By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly
Aisha Madrone believes that our most difficult experiences can be gifts. As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, she’s experienced this for herself; and as the owner of Seven Star Acupuncture and Apothecary in SE Portland, she and her fellow practitioners see it every day in the lives of their patients.
Madrone’s own journey to being a healer started with healing of her own. Madrone moved to Portland in her youth and quickly went down some “very dark alleys” of the city’s lesbian scene. Once she realized the toll that her lifestyle was taking upon her emotional and physical health, she embarked upon a complete overhaul of her habits — resulting both in a healing of long-standing health issues and an awakening to her true calling as a healer. She chose to pursue an MA in Chinese Medicine from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine.
“When I graduated,” she explained, “I knew I had to open a clinic. There was no question about it. … I wanted to do something that would both give back to the community and provide [myself and the friends I made at OCOM] a place to practice.”
The result: Seven Star, which offers a variety of Chinese and Western healing modalities including acupuncture, herbal medicine, cupping, dietary consultations, and massage.
Why Chinese medicine? “Western medicine has lots of great care for emergencies and catastrophic health issues,” Madrone explains. “However, many of their methods are very invasive, and there’s often a longer healing time from some of the procedures than there is for the actual disease. Chinese medicine is much more subtle and gentle as it brings the body back to a state of health.” Chinese medicine also approaches the patient in a holistic way; as health issues are engaged in treatment, low-level chronic conditions such as insomnia or depression that patients may have simply learned to live with can improve or resolve.
Seven Star operates on a sliding-scale fee structure, enabling all patients to access the treatments as often as needed. This stems in part from Madrone’s dedication to the traditional Chinese model of clinical practice, which involves patients being treated in a group setting. While private treatment rooms are available, Madrone agrees with many patients that the group treatments often maximize effectiveness: “There’s a bigger healing energy in the [group treatment] room that people can tap into,” she explains.
While Seven Star is open to all people, they are a very queer clinic — over half of their practitioners and a large segment of their patients are LGBTQ-identified.
“When I opened the clinic, I especially wanted to reach out to my community… since most everyone has physical burdens, it’s nice [for queer patients] to come to a clinic whose main presence is queer,” she says, “so we are able to focus on the individual and their issues, rather than waste a lot of time trying to establish whether it’s a safe place.”
Madrone also points out that queer people often face distinctive challenges that can be helped with Chinese medicine.
“Regardless of our identity we all have bodies, we all have blood, we all get sick,” she says. “… However, queer people often experience a lot of self-deprecation and internalized homophobia. It’s critical to find a place of wholeness, both through treatments and self-care… Chinese medicine offers lots of practical things that we can do to keep balance in our lives.”
As a queer-owned community-based business in a very tough economic time, Seven Star goes through many of the same struggles as other individuals and businesses in our city. However, Madrone is optimistic that the struggle, be it Seven Star’s or that of her patients, is worth it for the individual and for the community.
“We have to use the negative to bring about great change in ourselves,” she insists. “When people are feeling at their best, feeling whole, and understanding what wholeness feels like inside themselves, it’s easier for to see where they’re lacking that wholeness in their community, and it can motivate them to work towards manifesting it for themselves and others around them.”
This is certainly true for Madrone, and for the many patients for whom Seven Star has served as an outpost on their healing journey.
Seven Star Acupuncture and Apothecary is located at 436 SE 12th Ave. in Portland. For more information or to book an appointment, call 503-236-6833 or check out sevenstarpdx.com/.