Karen Gay

Hanoi is full of specialists practicing alternative therapies and medicine. Here's a low down on what's available in the capital.


Karen Gay 


Energy Healing


“If you have stomach issues, hold your thumb. Just hold it and take gentle breaths. This is also good for insomnia.” This is just one of the many simple things Karen Gay tells her clients to do during her energy healing sessions.


“If you’re very angry, hold on to your middle finger,” she says in her slow and patient voice. She then explains that each finger looks after an organ in the body, and that emotions such as fear, anger and grief are associated with different fingers. So when one holds their fingers, it will affect the harmony of the whole body.


Karen is a deep tissue massage therapist and also an energy healing practitioner. In her standard 90-minute massage session, she employs a range of techniques including Hawaiian lomi lomi, a Chinese technique focused on acupressure points and the importance of qi or energy of the body, as well as Swedish massage.


All clients who come for the massage receive a free 40-minute energy healing session as Gay believes that whatever is manifested in the body in terms of a disease, illness or injury has already been seen at an energetic level. “It’s the energy that heals everything, connects everything and is the root of everything,” she says.


Starting out as a physical education teacher, Karen has always been interested in the body. She eventually decided to quit the nine-to-five working routine to learn Kenji deep tissue massage. Later, she became interested in Jin Shin Jyutsu energy healing and acquired a degree while she was working in Shanghai. Originating in Japan, in recent times this practice has gained worldwide recognition. But Gay says her clients are the ones to decide on the effectiveness of any treatment — they need to trust their therapists and follow directions. 


“I’m putting my hands on their body to enhance the energetic flow that may be blocked,” she says. “So it’s often more their work than my work.”


For Karen, happiness comes at the end of a session, when she sees her clients’ demeanors completely changed, and the vitality appear in their faces and eyes. 


To learn more about Karen Gay’s work, check out her website at a-roamingbodyworker.com

Tran Huong


Dr. Huong


Catgut Embedding Therapy


Only recently did Dr. Huong see many Vietnamese patients come to her clinic, which is tucked away in a small, busy alley — Ngo Nui Truc. Open since 2002 at her home, most of her clients were expatriates living in Vietnam — they were coming for catgut embedding therapy, a treatment with roots in China and Vietnam. Most people heard about her work through word of mouth.


“Westerners generally have a better starting point as their energy or qi is stronger — they adapt to the therapy very well,” she says.


Catgut embedding originates from a traditional Chinese therapy where surgical chromic catgut, a type of cord made from natural fibre, is sutured into the tissues under the acupuncture points with a specialised needle. According to Dr. Huong, the process works the same as in acupuncture, as the area surrounding the embedded point and paralysed body parts are stimulated. The body creates more endorphins, which help boost the immune system.


“But in catgut embedding, the effectiveness lasts for longer than in acupuncture,” she explains. “The patients only need treatment one to three times every 15 days or month instead of having to come to the clinic every day as with traditional acupuncture.”


For Vietnamese patients, Dr. Huong often uses traditional medicine or natural supplements to boost their energy levels before the treatment. Diseases that she has successfully treated include asthma, abdominal and lower back pain, leg pain, insomnia and eye, nose and throat infections.


Originally trained in mainstream paediatrics, she spent four years studying in France before she discovered her interest in traditional medicine. In the late 1990s, she met Dr. Le Thuy Oanh, the founder of a new approach to catgut embedding, a treatment that had been successful in Hungary. Since 2000, she has practised this therapy. Between 2000 and 2002, she cured about 300 patients at the National Hospital of Traditional Medicine. She then decided to open her own clinic in her home. 


“It’s amazing to not to have to use medicine, and yet be able to cure people,” she says. It is for this reason that she has stuck with catgut embedding for such a long time and maintains a strong belief in its virtues.


Dr. Huong’s clinic is at 82 Ngo Nui Truc, Ba Dinh

Dr Hai


Dr. Hai


Luc Khi Acupunture


Dr. Le Hai was born to a family of doctors — his parents are both mainstream doctors and his wife is an osteopath. But he has chosen a different route — traditional medicine. Espousing a holistic philosophy, where health is decided by many factors and not just by medicine, he works at the National Hospital of Traditional Medicine and is well-known for luc khi acupuncture, where hot patches are applied to the acupoints to smooth the blood flow and cure infections or disabled parts of the body. 


Luc khi [six types of energy] acupuncture, is very different from Chinese acupuncture because we use a completely different system to take the pulses of the patients,” says Dr. Hai. The principles of the treatment are harmonising and establishing the equilibrium of Yin and Yang, as well as the different types of energy that exist in the body — metal, wood, water, fire, warmth and earth.


