Monday, November 12, 2018

Acupuncture Helps People With Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

The days are getting shorter and we are losing the light earlier each evening. Many people are so effected by the loss of the sun that their daily lives suffer. This is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities 
  • Low energy
  • Problems with sleeping, such as oversleeping or insomnia
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
Acupuncture offers relief of these symptoms, by helping to balance out the qi (pronounced "chee") of the body.

"Many people think of acupuncture in terms of pain relief, and it is amazing for that," says Birch Center acupuncturist David Sokulski. "But another thing acupuncture excels in treating is mood disorders, like anxiety, depression, and SAD."

According to Scientific American, in the article Can Acupuncture Treat Depression (July1, 2014), research has proven that six weeks of acupuncture treatments were just as effective as six weeks on Prosac in reducing symptoms of depression. In fact, according to the article, acupuncture worked faster in reducing symptoms than the drug did. A higher percentage of acupuncture patients said they received "great improvement."

"Depression is nothing to mess with," says Mr. Sokulski, "and these Pittsburgh winters can be hard. We have seen a lot of great results in treating people with depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder. People enjoy winter - and their lives - again."

Please call us today. We'd love to help you!

(412) 381-0116 (call or text)

Hope to hear from you soon!

Further reading:

David Sokulski, L.Ac.

(412) 381-0116

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Free Ear Acupuncture Treatments in Response to Tragedy at Tree of Life

Our hearts are heavy after the horrible shooting in Squirrel Hill over the weekend. We lost eleven friends and neighbors. May their memories be a blessing.

My daughter was in Hebrew School at Dor Hadash - one of the three congregations which met at Tree of Life. They are a loving, welcoming, joyous, and wonderful congregation, as were the others who met at Tree of Life. We were there not long ago to celebrate the Bat Mitzvah of my daughter's friend.

The outpouring of love and togetherness from Pittsburgh is what this city is all about. From the memorial Saturday night organized by students of the local public high school, to the service on Sunday where leaders of all faiths came together, to the beautiful flowers, fundraisers, and offers from all around the city.

In the spirit of healing, the Birch Center is offering free ear acupuncture treatments Tuesday October 30, Wednesday October 31, and Thursday November 1, by appointment: (412) 381-0116.  Everyone is welcome.

Ear treatments relieve shock, stress, and anxiety, balance the nervous and hormonal systems, and help deal with grief, fear, and anger. Please spread the word and give us a call. We are located on Pittsburgh's south side.

Also, if you are on facebook, follow our facebook page, where I will post updates of all the offers I can find, from free community acupuncture to reiki, to nature walks. I will share anything I hear that may be of help.

Please call us if you'd like to come in for a free ear acupuncture treatment. They are amazing and as our friend Amanda shared this morning on facebook, "Ear treatments have been incredibly helpful for me during bouts of stress and anxiety."

(412) 381-0116.

Shalom. Peace. Shanti.

Love to all,

Melissa and David Sokulski, L.Acs.

Birch Center for Health

(412) 381-0116

Monday, October 1, 2018

Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Your Health in Autumn

The ancient Chinese text, The Inner Classic, says:
The forces of Autumn create dryness in Heaven and metal on Earth, they create the lung organ and the skin upon the body...and the nose, and the white color, and the pungent flavor...the emotion grief, and the ability to make a weeping sound.
The energy of fall is downward and inward. We can see this as we watch leaves fall from the trees and seeds dropping from plants. Grasses and leaves lose their bright green color. Sap from trees go back to the roots to be stored for the winter. The plants dry out.

As the season cools, we put more heat and energy into our foods, cooking soups and stews, roasting root vegetables. We smell delicious odors of cooking food (the nose relates to the Lungs, which relates to the Metal element and the autumn.)

Dryness prevails in the fall season, and this can have an effect on our health. We may notice thirst, dryness in skin, lips, throat, and itchy skin conditions. We can also develop cough and allergies more easily this time of year. Because the lungs open on the nose, we also may experience conditions in our sinuses and air passageways this time of year.

