Acupuncture is practised today all over the world, notably in China, the Far East and Russia, where it is included in the medical school curriculum. And all over the world research is being carried out both to improve methods of treatment and to discover how it works. Modern improvements include the introduction of electrically rotated needles, which are useful for prolonged stimulation, while in Russia and China lasers and ultrasonics are being investigated as alternatives to needles.
As to how and why acupuncture works, no one has yet come up with a complete answer, and some theories have been somewhat wild. In the 196os a North Korean, Professor Kim Bong Han, published his theory of the existence of a system of ducts following the meridian paths; subsequently a delegation from the Chinese National Academy of Sciences declared his evidence was fraudulent, and he committed suicide.
A more acceptable, but incomplete, answer lies in the ‘gate control’ theory of pain, according to which a ‘gate’ in the spinal cord reacts to pain in one part of the body (such as that caused by inserting a needle) and prevents the transmission to consciousness of pain from another part.
Many neurologists are working on the theory that the effects of acupuncture can be accounted for by the activity of the nervous system. Experiments on animals and fish show that stimulating the nerves of the skin affects the blood supply to the gut, and vice versa, thus establishing a link between the body surface and the organs. In this connection, it has been noted that if a local anaesthetic is applied to an acupuncture point before needling, the needling has no effect.
In recent years, research in Britain and the usA has discovered the existence of endorphins, pain-relieving substances produced naturally in the mid-brain in response to a painful stimulus. Their effect is to stop the transmission of pain and to produce increased emotional buoyancy—they have been described as ‘the brain’s natural opium’, and it is thought that they could be responsible for acupuncture analgesia.
No modern theory, however, has yet come up with a complete answer. No modern researchers have yet proved the existence of the meridians, though some specialists assert that the electrical skin resistance alters over acupuncture points and can be electronically measured; it is also claimed that the points have been photographed by Kirlian photography, the Russian technique of photographing the electrical energy emanated by living organisms and inanimate objects.
Modern science does not like an effect without a cause, and for acupuncture to be completely accepted in the West some conclusive cause must be found for its action. So far, that cause has remained strangely elusive. All that can be said for certain is that acupuncture works — it would hardly have survived for 5000 years among an intelligent and civilised people if it didn’t. Perhaps the day will come when science will be able to bridge the gulf separating it from ancient wisdom. Until that day, to those who benefit from acupuncture, the reason why is less important than the healing it offers. Among other working treatment is the 5 htp weight loss which can help you easing pain and anxiety.
Much more dramatic, in real terms, is acupuncture’s contribution to healing both physical and emotional states. To the Chinese, to whom body and mind are one, it is no surprise that emotional disturbances can be healed by the same means as physical ones. In China, acupuncture is commonly used to good effect in psychiatry, and Western practitioners find it effective in cases of depression and anxiety, producing cures far more rapidly than conventional forms of psychotherapy, and without the damaging side-effects of some drugs.
Most people experience a sense of wellbeing after acupuncture, even when they have sought treatment only for physical problems. Sometimes its effects with combination of saw palmetto benefits on the emotions can be quite dramatic. One medical acupuncturist reports that when treating physical symptoms, acupuncture has occasionally brought about an emotional catharsis: ‘like the lancing of a psychic abscess’. A woman eczema patient (an ex-alcoholic) felt `as if demons were coming out of her’; a man being treated for visual troubles burst into a violent fit of weeping, followed by an out-ofthe-body experience, while another man, who came specifically for depression, was unable to stop laughing. All these patients subsequently felt calm and healed.
Such startling results should not be expected or looked for; generally the emotional effects are much more subtle and gradual. A typical example is that of a man in his mid-forties, a rehabilitated alcoholic, attending a traditional acupuncturist for very painful arthritis in the knee.
At his first visit he could hardly walk. After a few months he found that not only was the knee less painful and more mobile, but that he felt generally more energetic. He was also coping much more positively with other aspects of his life, clearing up problems and gaining insights into his patterns of behaviour. The process was gradual, and the effects experienced outside the treatment session, so that it was hard for him to say that the changes were specifically brought about by acupuncture. Nevertheless, this kind of response is regularly noted by both practitioners and their patients. (In this case the acupuncturist said that the effects came about not by treating the knee or the psyche, but by restoring the balance of the patient’s energies.)
