Conversations Over Tea: Dr. Patti Kim
CONVERSATIONS OVER TEA
Conversations Over Tea is an ongoing series of easy, informal chats between our founder, Rose Goodman—she’s British, hence the tea—and people who inspire her with their outlook, work, and ways of being. Each conversation features a new guest, deep questions, and, of course, tea.
Dr. Patti Kim is an alternative medicine practitioner, a field of wellness that was practically unknown when she decided to pursue her degree. Based in Los Angeles, Kim is determined to guide her patients to the root of what ails them; she’s not interested in quick fixes or pharmacological band-aids. We spoke about supplements, the voices in our heads, quantum physics, and reincarnation.
“I really believe that all our lives are guided. Whether it’s through spirit, the universe, God, or your own intuition.”—Dr. Patti Kim
I would love to know just a little bit about your health story, and how you got to where you are today with your practice.
I was an art major and pre-med in college, and I was getting ready to take my MCATs and was on the road to becoming a conventional MD. But every doctor I spoke to said, “Are you sure this is what you want to do?” No one was encouraging. No one said, “Oh yeah, I love being a doctor. I’m so excited that this the path that you want to take.”
It may sound a little woo-woo, but I truly believe that all our lives are guided. Whether it’s through spirit, the universe, God, your own intuition. One thing led to another, and a friend of mine asked, “Well, have you thought about alternative medicine?”
Keep in mind, I’m not young. This was a long time ago. The term alternative medicine didn’t exist. And I was at a very conventional, conservative university. But that really lit something inside of me, and I started doing research. This was also pre big Internet, like, still in the nineties. I remember doing a little bit of research, and outside my career guidance counselor’s office there was a huge poster for Bastyr, which was the naturopathic medical school in Seattle. And I was like, “Ooh, what’s this?” The more I looked into it, I thought, “This is totally what I want to do. I want to help people. I want to get to the cause. I actually want to help people figure out why they’re feeling sick.”
That was sort of how it all started. But when I look back I had this teacher, AP English teacher, freshman year of high school, and she used to give us extra credit if we joined Greenpeace and Surf Riders, and worked on conservation efforts, and cleaning up the ocean. And not only that, I remember one time she was like, “Sorry guys, if I seem like a little woozy, I’m doing a fast.” And I was like, “What the hell is a fast? Is this women anorexic? Why is she not eating?” This was like early 90’s, right? I remember her chomping away on carrots and seeing her drink juices, and I’m like, “This is so weird.”
And then cut to a teacher I had in college who had twins. We were really close. This school was great, so teachers would invite you to their home. And I remember him making his own baby food, him and his wife. And I grew up in LA, I had never seen anywhere food was grown, let alone feeding your child food that you made. And I just was like, “Whoa, this is the coolest thing.”
Now I look back and it sounds so crazy that I was amazed by this, but I really do, when I look at the trajectory of my life, these little mile markers of people who kind of were nudging me in the direction of what felt right, and what really felt like home. So one thing led to another, and I was like, “Naturopathic medical school, here I come.”
That’s amazing. Can you discuss the differences between a naturopath and an allopathic doctor?
Absolutely. An allopathic doctor is someone like your family doctor, an internist, all the specialists—gastroenterologist, gynecologist.
Their schooling and our schooling is very similar. If you look hour to hour at all the basic sciences—anatomy, physiology, physics, organic chemistry, biology, micro-biology—we [naturopaths] actually do more hours. We also have to learn pharmacology, all the drugs that allopathic doctors learn because everyone’s on them, or people are being prescribed them. And we also have to learn about drug and herb interactions.
Curriculum wise, it’s very similar. We both do two years of sciences followed by two years of clinical work. And that’s really where things diverge. When a medical doctor graduates she doesn’t have that much clinical experience, so she’ll go onto a residency. We’re a little bit more like dentists, I would say. We really jump into clinical practice, whether that’s working in private practice, or working for someone. You can do a residency, but it’s not totally required.
The biggest difference in education is really about the philosophy of using natural medicine. But I tell patients all the time, “You can use natural medicine to suppress just the way that you can with drugs, with pharmaceuticals.” So you have to go in with a deeper understanding of, “Okay, we’re using this natural herb to put a bandaid on something temporarily, but we got to get to the cause. We got to get to where this is coming from.”
What is healing to you? Some people might think you can take a pill and then you’re better forever, or that healing can never happen—it’s just illusion. Where do you land?
I think that healing is a continuum. Marianne Williamson said at a talk once, “Your soul health, your spiritual health, is kind of like your body health. You never get the body that you want and look in the mirror one day and say, oh my gosh, that was a lot of work, but I’m here. I’m done. Like I finally achieved my goal, and I’ve hit my destination and then you stop. You know, you got to keep working at it.” The healing process is the same way, where you do have to keep maintaining.
