By John L. Guerra


The lion fish on the reef didn’t have a chance. The spear point pierced its spiked sides and it was over. Just like that. We shoot them for that reason, reef needs to be protected.


There is irony, or if one prefers, poetry in its demise: The hunter, Dr. Ashley Hoyt, is a certified acupuncturist–a practitioner of spearing patients with needles.


Of course, that’s an extremely boorish way of describing acupuncture–the ancient medical discipline that consists of inserting very small needles through a patient’s skin.


“It’s more appropriate to refer to them as pins,” Hoyt says. “They’re solid, not hollow like hypodermic needles, and very thin. They’re painless and made of stainless steel.”


Hoyt laughs at the comparison between spearfishing and acupuncture. “You could say I’m looking after the health of the reef; lion fish are invasive species and destroying the other sea life there.”


She is taking a rare Saturday to go spearfishing from her boat. During the week she is director of her own Clinic of Alternative Medicine in Key West. Her skills at acupuncture form the center of the practice but her staff also provides massage therapy, vitamin injection therapy, nutritional and dietary programs, reflexology, and other services. She provides natural medicine for women’s health to treat pre-menstrual syndrome, back pain, depression, headaches and infertility, among others.


I like to think of my office as being a clinic with a spa-like atmosphere,” Hoyt said. “We do skin care, as well as stress prevention and abatement, and wellness education.”


Though the general public still holds natural and alternative medicine at arm’s length, the rest of the world–especially the Orient–continue to rely on non-pharmaceutical treatments.


Once scoffed at by the American Medical Association, alternative medicine is “about anything that isn’t Western medicine,” Hoyt said. “It’s becoming more and more accepted and embraced. The National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization embrace acupuncture for treatment of a hundred different syndromes and symptoms.”


Hoyt, a licensed and certified acupuncturist physician, earned her skills and license at Logan’s Chiropractic College in St. Louis, Mo., and in North Miami at the Worsley Institute. She came to the alternative medicine profession after seeing it work.


“My older siblings got into health food, things like that,” she said. “My two older sisters are chiropractors, and my brother is a massage therapist. I grew up around the practice.


“According to Chinese medicine, as long we have free-flowing circulation of ch’i throughout the channels to the body, we are at our optimal health in body, mind, and spirit,”she said. “Ch’i flows through the meridian system, which is similar to our circulatory, nervous, lymphatic, and muscular system.”

By inserting pins (she orders them by boxes of 500 because Florida law requires them to be disposable) into the skin at various depths, it restores the natural flow of Ch’i, thus restoring it to places where it’s needed. Though this may sound like fantasy, it works.

“It has been used for people recovering from heroin addiction, which has a very low success rate. By using auricular accupuncture (inserting pins in the area around the ears) it has tripled the success rate,” Hoyt said.”

It also helps with tobacco cessation, weight loss, and other substance issues, according to the AMA.

Hoyt’s alternative medicine center is planning a wellness day/health fair for cancer patients and cancer survivors at 21st Century Oncology Center. She’ll hold seminars and provide alternative medicine techniques that help with pain, sleep problems and anxiety, as well as other help.

“These techniques really work,” she said. “If it didn’t, it wouldn’t still be around. Take phrenology for example. It was in broad use in the 1850s, the reading of bumps on a person’s head to gauge health. It didn’t last the test of time. Acupuncture has been around for 3,000 years because it works.”

If you want final proof that alternative medicine is here to stay? Health insurance companies–Aetna, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, Coventry, First Health, Florida Municipal, Mail Handlers, United Healthcare and others–cover her Hoyt’s services.

The Clinic of Alternative Medicine’s phone number is 305-296-5358

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