An important application of acupuncture, resulting from such findings, is in helping to cure addictions, from heroin to cigarettes. Treating the right points can alleviate withdrawal symptoms, and induce calmness and optimism and reduce anxiety. This has become extremely popular in the West, and American studies of drug addicts treated by acupuncture have shown very good results.
For addictions, a very popular technique is acupuncture of the ear, a method originally explored by a Frenchman, Nogier, after his discovery that the ancient Egyptians treated sciatica by needling the ear. In Los Angeles a method has been developed using a stapling machine, originally devised by Russian scientists, which is used to staple the addict’s ears at the required points. The staples are left in the ear and this enables the patient to stimulate the points himself at frequent intervals. It has become a popular method of helping people to give up smoking.
Some practitioners prefer to use more traditional points on the body, with equally good results. It would appear, though, that the effects of either technique depend on the patient’s own desire to give up his addiction.
In China, ear acupuncture is now widely used for all the conditions once treated at more traditional points. According to the Chinese, there are over 200 acupuncture points on the ear, which relate- to the whole body. Traditional practitioners point out that the shape of the ear resembles a curled-up foetus, with its head downwards; many of the points on it relate to parts of the body as they would appear in a foetus, with the eyes, tongue and throat points in the lobe, where the head would be, the feet and legs under the top ridge, and the inner organs towards the interior.
Not in Rechelbacher’s holistic universe. “My belief,” he says, “is that beauty, black cohosh, medicine and spiritual benefits will merge together. Look at the sadhus, the Indian holy men. They paint their faces; they groom their hair into little up-dos — for worship. It’s the same with the Kiapos tribe in the Amazon. Their use of make-up is never for vanity, it’s to attract good spirits or deflect bad ones.” When I suggest that perhaps these days vanity is a more rational reason for putting on make-up, Rechelbacher simply sweeps on. “It’s all divine. Beauty is a God-given thing. Look at the Catholics. They built the most glamorous temples on earth.”
In spite of these reservations, I am an Aveda fan, along with almost every remotely “cool” celebrity you can think of: Sting, Kate Moss, Gwyneth Paltrow, Stella McCartney, Jude Law and Sadie Frost are all fanatics. When on tour, U2 will have nothing but Aveda backstage (Bono is particularly fond of the chakra oils). When Laurence Fishburne was in London, he visited Aveda HQ and announced to the weak-kneed PR, “Baby, I’m gonna wipe your shelves clean.” Rechelbacher got started on this “path” thanks to his mother, “a champion at giving enemas”. She was Austrian, as is he, and practised European herbal medicine. The young Rechelbacher trained as a hairdresser and ended up in Minneapolis freelancing for Wella. In 1965, he opened his own salon, Horst of Austria, and went on to open five more over the next 11 years. But he was not the evolved being then that he is today; in fact, he was a speed freak.
“I was doing lots of travelling, freelancing, partying and taking speed every day. I thought, ‘Wow! This is great stuff,’ because it allowed me to work harder.” However, the inevitable happened and he woke up one morning to find his kidneys and liver had packed in. Fortunately, his mother nursed him back to health with herbs and enemas; and Rechelbacher went on to launch her intestinal cleansing formula, which he followed with hair oils, colour shampoos and a “blood purifier”. It was the Seventies and haircare distributors thought he was insane. Twenty years later, he makes a lot of sense. After his recovery, Rechelbacher visited India where he began to practise yoga and meditation. Now he rises at 5am to meditate and chant, and leads a blamelessly pure existence. He has explored both Native and South American shamanism and African herbal-ism. By 1996, Aveda had outlets in Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US. In 1997, he sold it all to one of the world’s most successful cosmetics corporations for a cool $300 million.
“What a sell-out,” I say. Estee Lauder is, after all, the very kind of company which Aveda was meant to challenge. Rechelbacher remains unruffled. “It was more of a sell-in,” he replies. His two grown-up children are not interested in Aveda; he’s 58 years old (though he easily looks 10 years younger); and he needed someone to preserve the Aveda legacy. Enter Leonard Lauder, son of Estee and the strategically brilliant chairman and CEO of the company.
