How Amelia Hirota, D.Ac. Became an Infertility Acupuncturist

My name is Amelia Hirota and when I entered acupuncture school in 1998 acupuncture and fertility courses were not part of the curriculum. I was interested in acupuncture and infertility and I knew that I wanted to work in the field of reproductive medicine. There were no infertility acupuncturists in the 90's when I went to school.

The medicalization of the women's health, including the routine prescription of birth control pills, scheduled c-sections, medically managed births, conventional hysterectomies, and routine HRT medication for menopause all motivated me to delve into effective, empowering options for women.

The practice of gynecology in traditional Chinese medicine dates back to the Song dynasty, over 700 years ago, when traditional Chinese medicine officially began to have specialties. It seemed to me that if traditional Chinese doctors had been focusing on gynecology and women's health for over 700 years, then I would likely find a more holistic approach to treating infertility and gynecological imbalances in traditional Chinese medicine.

Little did I know that acupuncture and fertility would be commonplace in less than 10 years. Homoeopathic and alternative therapies are rapidly being accepted by the medical community, and this is welcomed by practitioners around the world with open arms.

My Undergrad Education

When I first went to Occidental College for my undergrad education, I was a pre-med student, intent on being a sports medicine doctor or a surgeon. Unfortunately, I didn't know anything about acupuncture in 1984. I grew up watching Quincy on TV and playing the game Operation in the 70's. I had a steady hand and thought that I might make a good surgeon. After working my way through the biology portion of my pre-med requirements at Occidental College in Los Angeles, I became captivated with the idea of studying abroad in Japan. Hence, began my love affair with the Orient.

I began to study Japanese and I spent my junior year at Waseda University in Tokyo, one of my favorite cities in the world. When I was in Japan, I had my first shiatsu massage, acupuncture treatment and taste of Asian herbal medicine. Acupuncture immediately intrigued me. I was fascinated at how my body and emotional state could change with just a few needles inserted in my arms and legs. I returned to Occidental College and graduated with a B.A. in economics and a minor in Asian studies.

Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan

After graduating from Occidental, I traveled throughout Asia for 2 years, including the countries of China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Australia. During these travels I saw the serene practice of Tai Qi in the parks of China and the widespread use of herbal medicine throughout the region. The jamu (herbal tonic) sellers in Indonesia were especially enchanting with their sing song voices and heavy bottles of brown herbal brew, reputed to increase energy and extend one's life.

Following my travels, I completed my pre-med requirements of chemistry, physics, botany, anatomy and physiology at Pasadena City College. It was during my botany course that I discovered an affinity for plants, which later lead to my obsession with Chinese herbal medicine. Once my pre-med requirements were completed, I realized that my passion for health was more in alignment with the holistic approach of traditional Chinese medicine, than with the symptomatic manner of western allopathic medicine. Therefore, I began to research acupuncture schools in the United States.

Travels in India on Royal Enfield Motorcycle

Before attending acupuncture school I needed to attend to my wanderlust again. In 1996 I was planning a 1 year motorcycle trip to India with my boyfriend, Amie at the time, who later became my husband. Just prior to the trip, I was diagnosed with leukemia and given about 7 years to live. According to my doctor, allopathic medicine had nothing to offer me at that point, so she encouraged me to proceed with my travel plans, as I was feeling fine.

Our Royal Enfield in the Himalayas

Soon after arriving in India, we visited a Tibetan doctor in Manali, Himachal Pradesh. She checked me over and with no prompting from me, determined that my blood was unhealthy and proceeded to question me about my diet. At that point, I had been a vegetarian for 6 years and a vegan for 2 of those years. She promptly informed me that I needed to eat meat, lamb specifically. Her other lifestyle recommendations included eating warm foods, no raw vegetables, not thinking too much, staying in a warm climate, being with someone who said loving things to me, drinking an occasional beer and taking Tibetan herbal medicine.

