Most patients come to Evergreen Acupuncture and Herbal Clinic in south Charlotte because they are desperate.
"Traditional medicine has not worked for them," explains Kevin Yunsang Kim, 38, the clinic's founder and acupuncturist, "so they come to me."
Acupuncture is a family tradition for Kim, whose father and grandfather practiced the traditional Oriental medicine, considered on a par with Western medicine in Kim's birthplace South Korea, where he was raised.
He obtained a Doctor of Oriental Medicine from Dongguk University in Seoul in 1996 that required four years of study followed by two years of internships.
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Kim moved to southern California in 1998 to establish an acupuncture school in conjunction with UCLA.
After seven years of training others, he yearned to have his own clinic and determined that Charlotte was the most desirable of the cities in contention for his relocation.
He opened the Evergreen Acupuncture and Herbal Clinic (his wife came up with the name, noting that evergreen is always green and that Kim's mission was to make people healthy all the time) in June of 2006.
Most of Kim's patients, ranging in age from 4 years old to 88, come to him because they are in pain. Fees range from $50 to $70 per session and some insurance policies cover up to 26 treatments per year.
The most common ailments that induce people to seek alternative medicine are disc, back and neck problems, arthritis, stress, ADHD and ADD, and allergies.
"I put needles into people's bodies to get their energies to move in different directions," Kim said. "I also give them herbal remedies to address their problems at their root, such as their immune systems or their circulatory systems."
The needles Kim uses in acupuncture are more successful than Western medicine at remedying certain conditions because, as Kim puts it, "they are more precise than hands. They isolate and locate pressure points that stimulate different energy flows."
The needles do not hurt because they are extremely thin, measuring .2 millimeters across and puncturing the skin approximately 1/10 of an inch.
Even smaller, microneedles are available for children and patients who are sensitive.
Acupuncture is premised on the notion that each organ in the human body is represented in an energy channel that flows through the entire body.
Acupuncture has located "acupoints," where qi (pronounced chi, meaning life force) can be isolated and stimulated when the flow is interrupted. Kim also relies on his extensive collection of herbal remedies (more than 1,000 herbs that he uses in more than 500 combinations) to treat his patients.
His herbal pills and concoctions are natural and organic, and, he said, "they also have the advantage of being customized for each person."
Susan Luu, 44, the clinic manager, said she knows Kim is doing something right because "patients feel so much better when they leave."