Acupuncture and Mental Health

A Q&A with City Acupuncture Circle Founder JoseLo Guitierrez

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and what it is you do?

A: My name is JoseLo Gutierrez. I am the senior acupuncturist and founder at City Acupuncture Circle which is a community acupuncture studio in Dupont Circle, Washington DC that started in 2012. I came from NYC where I was working in the insurance industry, but that work didn’t quite cut it for me. I eventually decided that I wanted a career in affordable and friendly medicine. I didn’t want to rely on third parties to decide whether or not you can get the healthcare you wanted, so I decided to open a community acupuncture studio where people pay anything they can and come whenever they want to — and it’s on the patient’s agenda rather than the clinician’s agenda. This concept (a community acupuncture studio) was not my idea, there is actually a national network of community acupuncture clinics called the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA). POCA has inspired a lot of acupuncturists to deliver medicine differently. Community Acupuncture is very different from an Acupuncturist. Acupuncturists will dedicate 1-2 hours to a patient, and in community acupuncture, we don’t do that. Instead, we meet people for 15 – 20 minutes for an initial consultation and then we let them rest and let the needles do the work. The relationship with the acupuncturist develops over time, and this relationship develops through medicine, not through language necessarily. Acupuncture doesn’t need that kind of dialogue, or at least community acupuncture doesn’t. This allows us to treat multiple patients at once, let them pay whatever they can afford, and let them come as many times as they want or need to get better. I studied physical therapy and psychology but I never practiced anything to do with that, my intention was to look for a way to integrate the healing of the body to the healing of the mind. So for about 20 years I have been studying and practicing medicine and I found that this was the best way to deliver. I don’t do herbal medicine or counseling around nutrition or psychotherapy. I just specialize in the language and the energetic medicine that is given by the acupuncture meridian therapy, and we treat thousands of people a year this way.
Q: How does the treatment work?
A: Well, that’s a big question and to answer, but to answer it simply would be this, our life is made out of two main forces, Ying and Yang. Ying is substance, Yang is not. Your physicality, your body, your bones are Ying, and your thoughts, memories, dreams, cognition, is yang, and one engenders the other. Our bodies have these organs (Ying) – and the organs function (Yang) — the function spreads from the organ and Chinese medicine has a theory that follows the trajectory of how this flows through the body so if we place needles in your arm, we may be treating your elbow, but we also can be treating your large intestine because that is the physiology, the physiology is how the body functions, but the pathology is when physiology goes sideways (Pathology is the medical discipline that describes conditions typically observed during a disease state, whereas physiology is the biological discipline that describes processes or mechanisms operating within an organism.). SO what the acupuncture does, is it tries to harmonize this flow. If there is excess then we try to bring energy to move away, if there is deficiency then we try to bring energy to consolidate – so in other words, navigating and redistributing energy. Acupuncture is like a broker of Wall Street, but we are not moving money, we are moving people’s resources of energy. We are not giving people energy, we are not injecting people with chi, that’s not how it works, we move people’s energies which engenders and moves people’s fluids and moves people’s blood. There are these networks of channels and we place needles to manipulate the flow.
Q: With regards to mental health, what is the most common symptom you see patients suffering from?
A: As you know we’re in Washington DC, people come here to try to make an impact. Because of this, there are very smart, driven, high achievers, and a lot of competition which can lead to high stress. So I would say the main symptom I see with patients has to be anxiety. There is so much drive and energy, and when that gets out of hand or it gets depleted and the anxiety can leave people feeling depressed.
Q: What is acupuncture’s effect on anxiety?
Imagine your life (the physical body) is a candle and the wax of the candle is the water element (the kidneys) the flame is the heart – so in Chinese philosophy – acupuncture is applied Chinese philosophy in the form of medical practice. So the idea is of the fulfillment of a purpose – what are we here for? And this image of a candle, your health is not really the integrity of the wax or how big the flame is, your health is the proper communication of water and fire (heart and kidney) or the proper communication of the flame and the wax and there is an avenue for that, you can call that the wick (or could call it whatever). The purpose of life is not just to consume the candle properly but to warm an area and to brighten an area, the warmth and the life of the fire is what we ca’’ the cirrocumuli or the purpose of that life. So anxiety is when the flame gets a little crazy, it starts to flicker and burn the candle in different ways, to the point where it doesn’t even feel like you’re holding a candle, but rather a dynamite stick.
Q: How many times does one have to do acupuncture to feel the effects?
A: That’s a tough question, it’s kind of like asking how many times do you need to work out to be fit. Well, it depends on how fit you want to be, it depends on what kind of relationship you want to build with your body. But to not be too vague, I would say try it once a week for a few months and see what that does for you, see if it’s a medicine that you can create a healthy relationship with. For chronic conditions, you should probably get treatment once a week for a few months and for acute conditions, you would want to get treatment about 3 times a week for 3 weeks. That should give you enough information about how you’re responding so you can learn what the medicine can do for you and the acupuncturist can adjust accordingly.
Q: Is there a certain way you should feel during the treatment to get the maximum benefits?
There is no rule for when or what you need to feel. Some people are relaxed, some people are alert, some people are emotional, some people are overwhelmed, some people feel bliss, some people feel like hell, and some people have a spiritual experience. So there is no guideline. The way I prefer to practice is to always make sure that my patients are physically comfortable. Sometimes people feel uncomfortable because they are emotional or they are in pain, but then afterward they feel better. So it’s really a statement not about me or what I want, but about what people need. And sometimes the needles will just do all the work — for example, when you’re trying to relax somebody might get agitated during the process, but they leave here, they realize that blockage was released, and although they might hate acupuncture in the moment they feel great afterward. And hopefully, they can have the next time they will know that the medicine will do that for them. It’s about people getting an experience that will hopefully teach them something about their own experience, about themselves.