In a typical session, Dr. Hai takes a pulse reading from both wrists. Then he asks about the symptoms and uses que dich, a practitioner-only manual to find the acupoints of each patient according to their particular illness. Although the philosophy is complex, treatment is simple. Dr. Hai uses small pieces of Salonpas patches and sticks them on the acupoints. 


“It is possible to use any patches that create heat and scent,” he says. This combination helps the blood flow better and brings back an energy balance, which is the root of all treatment. “This method is not only great for treating chronic pains in the joints, arthrosis, back pain and headaches, but also insomnia, tonsillitis and constipation.”


As the treatment doesn’t use any medicine and doesn’t leave any pain, it’s suitable for pregnant women and children, and even patients who want to continue the therapy themselves after their initial treatment.


Every Saturday, Dr. Hai offers free treatment from 9am to 3pm at his office. Appointments should be made in advance via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Gregory Puret_

Gregory Puret




Gregory Puret didn’t have to wait long before his clinic had a regular flow of patients. Only a month after he opened his osteopathy practice in 2010, many people found their way there for treatment. 


“The majority of my clients are foreigners,” explains the 32-year-old French practitioner. “I don’t have many Vietnamese customers because I think most people don’t know about osteopathy. But the ones who know are generally very enthusiastic.” 


A typical session lasts from 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half. After talking about the patient’s medical history, then comes the 40-minute session in which he uses manual ‘hands on’ techniques to improve circulation and strengthen the musculoskeletal framework, which includes the joints, muscles and spine. His treatment often includes soft tissue stretching to increase blood flow and improve the flexibility of joints and muscles; articulation to mobilise joints through a range of motion; and muscle energy, to release tightness in the muscles by being stretched and making them work against resistance.


Passionate about massage since his childhood, Gregory was encouraged to be a massage therapist by his mother and sister. He instead trained as a physiotherapist, but is more comfortable working as an osteopath.


“Physiotherapists have to respond to what doctors ask,” he explains. “They have a very detailed way of looking at things, which is good in terms of overall understanding. [However] osteopathy tries to understand the [issue itself] and how it is related to other [issues]. So we define the [problem based on] its relationship.”


Many of his patients have aches, back, neck, heel or foot pain, repetitive strain injury and also asthma, as well as arthritis and digestive problems. But according to Gregory, many come because of the stress of living in Hanoi. “Life in Hanoi is very stressful for [foreigners] and they mainly come because of health problems due to the stress. How to eat, breath and be healthy is hard to do here.” 


But he can’t do it all. “You have to learn to be patient and to deal with frustration.”


To learn more about Gregory Puret’s treatment, click on gp-osteopath.com

Susana Gonzales

Susana Gonzalez


Lymphatic Drainage Massage


Before coming to Vietnam, Susana Gonzalez used to participate in a meditation for healing cancer group for years in Venezuela as well as many other group healing activities. But after she came to Vietnam five years ago with her husband, she didn’t have those options anymore. Apart from this void, she also wanted to discover her own talents and developed a deeper interest in lymphatic drainage massage therapy, which she had started learning 15 years before. 


“There was no one who was doing that in Vietnam,” she says. “In Europe it’s become popular and many of my patients were receiving the treatment before coming to Vietnam. They needed to continue it.”


Originating in Europe in the 1930s, lymphatic drainage massage is a very soft massage aimed at increasing the volume of lymph flow and improving the system’s ability to remove toxins and infectious materials from the body. According to Susana, in many countries where plastic surgery is popular, patients are given lymphatic drainage therapy before and after surgery to create better circulation and less complications — it aids faster recovery after the operation. Lymphatic drainage massage is also said to be a medically beneficial form of physical therapy for a range of lymphedema-related problems. 


While practising in Vietnam, however, she has encountered some cultural challenges. “In my country, people touch and kiss all the time. But in Vietnam and many European countries, this is not the case. The way that I touch is very deep, so [my patients] need to be sure that they are going to be secure and respected.”


Lymphatic drainage massage is not a massage for relaxation — it’s a medical treatment. Therefore, Susana often tells her patients to consult their doctors before receiving treatment to make sure it’s ok. 


At each session, she often she spends about 40 minutes talking with her patients about their medical background — and even their emotions, as she believes everything has its effect on a person’s health. “With many people 40 minutes might seem a very long time, but for me, it’s the part I like most about this job. I can get very close to my client’s problems.”


Susana practises her treatment at her apartment in Ciputra. She often takes patients from 9am to 11am and from 4pm to 6pm in the afternoon. “Noontime during the summer is not helpful for my patients to release stress,” she smiles. “You have to care about the weather, too.”


To contact Susana, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Holistic Practitioners


For more information on alternative health therapies and massage in Hanoi, check out the online Hanoi Holistic Health Guide. Search for it on Google or go directly to issuu.com/hanoiholistichealth/docs/h3gspring2013 


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