What began as a personal search for her own pain remedies led Nancy Hyton to a professional career in medicine.
“I was an undergrad in college, and I was a vegetarian joining the local health food co-op in Albany, New York,” she said. “My friend was the manager of the herb department, and she taught me about herbal medicine. For my own chronic medical conditions, Western medicine was not able to help. But, through herbs and diets, I was able to fix it.”
That was almost two decades ago. Once she identified and treated the source of her pain, Hyton dove deep into the study of Eastern medicine, ultimately getting her certifications to practice the tried and tested techniques that have been perfected over thousands of years.
In 2000, she was certified as an herbalist through Rosemary Gladstar’s program at Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat Center in Barre, Vermont. Hyton then became a licensed acupuncturist in 2007 after completing a four-year master’s program at Daoist Traditions College of Chinese Medical Arts in Asheville. And for the better part of the last decade, her office, the Center for Holistic Medicine, has been located on Haywood Road in West Asheville.
“I tend to do combination treatments. I like to utilize all the tools of Chinese medicine,” she said. “And I feel they enhance the effects of each other: acupuncture, traditional body work techniques, cupping, topical medicated oils and ointments, diets, and lifestyles.”
And through her variety of techniques, Hyton will be the first to say that medicine, either Eastern or Western, is not a “one size fits all” approach.
“Not everybody gets cupping. Not everybody needs to adjust their diet depending on what’s going on,” she said. “In terms of the benefits of Chinese medicine, it can often treat chronic conditions that mainstream Western medicine can’t, because it’s not a symptom-management-only approach. It looks at the deeper, underlying imbalances that are going on with organ functions, and it tries to normalize and regulate that so that the symptoms just go away. You correct the underlying balance.”
Hyton aims to eliminate the medical issues, not just keep the symptoms at bay.
“Yes, you need to focus on the systems. But, for more people with chronic symptoms, they don’t want to take pills their whole lives and still be dealing with the condition,” she said. “It’s more about, ‘do you feel well, do you feel good?’ which is hard to measure. There’s no machine to measure that. It’s very subjective.”
And though she is well-versed and trained in Eastern medicine, Hyton is also well aware of the rich history and modern advances of medicine in general in Western North Carolina.
“Asheville has been known as a Mecca for medicine forever,” she said. “For the native peoples that lived here, it was known as the medicine mountains [where they would] hunt and gather herbs like ginseng. And the Vanderbilts came here for the tuberculosis clinics. And now, it’s considered a Mecca for Eastern medicine, and also Western medicine, with a gigantic hospital for a small mountain city.”
Within her intricate techniques, Hyton also sees the vital importance of simply listening to her patients.
“It’s not just the kind of medicine you practice, it’s how you practice the medicine,” she said. “You need to be able sit with people, to give them time and space to tell you what’s really bothering them, and [think about] how you can treat it correctly.”