Posted in Our blog

Please consider supporting REBUILDING TOGETHER in MEXICO

reconstruyendonos morelosWe are part of a community of parents from the Waldorf School of Cuernavaca, who in response to the earthquake of September 19th in Morelos, Mexico, organized ourselves to offer personal and direct help to families affected.Thanks to the independent and transparent nature of our effort, people and civic organizations alike have joined us in our initiative. We invite you to take part and support REBUILDING TOGETHER in Mexico.hueyapan children

Hueyapan is an indigenous Nahua community, at the base of the beloved Popocatepetl volcano in the Eastern part of Morelos, with a population of close to 6500 people dedicated primarily to agriculture and the weaving of textiles

Here, and in the small neighboring pueblos, at the epicenter of the earthquake, is where for the moment, we are concentrating our energy, love,  and support. Just three days after the earthquake, we had established two base camps in Hueyapan and over the last two weeks we have cleared the rubble from over 40 houses of the more than 135 houses that were damaged or completely destroyed in the earthquake. We have channeled 50 tons of material support – in the form of water, household supplies and building materials – to Hueyapan and the other communities where our parents are volunteering. In Jojutla, a town that was devastated by the earthquake, a dedicated group of parents have set up community kitchens and are working with the local business people to begin to clear roads and jumpstart the local economy.

hueyapan man with tentRight now, the focus is on rebuilding sustainable, ecologically minded homes for those who have been displaced. Though many have focused on delivering material supplies, it has become clear that money donations at this point are the most helpful as it allows those on site, the chance to purchase exactly what is needed, and support local businesses in the process.

This has been life shattering experience for many, but in turn, the country has risen to the challenge, as has our community and network of friends. We feel it is our responsibility to lift up our neighbors, as much as we feel it is a gift to be able to do so. Recontruyendonos HueyapanSolidarity is a natural response, and a beautiful one.


Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, for taking part. Any and all donations make a difference.


The Karitas Foundation is helping us to receive funds from people and organizations in the US and offer tax deductible receipts.

You can make a contribution via Paypal at:

comunidad waldorfBe sure to reference REBUILDING TOGETHER – Waldorf Community of Cuernavaca

Or make a bank transfer to:

Janney Montgomery Scott LLC

Bank: TD Bank

Address: 1900 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA

ABA/Routing Number: 036001808

Account number: 36400389

Reference: REBUILDING TOGETHER – Waldorf Community of Cuernavaca

Once you make a donation, please send an email to with your name, address, amount donated and date of donation, so a tax deductible receipt can be prepared.

We and the communities of Mexico thank you for your support.

Posted in community acupuncture

Staying Grounded in Tumultuous Times

There’s been many reasons for feeling very ungrounded lately. Hurricanes, earthquakes, tragedies, political upheaval… it can feel overwhelming when there seems to be so much we need to do to just keep our head and heart above water. The thing we often forget though, is that to really be of service to others, we need to keep the foundations of health strong in ourself so that we have fuel to work with. Here are 5 simple recommendations for staying grounded in tumultuous times, so that we can be effective forces for change and support.