I followed her lifestyle advice and took her herbal pills 3 times a day. Once a week at 3 AM, I also took one "precious pill", which was wrapped in silk. I had to smash it before bed, mix it with hot water, cover it with a white, silk cloth and leave it for the morning. Then I arose at 3 AM, chanted a healing chant in Sanskrit to the Medicinal Buddha and drank the herbal brew. I then returned to bed and was to keep my body warm until morning.

There were a lot of details to taking Tibetan medicine and I illustrate them here for the purpose of understanding the intrinsic relationship between holistic medicine and lifestyle. It's important to make the practice a part of one's life and give it priority. It's not a matter of just popping a pill. I was very curious about what the effect of this herbal medicine, my new carnivore habits and other lifestyle changes would have on my health, so I went to a local lab in India monthly to have my blood tested. I wanted to monitor the progression of my leukemia. Well, within just 3 months, all of my white blood cell counts normalized and I was given a clean state of health. My doctor back home was happy to hear my news, but also intrigued with this herbal medicine.

Acupuncture School in Hawaii

As a result of my experience with Tibetan medicine, my goals to attend a traditional Chinese medicine school were strengthened and I applied to the Hawaii College of Traditional Oriental Medicine on the island of Maui. This school was founded by Eileen Bellerue and it came on the recommendation of Michael Weinstein, a talented acupuncturist in Santa Monica, CA. This program was very strong in herbal medicine, while exposing students to various styles of acupuncture. The school was traditional and strived to educate its students in all 8 branches of traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, herbs, dietary therapy, massage, qigong, tai chi, Chinese astrology and feng shui. There weren't any classes focused on acupuncture and fertility at that time.

After completing my academic foundation, I transferred to the Traditional Chinese Medicine College of Hawaii in Kamuela on the Big Island. This school was founded by Angela Longo and was modeled after the apprenticeship model, as Angela Longo had apprenticed extensively with Dr. Kong, a renowned practitioner from southern China. The school was exceptional in auricular acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Auricular acupuncture utilizes the ear to treat the entire body. The herbal pharmacy was straight out of China with over 400 drawers filled with herbs. This school truly immersed its students in the study of herbal medicine.

Graduation Day
Dr. Chang Yi Hsiang with Amelia Hirota

For my last year of school, I transferred to the Tai Hsuan College of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine (now known as The World Medicine Institute) in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. This was the oldest school in Hawaii, with a wonderful mix of Daoist philosophy and modern allopathic medical training. The World Medicine Institute was founded by Dr. Chang Yi Hsiang, a 64th generation Taoist lineage holder and had a reputation for bringing out the Daoist aspects of traditional Chinese medicine. Dr. David Roth was the primary instructor of western medicine and he was extremely skilled in training us in the fundamentals of biomedical science and preparing us for conversing with allopathic physicians.

Dr. Chang Yi Hsian was my first teacher to get me thinking about acupuncture and fertility. When apprenticing with her in the clinic, I was able to see how she treated patients that were looking to enhance their fertility. She focused primarily on weekly acupuncture treatments and personalized herbal formulas. A number of patients did get pregnant during my apprenticeship.

I graduated from Tai Hsuan College with a Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine in 2001 and later passed both the national acupuncture and the herbal boards, which are offered by NCCAOM (National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.) I'm a recognized diplomate in both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine and I'm licensed in the states of Hawaii and Rhode Island.

After graduating from acupuncture school, I did a 2 year post graduate course in gynecology. This course utilized both classic and modern gynecology texts. We studied everything from menstrual cramps to infertility. I was fascinated by the acupuncture and fertility module and soon began applying my studies to the clinic.