Meditation and breath practices (which are called pranayama in the yogic tradition) are beneficial this time of year. Taking time to slow down and focus on our breathing can be helpful. Eating foods like beans and grains, which absorb a lot of water in cooking, is also helpful.

Acupuncture is excellent to help balance dryness and boost the energy of the lungs (and large intestine, its related organ). Lung and large intestine points are paired with other points to balance energy in the body helping to clear cough, allergies, skin conditions, increase energy, and help sleep this time of year.

Autumn is also the season of grief and sadness, which also relates to the lungs. When we realize that this is the time of year of contraction and inward focus, we get clues on how to deal with the grief that arises. We are encouraged to look within, focus internally, and share our feelings with others when helpful. Acupuncture works to balance the mind and spirit as well as body.

Autumn is a wonderful time of year to start or return to acupuncture treatments.

Give us a call or text today if you have questions or to set up an appointment: (412) 381-0116.

Hope to talk to you soon!

David and Melissa Sokulski, L.Acs.
Birch Center for Acupuncture
South Side, Pittsburgh, PA, 15203

(412) 381-0116

References: Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Have You Seen Our Testimonials Page?

Have you seen our testimonial page?

If not, have a look at what some people have written to us about acupuncture, specifically David Sokulski's treatments at the Birch Center.

If you have questions or want to set up an appointment, call or text David at (412) 381-0116.

Optimal Back Health

A letter for Birch Center Acupuncturist David Sokulski.

I just want to thank you for getting my back into optimal health! I have tried so many different things and acupuncture as a last resort. I wish I would have done it immediately and tell everyone how it has helped heal my back pain. I felt depressed and defeated because not only was I in pain, but I had to stop all activities. For an active person that was the hardest part. I felt something immediately when I had my first treatment and definitely had relief after my first series. I look forward to the Seasons changing so I can come in for my tune-ups!!! Thank you so much again! 
~L.H. Pittsburgh, PA

Infertility to Beautiful Baby Girl

This letter recently arrived for Birch Center Acupuncturist David Sokulski.

Dear David, 
I am writing to thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me to get pregnant.
As you know, my husband and I had been trying to conceive for 3 years with no luck. I had been receiving acupuncture treatments from you on and off for about 2.5 years. during this time, I had been undergoing fertility treatments including four months of Clomid and three months of FSH injections. None of these cycles resulted in conception.
My husband and I decided that my body and mind needed a break from the treatments. However, I increased my acupuncture treatments with you to once per week. During these acupuncture treatments, I mentioned to you that I craved hot foods and drinks and you suggested that my body seemed to be craving warmth and that it needed to be warmed to allow pregnancy to occur. 
You also added moxibustion treatments on my abdomen and lower back to warm the uterus. You recommended that I keep warm at all times...wear a scarf and hat, gloves and warm boots or shoes. I was to pay particular attention to keeping my hands, feet and lower back warm. I drank warm liquids and ate warming foods. You also gave an herbal supplement to strengthen my kidneys. 
After 6 weeks of this regimen, we noticed my body was warmer. You told me, "You are now warm. Give treatments a break and see what happens." 
We conceived three days later. 
I tell everyone who will listen our story. It is nothing short than a miracle but one that was not possible without your help. You provided not only the expertise and necessary therapy to help me conceive, but also you are an extremely kind and caring person who would listen and console me and give me hope. You suggested helpful books to read, in particular "The Secret." I really connected with the teachings in this book and I am convinced that thinking positively and expressing gratitude for achieving my dreams helped them to come true. 
Again, my husband and I can't thank you enough for helping us to conceive our baby girl, born on November 2, 2011 by schedule C-section (due to my previous myomectomy surgery.) She is such a joy to us and we are enjoying every minute with her. You were able to do for us what modern medicine could not. We are forever grateful and hope that our story will inspire others to seek assistance from you and give them hope that their dreams will come true too. 
J.P. and S.P.
Pittsburgh, PA

From Back Pain to Bliss

I can't fully express how much of an improvement I am feeling in my condition after your wonderful treatment. Not knowing exactly what to expect from my first acupuncture experience, I never expected to be this satisfied. On the way home, I was most notably surprised at how totally relaxed I felt, and that the sharp pain I had been having was gone from my back; It still had some soreness, but the pain had been eliminated. It seems to be feeling even better as time goes by, and today I'm very pleased with how it feels, the soreness is also much less. We are now new converts to the wonderful world of acupuncture.