  • Acupuncture treatment: Regular acupuncture treatments are an amazing way to stay grounded. Acupuncture helps reset our adrenal and metabolic systems so that we can stay calmer and heal faster. Many people get treatments as a “tune-up” to be sure that their body/mind/spirit keeps a nice homeostasis. While the results aren’t often as drastic and noticeable, preventative treatments really are the most effective treatments – instead of waiting for the panic attack to happen, come get acupuncture before the stressful week with all of the work deadlines and family obligations!
  • Rituals: Rituals help to create order amidst chaotic times. A ritual can be as simple as always making your bed in the morning, giving your partner a kiss before going to work, or drinking a cup of tea before going to bed. Oftentimes we have rituals that we don’t even realize. Reflect on your day and pick which rituals feel good and and which could be modified. The best rituals are simple, meaningful, and easy to maintain!
  • Grounding foods: Worry and stress can wreak havoc on our digestion. Given that our digestion is the root of so many functions in our body, it is so important to keep food the foundation of our health focus. Committing to eating (and savoring) a good, nourishing meal can shift a whole day or weak around! Some foods that are very grounding and especially supportive for this time of year as we move into autumn are:
    • any kind of squash!
    • root vegetables
    • apples and pears
    • bone broth
    • whole grains (steel cut oats, brown rice, quinoa, millet)
    • limit consumption of sugar and quick carbohydrates
  • Put your feet on the earth: It seems almost too simplistic, but putting your bare feet on the ground really helps in feeling grounded! There’s some research supporting this idea and even a whole earthing movement. If you think about it, it’s amazing how little our feet can actually touch the earth when we are wearing shoes and walking in a city most days. So while the weather is still warm, find a plot of land, kick off your shoes, and see how it feels!
  • Hugs: It’s easy to underestimate the importance of touch for staying grounded and feeling supported. Find a few people that you can hug regularly and seek them out! Scientific studies are showing that the more hugs you get, the happier your immune system is. A partner is a great person to linger for that one extra deep breath to really soak in the feeling… those are the hugs where the magic happens (happy hormones released, lower blood pressure, etc.)
Posted in community acupuncture

Empire Radio Now Broadcast





Last month JoseLo was featured on Empire Radio Now, speaking about City Acupuncture Circle, how he got into acupuncture, what he’s interested in now, and what he wants to do in the future!

Find the link here or listen below!

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Posted in community acupuncture

Licorice Sticks

Licorice is one of the most widely used herbs in the world, and likely20150623_815838 the most commonly used herb in Chinese medicine today. Why is this? Well, simply put, it’s a very likable herb. Licorice is like the person you meet for the first time and immediately feel you’re best friends. It’s the herb in the room that makes everyone a little nicer, a little more harmonious. It does this because it is very mild and sweet, and yet so wise and effective. We now carry licorice sticks at CAC – a traditional remedy of chewing on the root until all that is left is the fibrous remains. So, why would you want to chew on licorice?

  • Digestion – Licorice is great for soothing upset stomachs, boosting digestive power, and even relieving toxicity from food poisoning. Also, it’s mildly sweet flavor will have your taste buds buzzing with delight. You can chew on licorice in the midst of an upset stomach or as a way to enhance you digestion in general.
  • Sore throat – Licorice has a way of gently moistening the throat and lungs to relieve sore and itchy throats as well as coughing. Chewing on licorice can be a great go-to remedy while your healing from a cold or trying to stave off any seasonal bugs that may want to find residence in your throat.
  • Food and smoking cravings – Licorice is actually used as a flavoring in cigarettes. So for those weening off of smoking, chewing on licorice can fulfill a two-fold function of satisfying both the urge to have something in the mouth and the flavor of the cigarettes. Licorice sticks are also a great for those working with curbing sugar cravings, as the root has some natural sweetness, but the act of chewing into the root limits how much you can actually extract.
  • Anxiety –  Licorice, being the amiable and wise sage that it is, will soothe feelings of anxiety as well. It has a placating and comforting effect on the spirit. It’s a great plant to go to if you find yourself feeling anxious, irritable, or scared.

It would take a long time to list all of the healing properties of licorice. Part of the beauty of this plant and why it is so effective is that it makes everything around it work better. It brings out the best in our digestive system, our detoxification system, our adrenal system. It’s that little dose of medicine when you need things to move a little smoother in your life.

Come in and ask us about our licorice sticks and see if you can benefit from this plant. Licorice should be avoided if you’re pregnant, have hypertension, liver disorder, edema, low blood potassium, or heart disease.

Posted in community acupuncture

Chinese Herbs at CAC

We are excited to announce that we are now offering Chinese herbs to patients at City Acupuncture Circle!

ChineseHerbsChinese herbs are a safe and effective modality for addressing conditions ranging from allergies and sleep issues to fibroids and back pain. Like acupuncture, herbs have been used for centuries with their use being refined and developed over time.


Our herbs are sold as granules, which is a powdered form of the herb that dissolves in hot water. This is an extremely simple and effective way to take herbs. All herbs are purchased from reputable sellers and are free of heavy metals, pesticides, and other pollutants.