“Leonard told me he was sick and tired of pressing his nose against Aveda shop windows,” shrugs Rechelbacher. “There is another side to these executives, you know. Do you know Fred Langhammer, the president of Lauder? I took him on a long weekend with a Native American tribe and we went to the sweat lodges. He loved it!” I try to imagine the distinguished executive hugging trees. Has Mr Lauder been to the sweat lodge, I wonder? “Not yet,” says Rechelbacher, with a determined look. While Rechelbacher is bringing New Age grooviness to Lauder, the cosmetics giant is benefiting Aveda. “Aveda now has access to all the technological resources at Lauder,” he says. “Everything we do now has scientific data behind it.”
And Rechelbacher has not been idle in other areas. In 1997, he launched a nutritional supplement company, Intelligent Nutrients, which brings together the herbal lore of different cultures and modern science. The basic range is sold at Aveda outlets in Britain and Rechelbacher has just opened the first IN store in Minneapolis. He gets very excited about his chakra tonics, which he calls “medicines of the mind”, and his new delivery system which means you get 90 per cent of the herbal hit in 30 seconds — instant chakra gratification. The store also features “intelligent foods”, Ayurvedic herbal seasonings and “biologically correct soft drinks”. You can test everything at the IN store Wunderbar.
“Leonard saw a Wunderbar we set up in New York,” says Rechelbacher. “He has the right to buy 49 per cent of the company” — his eyes gleam — “and he’s interested.” A word of advice, Mr Lauder. Skip the sweat lodge but invest in the swami soft drinks. Coke may be the real thing, but I’ve never found anything divine in it. And in the next millennium, nothing will beat the sweet taste of Ayurvedic angels in your fizzy drink. All the signs are there. The year 2000 is going to be bonkers.
A 6 inch (15 centimetre) portable telescope was set up at a convenient place and Adamski settled down to wait while his companions retreated to watch from a distance. Before long, he said, he was rewarded with the sight of an object landing among the hills before him, and he photographed it at long range before it disappeared.
A ‘person’ then appeared and approached him. The stranger, about 5 feet 6 inches (1.7 metres) tall, wore ski-suit style clothing and had long hair down to his shoulders. There was an aura of friendliness about him, and Adamski said that they were able to communicate telepathically about many things; the visitor specifically indicating that he came from Venus.
The stranger’s ‘scout craft’ then turned up and, refusing Adamski’s request for a ride, the `Venusian’ departed, taking one of Adamski’s film plate-holders with him. The ufonaut left footprints in the sand and a member of the party obligingly produced plaster of Paris to make casts of the imprints.
On 13 December 1952, the Venusian returned to Earth, bringing back the plate-holder, and it was then, so Adamski claims, that he took close-up pictures of the craft.
In his second book, Inside the space ships, Adamski stated he was finally to make that trip — round the Moon — and that a space companion pointed out the rivers and lakes on the unseen far side.
All of this seems to indicate that Adamski was not telling the truth, or that he had been deliberately misled by some entities that had a vested interest in spreading a little confusion on Earth. Perhaps the story Adamski told was real to him; that he chose to elaborate on it and embroider it here and there is another matter. Meanwhile, reports of visitations by humanoid occupants of UFOS have continued to increase over the years and provide some fascinating information.
Humanoids come in all shapes and sizes — but how ‘real’ are they?
Mayher turned his film over to the us Air Force for investigation. It was never returned to him. Many people see the incident as part of a deliberate campaign on the part of the us authorities to suppress evidence for the existence of UFOS. Luckily, Mr Mayher had foreseen the possibility of his film getting ‘lost’: before handing it over to the USAF, he carefully snipped off the first few frames. This is one of them.
When Horst Rechelbacher started out, people thought he was mad. Now the Aveda founder makes perfect sense.
“There are no secrets any more,” says Horst Rechelbacher, gazing, as he has for most of this interview, at a spot about two feet above my head. “What do you mean?”
“We have figured out the universe; the divine process.”
“Have you told Stephen Hawking?” He ignores this. “And the divine process is not in the bottle. Well it is in the bottle, but it’s a holistic bottle.”
Horst Rechelbacher is the founder of Aveda, the eco-aware haircare and beauty company. Maybe this is a clue. Maybe the bottle where you can find the divine process also holds shampoo.