Chronic Back Pain Gone

I want to let everyone know how much David Sokulski of the Birch Center helped me with my chronic back pain. In fact, it is still unbelievable to me that it is completely gone. 
I have been living with back pain most of my life. I am 44 years old now. It began when I was a gymnast in high school with a pinch in my low back. In college my first episode hit when I could not stand up straight or put weight on one leg because of intense pain. I went to the doctor and he said it was a herniated disc in between my sacral and lumbar vertebrae, and he wanted to operate immediately. I was terribly afraid to do this so I convinced my parents to wait. Meanwhile, the doctor gave me muscle relaxants which I took, and it felt better enough for me to play frisbee (I know, maybe not the smartest thing!), but after that the pain did not come back to that degree and surgery was off the table, thank goodness. 
...Read the complete testimonial

Reviews on our Facebook Page:
I love David and the work he does here! I have had ongoing back issues that have been relieved because of my acupuncture visits. What a difference it has made for me! I go the beginning of every season and will not miss it!!! (March 30, 2018)

 2nd visit last week. Tremendous help! Would recommend to anyone! (May 4, 2015)

Call or text us for an appointment today! (412) 381-0116.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Fall Feng Shui Challenge: Clear Clutter

Let's celebrate fall with Feng Shui! Feng Shui is a Chinese practice of creating harmonious surroundings to bring good energy flow to your home, and health, love, and prosperity to your life. This is an over-simplified definition; there is quite a lot to Feng Shui. People study for years under masters and still only scratch the surface. However one thing is certain: even if your door faces the right direction, your walls are the correct color, you have mirrors and fountains just where they are meant to be, if you have clutter clogging up your home, energy cannot move through and none of it matters (well, it matters less anyway.)

This year, autumn officially starts September 22, but I wanted a nice round number (10) so I'm going to start a day early -  September 21.

So for the next 10 days: September 21 through 30, I'm going to challenge myself to CLEAR THE CLUTTER FROM MY HOME, one space at a time. I hope you will join me! I'll post an update a day, and if you feel moved, please comment and let me know what you have been doing too.

Can't get motivated? Feeling stuck? Acupuncture is a great way to balance your energy and get it flowing!

Give Dave a call at the Birch Center today for an appointment: (412) 381-0116.

Hope to see you soon, and happy decluttering!

~ Melissa and David Sokulski, L.Acs.

Birch Center for Health

(412) 381-0116

Monday, August 27, 2018

End Of Summer Health Tips

It's the end of the summer! In Chinese Medicine, this important season is known as "late summer" and it corresponds to the Earth element. In our bodies, the earth element manifests as digestion, and our stomach, spleen and pancreas.

Yellow-orange is the color of the Earth element, as as we look around at the ripening pumpkins and winter squash, corn and grains we get some idea why. Eating yellow/orange food like squash, sweet potatoes and millet is a great way to support the digestion. When digestion is weak all other organ systems are effected, so now is a wonderful time to focus on digestive health.

 If experiencing problems in this area, such as
  • weight gain or loss
  • bloating or gas
  • difficulty digestion
  • no appetite or too much appetite
  • constipation or loose stools
  • stomach ache
  • heart burn
  • slow digestion
This is a great time of year to get back on track. Acupuncture can help immensely.

Anything you can do to support your digestion will help during this time of year, including:

  • Do not overeat at one sitting.
  • Limit snacks. Give yourself time to digest your food before eating again.
  • Whole foods such as whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits are easy on our body and are perfect foods to support digestive health.
  • Avoid foods to which you react negatively. For some of us that may be wheat, dairy, sugar, oil.