Chinese herbs also compliment acupuncture treatments very well. On days that you cannot come get acupuncture, herbs can be taken to extend and strengthen the efficacy of acupuncture treatments. Read about how herbs are being studied extensively for their clinical efficacy, including the 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize for medicine, whose research explored how a Chinese herb helps to treat malaria and other infectious diseases.

Our new acupuncturists, Geoff Edwards and Nancy Xiang, as well as Seth Shamon, all have extensive training in the use of herbs and can recommend a formula for you. Come in and ask about it at your next treatment!

Posted in community acupuncture

POCA Fest!

This month, CAC’s acupuncturist, Seth, & office manager, Hannah, traveled to beautiful St. Petersburg, Florida for the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA) yearly 3-day conference. POCA is the organization behind the creation and support of community acupuncture clinics, including City Acupuncture Circle.


We attended several classes a day on how to best run a community acupuncture clinic, clinical recommendations for community acupuncturists, and the social justice aspects of providing affordable medicine. Some stand-out classes included, “People’s History of Community Acupuncture,” which detailed the forgotten history of the unexpected role of the Black Panther party in bringing acupuncture to the fore-front in America (see this article for a bit more information), “Pediatrics in Community Acupuncture,” and “Trauma Informed Care.”


Just in time for CAC offering herbs to patients, we attended a class which included lots of tips for how to integrate an herbal program into a community acupuncture setting. Come in and ask about our new herbal offerings and look out for a future blog post with more information!


Clinics, acupuncturists, patients, and supporters can all become POCA members to support better access to acupuncture to all. This month POCA is holding a membership drive for discounted prices to support this fantastic organization that is doing so much to make acupuncture accessible to all people.

Posted in community acupuncture

CAC Lecture: Introduction to Chinese Medicine

IMG_1702Have you ever wondered how acupuncture works? Or how this ancient healing modality has survived for thousands of years and remains as popular and as effective as ever?

This Sunday, JoseLo Gutierrez L.Ac., will be holding a lecture at EPIC YOGA  (up the street from City acupuncture Clinic on 1323 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036) to explore these questions through a stimulating presentation and discussion.

We’ll talk about the basic history and theory of acupuncture, including yin/yang theory, the Five Elements, and the meridian system.

You will leave not only with a better understanding of why your tight shoulders feel better after treatment, but also how that relates to why you feel lighter and more positive in your spirit and emotions.

We’ll focus on what Chinese medicine has to say about Springtime and how to align ourselves with this season for good health and harmonious emotions.

Sunday, April 23rd
City Acupuncture Circle
Sliding scale cost $20-50
Space is limited – email us at to RSVP!
Posted in community acupuncture

Hiring New Acupuncturist!





DC Licensed Acupuncturist wanted!

We provide top quality community acupuncture care to a vibrant, multi-diverse population in downtown DC. Our clinic requires a flexible practitioner who is quick on their feet, sharp in mind and open at heart, all with the highest ethical standards.

CITY ACUPUNCTURE CIRCLE offers full body acupuncture treatments, cupping, and gua sha to patients on an affordable sliding scale.

Half shifts and full shifts available.

Inquire about details, including pay and benefits.

Posted in community acupuncture

Chinese Medicine Course in Cuernavaca

Our most recent intensive 40 hr course about Chinese medicine in Cuernavaca Mexico was lots of fun and a great success! We learned about the law of the 5 elements and the theory of yin yang applied to acupuncture – enlightening and inspiring.
We explored the foundations of the Earth School, a commonly used set of protocols at CAC. This system states that all healing processes can be enhanced by strengthening our digestion and calming the mind.
We practiced Qi Gong under the gentle morning sun while tracing the trajectories of the acupuncture meridians.
We learned about essential oils and basic dietary principles within Chinese medicine, applied Cups to each other and also learned to do Guasha.
We enjoyed the Tepoztlan market and hiked to the Pyramid on top of the mount. We had lot of fun exotic, authentic Mexican food and made good friends.
The group was very eclectic and diverse: a few patients from CAC in DC and Mexico interested in leaning more about Chinese medicine, a couple of MD’s from US and Mexico, a psychologist from France, and a couple of massage therapists.
We realize this info is so rich and empowering, that people from different paths of life could make the best of it and put to use to best suite their interests – from self healing to considering learning new healing skills, or simply to meditate and contemplate the beauty of this medicine.
Everyone is invited to join in for upcoming courses this spring, summer and fall!
Email us, and we’ll keep you in the loop as details arise…
Posted in community acupuncture, Courses, cupping, Earth, Five elements
In the heart of Dupont circle
1221 Connecticut Avenue Suite 5B Washington, D.C. 20036 202.300.8428