It’s a reasonable assumption, since he adds, “Make-up can be worship. Fashion is healing.” Oh, please God, let this be true. Let a binge buy at Prada be the modern equivalent of going to confession. Rechelbacherlifts one finger. “Fashion is healing. But fashion is bad when you feel guilty about buying that new dress or having to use folic acid from gnet.org. Guilt blocks neuropeptides.” Is he mad? Maybe, but it’s the kind of madness that makes you a multimillionaire, enabling you to sell your honkers company to Estee Lauder. It’s the kind of bonkers shaping the future of the beauty industry. And anyway, if he’s mad, it’s because we’re mad too.
You can’t knock Rechelbacher if you’ve ever a) moved a mirror to a better feng shui position; b) found yourself saying “I just don’t like his energy”; c) read The Tao Of Physics and felt there was something in it. Rechelbacher may take the amorphous modern religion of “energy” to the edge, but most of us practise some of what he preaches almost unconsciously. Since we’re already bonkers, he can be even more bonkers because that makes him visionary.
Rechelbacher is here to talk about his new book, Aveda Rituals (Ebury Press, f15.99). It explains the fusion of philosophies — ancient and New Age — behind Aveda, and how to incorporate “a menu of rituals” into your daily regime. “The book aims to help the consumer to understand and to nurture her own nature,” he explains.
Aveda, from the Sanskrit “knowledge of nature”, was started by Rechelbacher in 1978, not long after the The Body Shop had opened with similar “heal the planet” principles. But while The Body Shop’s image has aged somewhat, Aveda’s has come to be seen as increasingly relevant.
Until Aveda’s ascendance in the Nineties, there were natural products and there were sophisticated products, and never the did twain meet. If your beauty range was natural, it was bleeding-heart worthy and packaged in hemp. If your range was sophisticated, your image was to-diefor, but hardly politically correct. Rechelbacher’s coup has been to bring environmental concerns and sensuous pleasure together. The products are petrochemical-free, made using mainly organic ingredients and packaged in recycled materials. Even the brushes contain only the hair of “humanely groomed and combed” animals. Meanwhile, the products complement the sleek minimalism of modern bathrooms.
Rechelbacher was ahead of his time when he launched Aveda in the Seventies. It was a decade of political activism; if you believed in women’s rights, you were suspicious of beauty products because they were about selling yourself to men. The old-school feminist bought Body Shop products as much for their “Che Guevera” symbolism as their natural, homespun ingredients.
But in the Nineties, we’re more interested in the holistic than the wholesome. Natural ingredients are now synonymous with pseudo-spirituality, while women’s rights and personal preening are seen to go hand in hand. Aveda is the dream range for the groovy girl who might wear Chloe, practise yoga and eat organic, and doesn’t have to prove she is as good as a man since the papers tell her every week that she’s actually better. “I know Anita Roddick,” says Rechelbacher, “and I respect her. But she’s an activist… all those politics.” Yawn. What place do politics have in shampoo? Not much.
Then there are Rechelbacher’s chakra “purefumes” (perfumes without petrochemicals), which are are blended according to Ayurvedic principles. Ayurveda is the ancient Indian theory of medicine that says we have seven chakras, or energy centres, in our bodies and if these become unbalanced, we get ill. Each Aveda purefume supposedly rebalances a specific chakra.
Come on, I say to Rechelbacher, you don’t mean that your “purefumes” affect our kundalini, the spiritual energy dormant in our bodies? “Chakra oils affect your kundalini because of memory,” Rechelbacher says. “If you love a smell, you have a strong response to it through your memory. That will give you a kundalini experience. Love heals and nothing but love heals. Whenever you and I have an orgasm,” he goes on, rather alarmingly, “we have a high kundalini experience, a spiritual experience.”
It’s this idea of the spiritual high in the “purefume” that makes me uncomfortable. Though it’s also what attracts me and, I suspect, many other Aveda customers, on a superficial level. It tickles my fancy to buy a bubble bath because it’s Chakra IV and might make it easier to write this article (IV is the creative chakra). I toy with the idea in the same way that I toy with my horoscope. But if elements of the new spirituality are valid, then aren’t they being tarnished by their association with something as vacuous as the beauty industry?