I do think that with healing you have to look at every layer. Sometimes you obviously have to work on the physical level, whether that happens through herbs, nutrition, lifestyle, homeopathy, hydrotherapy…all these things. But sometimes I see patients doing everything right; their diet is perfect, but their symptoms and their disease and their imbalances aren’t shifting.
There is an energetic, emotional mindset connection and layer that really has to be addressed. Sometimes it’s buried in our subconscious. It’s painful to have to feel your feelings, to really look inside of yourself. Look at deeper wounds. That energy feeds our physical body.
So if you understand quantum physics, everything starts with energy first and then slowly manifests into the physical. By the time it’s something physical, you’ve got to go back in time and address the energy, whatever that may be. I’ve seen patients not get better, because that piece doesn’t get addressed. And I’ve seen patients where, yeah, they’re eating a little sugar but they’re really making huge strides in terms of healing deep trauma and their health is really shifting.
So health is complicated. I’m not going to lie. You cannot sugar coat it. It’s very complicated and it’s very individual. But if you put in the work and you look at all the layers, you can move forward.
What are some of your favorite modalities for treating the root cause?
I love botanical medicine and herbal medicine. It’s very powerful. And you can take it as tinctures, pills, which, in our pill-oriented society, is a way to open the door a little bit to natural medicine. I think that openness then lends itself to more healing and acceptance of, “Okay, this is the journey that I’m on.” So I love herbal medicine, because it’s so diverse and you can do it in so many different ways.
Homeopathy, I love. Hydrotherapy, I love.
It sounds so basic and it has its limitations, but I will say, first and foremost, getting the basics of your lifestyle down is huge. If someone is not sleeping it doesn’t matter how many herbs they take, their body’s not going to heal. So definitely massive lifestyle foundation work.
I have a lot of patients like this, people who stay up until 2:00 in the morning, and I’ve struggled with not having regular bedtimes. A lot of times we don’t have enough creativity in our day, so then we try to squeeze that in, instead of sleeping.
What is your philosophy on taking products and supplements?
So this is a little bit complex and complicated because I do think that it’s powerful medicine, and I do think that working with a functional medicine doctor, or a naturopathic doctor, is important for you as an individual to figure out what you need. Now if someone is young and vibrant and healthy, or old and vibrant and healthy, and just wanting to do a little bit of balancing, for sure taking omegas, taking probiotics, that’s wonderful.
But if your health is needing a little bit more work, or you need to go a little bit deeper, I think that people need help, and people need a guide.
I think that no one should have to take something forever. That doesn’t mean it might not be for a year or two. I might put patients on adrenal support for years, because it took years to get there. So to undo all of that, it takes a lot of time.
With that said, there are a handful of things that many people will be on for a lifetime. Like I will be on probiotics or some sort of fermented foods, spore, bacteria, something for my gut for the rest of my life. And that’s just because of the nature of where we live. We don’t eat fermented foods every day. And I’ll be on some version of omegas, whether it’s through food or through supplements, for the rest of my life.
There’s just certain things that our bodies can’t manufacture that help our immune system, that I think do need to be taken forever, just the way that we need to eat every day forever. But with other medicines, I think we need to rotate and be a little bit more individualized. It gets a little bit hard to just kind of make a blanket statement.
As for what I’m personally taking now, I’m taking magnesium. It helps with over 300 of our cellular pathways. And I get menstrual cramps and do sometimes have sleep issues, so I know it’s really helpful, and I know that my cells need it. I’m taking some selenium.
I have a psychic intuitive who I work with, and sometimes things get channeled during our readings, a supplement that I need. And so I’ll take it for a little while.
I’m dealing with some immune stuff right now, because I was traveling and just recovering from jet lag and not feeling well, so I’m doing high doses of the herb Melissa Lemon Balm, because it’s really good for mood and a really good anti-viral.
How do you stay in touch with your intuition around your own healing process and in your work with others?
I do meditate, although it’s something that I struggle with—being still, being quiet with myself. You know, I have no problems being still watching Netflix, but that’s different than a deep meditation.
So really being still and quiet with myself, that’s something that I have to work at consciously . It doesn’t come naturally to me. I know friends and patients and colleagues for whom meditation is a breeze. They can get into a space where, really quickly, they’re very disciplined. That’s not me. So I have to keep working at it, and I know I have a long way to go.
But I do try to cleanse between patients, whether that be a little bit of Qigong breathing, a little bit of movement meditation. I definitely visualize grounding myself and protecting myself energetically. So that happens between patients, and at the beginning and end of each day.
Living in a city like Los Angeles, it’s a very head-in-the-clouds, ungrounded city energetically. So it’s really important to connect to the earth, and be quiet and be still. And not have music on, not have the TV on, not have our phones on. All that’s like vibrational noise that gets in the way. I do think that is such a huge important aspect.
