour herbal treatment derived from the Ayurvedic medical traditions of India. Susan Patner offers a herbal body wrap designed to detoxify the body and reduce cellulite bulges.

Many practitioners work with energy fields. Acupuncture, Jin Shin Do, polarity, many kinds of massage and deep-tissue work, and therapies involving crystals and pyramids are geared directly to the releasing and directing of energy.

One of the more unusual therapies is called Absuchan Ka and involves a poultice of herbs and powdered crystals applied to the body at certain points to ``amp up the cellular energy of the body.''

``It's different from every other healing method,'' said Mary McInerney, who has practiced as a massage therapist in Ashland for 12 years. ``It works on the principle of 7.3 billion meridians in the body.''

The techniques have their roots in the Essene traditions of 32,000 B.C.

Another therapist, Kay Henry, uses crystals and stones to balance energy fields and ``awaken latent talents and creative abilities.''

Henry said crystals can be used to ``realign the energy patterns that have been distorted through trauma on the physical or emotional planes. . . . Many times a person's sense of higher purpose in life is revealed during a session.''

Many of the people practicing alternative or complementary therapies are licensed as massage therapists. They are trained in Swedish massage, which is required for state licensure, and then specialize.

Shari Sunshine specializes in Feldenkreis work, the ``repatterning of the neuromuscular system,'' and she also works with sound and aroma therapies that she learned from Tibetan refugees in Nepal.

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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