In showbiz, when a play or a movie has box-office longevity, we say it has “legs.” The same could be said for traditional medical therapies that have lasted for thousands of years. When we consider that early hunter-gatherers probably noted the good effects of some plants they ate and the bad effects of others, we can reason that herbology has roots (pun intended) going back at least two million years. And if the first human to soothe pain by rubbing where it hurts probably lived in a cave, it’s fair to say therapeutic massage predates buildings. Traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, is over four thousand years old. Written descriptions of traditional medicine date back at least that far.

By comparison, modern medicine as practiced in mainstream America, the kind based on complex invasive surgery and massive amounts of synthetic drugs, dates back only about one hundred years. In the overall scheme of things, modern medicine is still in the experimental stage. And while some observers get confused and call modern medicine “traditional,” that’s hardly an accurate descriptor. For something to be labeled a tradition, it has to have lasted over time. The jury’s still out on what part of modern medicine, if any, will pass the test of time. Heck, a large percentage of modern drugs don’t even make it a couple years before they’re pulled off the market due to ineffectiveness or causing harm. It’s worth noting then, that Omaha is blessed with a number of physicians and practitioners who offer holistic or traditional options to drugs or surgery.

Clinics with legs — long and short. Dr. Shawn Schmidt has been a practicing chiropractic physician since 1990. Chiropractic is, of course, a singular, standalone modality that primarily involves correcting alignment of the spine in order to engage the body’s innate healing energy. Dr. Schmidt rapidly integrated other modalities into his clinic when he founded Nebraska Natural Health Center in 1994. Traveling to China to study acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine in 1993, he incorporated aspects of that medical paradigm into the practice. Herbology, nutritional counseling, massage and other techniques soon followed.

“I’d call it a synergistic application of Eastern modalities, European medicine and American biochemistry and nutritional science,” said Schmidt when pressed to sum up the orientation of the clinic in 2012.

Dr. Jeffrey Passer may be the first M.D. in our area who embraced some non-conventional therapies when his office included acupuncture, anti-aging medicine, herbal therapies and nutrition in the late-90s. While still recognizing the value of traditional Eastern modalities, his offices now focus on weight control, skincare and the application of many therapies in addition to conventional Western medicine.

In 2002, clinical herbalist and Licensed Medical Nutrition Therapist Nicholas Schnell was in practice at Dr. Passer’s office. By early 2003, Four Winds Natural Healing Center opened in its current location. It included massage therapy, yoga classes, licensed acupuncturist Joel Dunning along with a host of alternatives to the Western medical convention. Since then, Dunning has branched off into his own practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine and also offers a broad range of modalities at his clinic.

Dr. Patricia Ryan was and is a pioneering conventional M.D. who has long embraced the practice of a holistic or natural approach to healing while respecting the advances of modern technology. Her office offered reiki and energy medicine back in the late ‘90s, also integrating an awareness of Eastern modalities with conventional family practice medicine. Now she has one of the busiest medical clinics in Omaha with a broad offering of modalities and practitioners. Known as Alternatives, the name is apt. The clinic offers state-of-the-art technological diagnoses and innovative application of traditional holistic practices under one roof.

Around 2000, Sandy Aquila and her mother Natalie Goodkind began a major renovation of a landmark building in Omaha’s Old Market. The transformation was no less than amazing when the Omaha Healing Arts Center opened in 2002. Acupuncture, reiki, massage, yoga, tai chi, nutritional counseling, psychotherapy, pranic healing, meditation and more find their way under the umbrella of the OM Center. In addition, the large community hall has hosted a wide variety of presentations covering healing and art and usually combining the two into healing arts.

One of the oldest ongoing clinics in Omaha to offer a full range of holistic therapies is the Omaha Yoga and Bodywork Center founded by yogini Susie Amendola in 1983. With an extensive background in ayurveda, Amendola was tabbed by cardiologist Dean Ornish, M.D. to head up the yoga portion of his heart disease reversal program.

No mention of integration of Western medicine with traditional therapy in Omaha would be complete without noting the early contributions by the late Jay Parsow, M.D. In his medical practice, Parsow shifted toward a holistic approach by 1996. His office was Clinic of Integrative Medicine. He adopted intuitive medicine, used acupuncture as well as cranio-sacral therapy. His practitioners provided, in his words, “…beyond their professional degrees, they have different styles and levels of intuitive skills. It’s how we learn about our patients and leave no stone unturned in helping them heal or feel better.”

The application of holistic therapies continues to grow in the Omaha area. Just this month one of the newer locations offering a synthesis of east and west, Omaha Integrative Care, will celebrate its one-year anniversary.

These are just a few of our options. Certainly there are many more and each is worthy of mention.

Be well.

Heartland Healing examines various alternative forms of healing. It is provided as a source of information, not as medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Access past columns at

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