That’s when a message can come through, when we can get into that intuitive space to ground and protect. Usually I feel like it might come up as a voice in your head. Even sometimes just your own voice, but you’re not controlling it, it just will come to you.
I do think that listening to your intuition is huge, and listening to your body. Because I have patients who I’ve given them things to calm their mind, and it’s made them completely crazy, or anxious, or buzzy. And I honor patients’ intuition before anything.
I’m not someone who’s a visual intuitive. The program that I did for Chinese medicine was based in Qigong and a classical Chinese medicine approach. And I would have friends, while we were doing hours of Qigong on our retreats, who had all kinds of visual things that they would see, and I felt so envious. But for me it’s really more of a knowing, and trusting that, too. Because if it’s not a loud voice or a vision, you have to have more trust. “Oh, I am hearing something that’s beyond me.”
Everybody has it in their own way. Whether it’s a voice, whether it’s a sound, whether it’s something that they see. So people should really listen to their bodies. And that’s where the stillness comes in. You’ve got to connect with how you’re truly feeling, and not from a place of fear. You have to learn how to discern, “Is this just my ego speaking? Is this just my fear speaking, or is this truly my heart and my intuition?” Whether you’re choosing a medicine or how you’re speaking to a partner, really tapping into that is very important.
Anyone can try it out and just tap in, and see what’s coming up for them. And follow that voice because there’s something going on if it’s coming up for you.
It’s about feeling your feelings. We live in a world where so much disease exists, and hurt, and envy, and trauma, because we are masters at stuffing our emotions. And you can stuff it with healthy things. You can exercise to stuff your emotions. You know what I mean?
People can be blinded by it, or blindsided, because that’s the place where they think they’re channeling the health; but they’re really not addressing the root cause, which might be the big scary thing they’ve always been running from.
Earlier you addressed quantum physics, that it starts as energy and turns into something physical. How does quantum physics relate to health and wellness?
If there are any quantum physicists listening, please stop reading immediately! I am not a quantum physicist, nor do I pretend to be an expert in quantum physics.
However, I will say to some degree I understand energy and energetics, because it’s such a large piece of health. The more I meditate and learn from spiritual healers, and explore what Chinese medicine, cosmology, and the energetics of the universe are based on, I’m learning it’s not this physical space-time continuum that we think of.
If you believe in an afterlife, if you believe in the soul, then what we have here on earth is not what’s going on in the universe. And quantum physics comes up a lot in homeopathy, because when you think about what the time-space continuum is, it’s about being in multiple places at the same time.
I talk about my psychic intuitive friend a lot. She’s channeled my grandmother before, and when she talks about multiple lives and past lives and things, I’ve asked, “How can I be speaking to my grandmother if she’s maybe already in another body and living another life, if truly this thing called reincarnation exists?” And she said, “Well actually, she can be speaking to you and living another life in a body at the same time.”
Quantum physics is a total mind F. Like you cannot wrap your brain around it. So to give you an example, in homeopathy—and I can’t understand this either, I’m the first to admit—in homeopathy they take a material, a medicine, or an herb, or a mineral, or a plant, a poisonous plant even, and dilute it down beyond Avogadro’s number. That means there are scientifically no physical molecules left in this medicine. It is only pure vibration. How they measure this, I have no idea.
Now this is where it gets totally trippy. The more you dilute it, the more nothing is there, the stronger the medicine gets. How F’d up is that? iIn terms of what our brains think of as normal dilution and healing and quantity…
Less is more.
Yeah, completely. It’s the epitome of less is more.
So I think that’s where this medicine is truly based in, and true healing comes from that place. You don’t go there right at the beginning. You start at the top layer of the onion and slowly peel away. But I think a lot of this, like what we call the cause, comes from a place like that.
What do you incorporate into your lifestyle that really just lights you up and makes you feel healthy, balanced, and happy?
I always say my greatest gift is that I never get bored. I could just sit on a bench somewhere and just watch people and hours could go by. It might be because I’m an only child, but I can always find something to do. Sadly it’s become shameful to admit this, but I’m not a workaholic. I’m not someone who has to work 100 hours a week, nor can I. I have stamina issues, and I need rest. Balance is key.
Over the years I’ve really had to learn how to say no. And that comes in this age of social media, really letting go of missing out, the FoMO situation. But also like comparison. That’s a big struggle for everybody, including myself. And saying, “Okay, what do I need?” And going back to that intuition and meditation that we talked about before, it’s so simple. Like literally check in, “Do I want to do this? Do I not? Does this sound good? Does it sound bad?”
Even with dating. You just say, “Am I having fun? Am I not?” instead of all this over-analysis. And I do have a tendency to overthink and overanalyze, so it’s getting down that basics of like, “Do I want to go to that dinner? Do I not? Okay, I really don’t want to go, so I’m going to say no.”
