Q&A: Dahlia Bursell, Acupuncturist

About 10 years ago, Dahlia Bursell was a newly minted biologist, working as an assistant in a research lab. It was what she’d worked toward — she’d earned an undergraduate degree in biology — but she found that she wasn’t truly enjoying the job. Around that same time, she came down with something she thought was a stomach bug.

When she started getting worse and Western medicine was not giving her any answers, she turned to Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture.

It was the alternative medicines that healed her.

“It changed my life,” Bur-sell recalls. “I was just really blown away by the effect it had.

“Getting sick obviously was not a very happy time in my life, but it brought me to the place where I knew what I wanted to do,” she adds. “I wanted to be able to help people in the same way.”

The experience prompted Bursell to change her career path — she went on to study at the New England School of Acupuncture outside of Boston where she was living. After graduating and deciding on a whim to move to Hawaii to launch her new career, she opened Dahlia Bursell Acu-puncture in 2011. Bursell now runs two locations, one in Kailua and one in Kaimuki.

Bursell recently shared with Metro about her practice.

For those who are not familiar with acupuncture, can you briefly explain how it works?

The basic idea of acupuncture is that your body is made up of these channels and meridians where blood flow and energy flow throughout the body. The acupuncture points are found along these pathways, so the idea is that you are tapping into these pockets of energy along these channels to help balance and harmonize the body.

What are some of the other supplementary treatments you offer?

One of the other modalities is moxibustion. It’s heat therapy that uses an herb called mugwort, which is burned either near or on the skin and it helps enhance the effects of acupuncture by helping with circulation, reducing inflammation, and then also it just has a very calming effect. My patients love it.

I also do cupping, which is the use of small glass cups to create suction on the body. These can be used for muscle tightness, tension, strain, and detox or even congestion in the lungs.

(These treatments) can be done in conjunction with the needle insertion, or after the needles come out.

What can acupuncture treat?

So many things, it’s great. Right now, I am seeing a lot of people with neck and back issues. In this day and age, that’s pretty common — so many people are sitting at desks all day staring at computers and not having a lot of movement; that can really affect your body. Arthritis is another big one. Stress and anxiety are also very common. Asthma and allergies, digestive issues, acid reflux, severe PMS symptoms. How have you seen it benefit your clients?

I have some patients come in that are just curious and they don’t have anything specifically wrong. In that case, you can really see the benefits, because people will come in and not even really think they need it. You see people come in and they have been rushing around all day — work is crazy, they are tired — you see that weight over them. The change from when they first walk in to when they get off the table, it’s a complete transformation — there’s just a general calmness. Acupuncture can help reset and calm your mind.

Anyone can benefit. Even if you come in with a chronic issue that probably won’t go away with one treatment, you will leave the office feeling so much more relaxed.

Overall, what is your goal with your practice?

I just want to be able to help people live a healthier, happier life.