Acupuncture may be an ancient Chinese medicine practice, but for many Americans it's more of a big mystery.
On Thursday, attendees at WomenSource's luncheon got to learn a little more about it from Tamara Clarke - a local, licensed acupuncturist.
"According to Chinese theory, there are rivers of energy that run through your body. When there are imbalances in the body, it blocks those rivers," said Clarke, owner of Flourish Acupuncture and Healing Arts in Gainesville.
"The acupuncture needles help unblock the rivers and allow energy to flow freely. It also helps to increase blood flow, release endorphins and stretch muscles."
An imbalance in your body's energy can lead to physical manifestations like allergies, weight gain and high blood pressure, practitioners say.
While acupuncture can be used to treat a variety of conditions such as the common cold, headaches and even arthritis, Clarke said ultimately, the process works best when it is used as a preventative measure.
"You want to keep your (health and energy) in balance, so you don't have to have an ailment to come in for treatment," Clarke said.
"Ideally, I'd like to see patients four times a year - at each season change - to make sure everything is in balance."
Although some patients come in with a specific ailment, Clarke said she likes to do a thorough evaluation before getting started.
"I like to look at the whole body to determine what is balanced and what is out of balance," Clarke said.
"Sometimes a headache isn't just a headache - there can be other underlying issues."
Acupuncture can be used to treat chronic conditions and even some mental disorders, but Clarke said patients should always consult with their medical doctors before discontinuing medication.
"I don't ever take patients off their medication, I always tell them to consult with their doctor," Clarke said.
"Best results come when we all work together."
WomenSource is a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting women to professional resources in the community.
Each month, the group hosts an educational luncheon on various topics. So far this year, the luncheons have covered a variety of topics, including parenting tips, the importance of giving back and even car maintenance.