Simplifying. I’ve canceled a lot of things. Recognizing, “Hey, I’m tired. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m going to rest.” Or, “Hey, I really need to see some friends, and I’m wanting to connect so I’m going to go out.” So learning to listen to yourself, having balance.
As far as what I’ve incorporated, it’s interesting that you ask because I actually have been, not struggling, but really looking at what brings me fun. I see young kids just having so much fun doing nothing. At the park, or like teenagers just out. And I’m like, “Man, they are having the time of their lives. I’m doing the exact same thing as them. I’m not having as much fun. I don’t know what’s going on.”
So that’s something that I’ve actually been looking at to figure out: How do I connect with that inner child? How to be sillier, how to not care, how to have fun.
When we get older we really can miss that feeling of being a child and feeling carefree. And I think that we all need that outlet to get there energetically.
We need a break from adulting.
Oh my God, do we ever. I think it should be part of everyone’s daily routine.
And also recognizing and giving yourself permission, and that’s something that I’ve been doing. That fun and joy can evolve. And we’re never going to have the same fun as a two-year-old playing with some toy, or a five-year-old on a swing. But we can still have a version of that that’s special and more evolved.
Recently you addressed Epstein-Barr virus on Instagram. It’s so common now. Can you address what it is and what helps if you have it?
So funny that you should ask, because I just got my blood drawn this morning to see what my numbers are, if I have it.
So Epstein-Barr is commonly known as Mono, but it’s just a variant of the herpes virus. Back in the fifties they called it the kissing disease because, just like herpes or the flu virus, it’s transmitted through the respiratory system. Like chickenpox, shingles, or actual oral or genital herpes, we contract these viruses just through life and through the world. It’s very common. And it may just be then dormant forever, but if you are not taking care of yourself, it can get reactivated.
If you think about how many people just get a cold sore from being tired or overworked, it’s so common. And I don’t know if it’s because I’m a doctor or what, I get cold sores and I have like zero shame around it. To me it’s just like getting a pimple. And it’s a sign that I’m tired. But I do see that people have all this guilt and shame around it. I don’t see it as anything except a sign from your body, “Hey, I need a little bit more rest.”
And we’re so afraid of symptoms in our world now, and we really have become afraid of feeling sick or bad. And the body feeling sick, or in pain, or bad, or achy, or flu-ish, is a wonderful thing. Like your body is actually speaking to you. And it’s like a little bit of a little alarm.
That’s why the diseases that are called “silent killers” truly are the most dangerous and frightening. For your body to actually be able to speak to you and say, “Hey, we’re not in dire straights right now, but just so you know, just FYI, things are getting a little out of balance here. You might want to get a little more sleep, or you might want to cut down on that sugar, or you might to take some stronger herbs.”
I think that’s amazing, and it’s okay to feel uncomfortable. But we are in a world that’s like, you can’t miss a day of work, you got to take care of your kids. Who has time to be sick? That’s the bigger issue, and that’s the bigger problem with our society.
As far as what to take, there are so many antiviral herbs. I mentioned Melissa earlier; that might be one of my favorite herbs. I always think of her as a very gentle, nourishing, very supportive herb and not harsh. Melissa is very balancing for your mood; it can really lift depression and kind of balance anxiety as well. It’s an amazing antiviral. I take it in tincture form. Tinctures tend to be a bit stronger, although they don’t taste as great.
Oregon Grape is my ride-or-die herb. It’s sort of nature’s antibiotic. It’s full on antimicrobial. So good for the flu, good for infections, good for just general immune boost, good for traveling. So if people have to take one immune herb, that’s usually the one that I prescribe. It’s quite strong, you don’t want to necessarily take it during pregnancy, for instance.
The top herb for Epstein-Barr is Lomatium, but this is something that people really should take with the guidance of a doctor. And Lomatium is great for antiviral activity, and for Epstein-Barr in particular. But some people get a side effect of a particular Lomatium rash. So that’s the kind of thing where working with a doctor really comes in handy, because a doctor would know that, and know what to do, or lower the dose. Whereas somebody might take too much all of a sudden and really break out in a rash all over their body.
Herbal medicine is great. Cutting down on sugar. A little bit more of a plant-based, less animal meat. Those can all help with Epstein-Barr. And it is common, and I think that a lot of fatigue comes from Epstein-Barr or from it being reactivated. So it’s important to look at your hormones, your adrenals, all of that, but I think it’s a huge piece that people aren’t looking at, and getting measured more frequently.
If you had to sum up your practice in one line, what would it be?
I do my best to meet you where you are, and we go from there.
<< Read more: Dr. Patti Kim shares her tips for balancing your hormones naturally for a pain-free period >>
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