My Clinical Experience with Acupuncture and Fertility

Opening Day Celebration at Blue Bamboo
Len Allison, our Shinto Priest, Amelia Hirota

I opened my first clinic in Maui, Hawaii with one of my former instructors, Dr. Len Allison. The clinic was called Blue Bamboo Chinese Medical Center and Spa. It was a fairly large clinic with 6 treatment rooms inside and a gazebo treatment room outside. We can do that kind of thing in sunny Hawaii. With 7 massage therapists, 5 acupuncturists, an esthetician, and 4 receptionists we started one of the first community acupuncture clinics in the U.S.. The community of Maui soon discovered the wonders of Chinese medicine. Many people that had never had a massage or acupuncture had their very first treatment at Blue Bamboo Chinese Medical Center and Spa.

Later, Len Alison took our concept and moved to an even larger location in Lahaina, Maui, where he could serve an even larger population. I had to leave Blue Bamboo when I adopted my first son, but I always considered Blue Bamboo to be my first baby. We did a lot of good work on Maui through that wonderful little clinic.

From Maui, I moved to Rhode Island, and settled down in beautiful East Greenwich, RI, where I opened Phoenix Fertility Center. I've had the pleasure of helping many women conceive and maintain healthy pregnancies. I've kept in touch with many of these fertility patients over the years. Generally, after 6 months to a year of being in my program, these patients conceived and stayed pregnant, regardless if they had failed IVF cycles in their past. What's interesting to me is that many of them went on to conceive their second and third children without coming to see me. Some of them weren't even trying to get pregnant. I'd get an email announcing that they were pregnant and asking if they could come in for some consolidating treatments during their first trimester. Getting their bodies to the point where they had some nourishment to devote to the reproductive process was the key in many cases. In Chinese Medicine, we believe that a pregnancy can be a very healing event. I think that this was true in many of my fertility patients' cases.

Most of my practice is devoted to helping couples conceive healthy babies. My fertility program has been developed over 10 years and has helped many of my patients get pregnant, when they were told they had a less than 1% of having a baby. I mostly treat infertility, menstrual issues, hormone imbalances, pregnancy issues, breech presentation, and menopause. Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat any ailment and I have some patients that come in for pain, digestive issues, insomnia, etc. I absolutely love my work and my patients. See my Testimonial Page to read my patients inspiring stories on acupuncture and fertility.

When I'm not treating patients in the clinic, I teach seminars on acupuncture and fertility, attend conferences, work on my website, devour books and journals and travel. I've also started teaching through webinars online and I absolutely love this new technology! In early 2013 I'm launching my Group Fertility Coaching Program. We're going to have a dedicated forum, where you have direct access to me and we'll have live coaching calls, where we'll get together as a group. I'm very excited about the coaching program, as it will help me realize my dream of touching many women's lives, beyond the one on one interaction that I've been blesses with in the clinic. I absolutely love empowering women to take control of their health.

When I first entered acupuncture school, each of the students was asked what they hoped to do with their education. My response was that I wanted to eliminate PMS and menstrual cramps from the planet. I felt that this would help both women and men live happier and more fulfilling lives. Now, after studying the menstrual cycle for over 10 years, I know that regulating a women's cycle is the key to her health and fertility. This forms the foundation of my acupuncture and fertility program, along with my focus on male fertility.

My future aspirations include expanding my acupuncture and fertility programs to include live seminars throughout the world. I'm in the process of making a series of e-Courses based on my research and experience in the clinic. I hope that these e-Courses will help you better understand your body and assist you in making well informed decisions when dealing with fertility issues. In the mean time, I hope that my site will help you gain a deeper understanding of your body, menstrual cycle and fertility. I'm rebuilding my site from the ground up in 2012 - 2013, so expect a lot of cool, new things to appear : )

My husband's and my struggles with fertility are what continued to spur my interest in this specialty through the years. One of my current interests is helping women to move on from the fertility conveyor belt. However, I couldn't do this until I had done it myself. It took me 12 years to move on and that's just too long! I'll be sharing more about my own journey in my Babydust Newsletter. There's so much to learn from our stories. Thanks for reading my story. I hope that you feel like you know me a bit better now.