How Hollywood Is Doing Acupuncture "Add-Ons"

Michael Phelps with cupping marks on his back at the 2016 Summer Olympics

Leave it to entertainment-industry Angelenos to elevate Eastern healing, with exotic add-ons that feature everything from gold ear seeds to a muscle massage that involves a buffalo horn.

Regular pain-relieving acupuncture still reigns in the entertainment industry: Connie Britton, Wayward Pines actress Carla Gugino, actor Robert Patrick, film and television producer Greg Berlanti and Insight Entertainment producer Matthew Lesher are all fans of Beverly Hills licensed acupuncturist Behnaz Forat, Ph.D, who has practiced Chinese medicine for more than 22 years. Forat explains how it works: "Acupuncture manipulates the flow of energy throughout the body by the insertion of thin needles in specific points, stimulating nerve fibers and releasing endorphins that block incoming pain signals, thus helping to relieve discomfort." A typical session is about 30 to 60 minutes and most clients become so relaxed they fall asleep. "I always look forward to seeing Behnaz," says Gugino. "I feel really rested afterwards and it's the best stress reliever." Jenn Wexler, senior vp marketing at Saban Brands, is also an avid enthusiast of acupuncture: "I get treatments a few times a week as it helps with a variety of issues from the common cold and healing sore muscles to pain management and increasing my energy levels."

"These treatments are popular because they work," asserts Dr. Barbara Sturm, who utilized acupuncture in her treatments as an orthopedic surgeon before specializing in nonsurgical skin procedures. "I found that many chronic issues such as migraines and back pain couldn't be properly addressed with conventional medicine, but 10 to 15 sessions of acupuncture would heal it."

But leave it to Hollywood Angelenos to elevate this Eastern healing practice, customizing it with exotic add-ons from gold ear seeds to a muscle massage that involves a buffalo horn. Here are three popular add-on modalities. Most add-ons go for a small fee in the neighborhood of $10 to $15 on top of a regular acupuncture fee, which is usually under $100:

Gua Sha: This is a traditional Chinese treatment used by athletes and celebrities for muscle soreness and pain, utilizing a smooth, shaped buffalo horn (or a piece of jade, stainless steel or plastic) that's repeatedly stroked over moist skin. Sherrie Matthews is a licensed acupuncturist/herbalist who has a masters degree in Chinese medicine and treats Fox and Disney executives, Ray Donovan's Embeth Davidtz, film and TV producer Naomi Scott (wife of actor Adam Scott) and Amanda Anka, the daughter of Paul Anka and wife of Jason Bateman: "This helps brings blood to the surface, releasing tension in the muscles," says Matthews. Like cupping, it also leaves marks, but doesn't create giant bruises. "If you have shoulder and back pain, it's an immediate release," adds Matthews. ($15)

Moxa: Short for moxibustion, this treatment involves the application of heat using mugwort, a Chinese herb that smells similar to a newly legalized-in-Los Angeles herb. "Moxa stimulates the flow of energy and blood," says Matthews. It's placed inside a copper stick, pot or box, burned and applied in a circular motion around the area with pain. "My clients with stomachaches, menstrual cramps and headaches have all gotten relief from Moxa." ($30)

Ear seeds: These seeds from the vaccaria plant, grown in China and parts of Europe, are taped to acupuncture points on parts of the outer ear to regulate the working of the body's internal organs for up to a week. The newest, most coveted versions among the Hollywood set are made from gold and resemble a tiny piece of jewelry. "Our ears are filled with acupressure points, and like any other points on the body, gently pressing on the ear seeds when feeling panicked or stressed helps to calm the nervous system," says Vicky Vlachonis, European osteopath and author of The Body Doesn't Lie; her clients include Chris Martin, Nicole Richie and Gywneth Paltrow. ($7; $12 for 24-karat seeds)

Jade roller: Used for centuries in Chinese medicine, jade is a natural cooling stone recognized for its healing, detoxing and rejuvenating properties. Stroking the roller over the face is said to help circulate energy, reduce inflammation and even puffiness around the eyes. ($10)