Acupuncture can do wonders for all kinds of digestive problems; this is one of the things we've had great success with
at the Birch Center. Points on the stomach and spleen meridians (on the legs, feet and abdomen) help regulate, relax and nourish the digestion. Moxa can be applied to warm and strengthen the meridians if necessary, and the relaxing effect of a balancing acupuncture treatment is without compare.

Now is an excellent time for an acupuncture tune up or to begin treatments

Give us a call today to schedule your appointment: (412) 381-0116.

In health,
David and Melissa Sokulski
licensed acupuncturists

The Birch Center for Acupuncture
(412) 381-0116

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Friday, August 24, 2018

Sign Up For Our Newsletter!

Our end of summer newsletter is about to go out! It contains fantastic information about health, nutrition, acupuncture, wild plants, and general wellness.

Sign up today so you don't miss a single issue.

Thanks, and enjoy the beautiful days ~

~ David and Melissa Sokulski, L.Acs.

Birch Center for Health

(412) 381-0116

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Post Partum Doula Services Available!

Acupuncturist Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac., is now offering post partum doula services! She will come to your home after your baby is born, and support the new parents as they transition into their life with a new baby.

A post partum doula provides non-judgmental caring and support to the new family. Each situation is different depending on need. Some things Melissa can provide are:

  • Breastfeeding or bottle feeding support
  • Help with emotional and physical recovery after birth
  • Light housekeeping
  • Food preparation (vegetarian) 
  • Run errands
  • Help with holding, changing, and caring for baby so mom can get some rest
  • A sympathetic ear and support to the new family.
  • Referrals to local health care and resources as needed
Additionally, as a licensed acupuncturist, Melissa can offer ear acupuncture to the mother and other adults in the household during the visit for a discounted rate of $35 per treatment, which can help balance hormones, relieve stress, and tonify organs, and help the body heal.

Melissa is a mother of two, and is trained in:
  • Acupuncture, L.Ac., M.Ac., PA Board of Medicine Licensed, and Nationally Certified since 1996
  • Therapeutic Massage: Swedish Massage, Deep Tissue, Tui Na, Sports Massage, Foot Reflexology
  • Certified Yoga Instructor (RYT 200 hours)
  • Herbal Medicine: Chinese and Western herbs (Nationally Certified in Chinese Herbology since 1996)
  • Homeopathy and Flower Essences
  • Energy Healing: Polarity Therapy, Reiki, Hands On Healing, Quantum Touch, Yin Tui Na
  • First Aid/CPR (to be renewed August, 2018)
  • PA Act 33/34 Clearances
  • Experience working with infants and children with brain injury and special needs
Daytime post partum doula care can be scheduled from 8 am - 8 pm. Each visit must be at least four hours, and is offered at $30*/hour (*current acupuncture clients of either Melissa or David Sokulski receive 10% discount off doula services). Payment is due at time of visit.

An initial acquaintance visit can be scheduled for $30, to assess needs and get to know each other before committing to longer visits.

Questions, for more information, or to schedule an initial visit, please call the Birch Center at (412) 381-0116, or leave Melissa a message on her cell: (412) 886-4026. You can also email:

Melissa is also available for acupuncture treatments at The Birch Center, and can help at all stages of pregnancy, from regulating the menstrual cycle and easing PMS, to boosting fertility and helping with conception, easing pain, discomfort, and nausea during pregnancy, turning a breech baby with moxabustion, helping bring on labor in overdue pregnancies, and post partum recovery. Acupuncture can also help later in life ease the symptoms of menopause. Please call the Birch Center at (412) 381-0116 to schedule an appointment.

We look forward to working with you!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Happy New Year: Year of the Dog!

The Chinese New Year starts today, February 16, 2018.

Gung Hay Fat Choy: Happy New Year!

It's the year of the Dog!

2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934, 1922

Dog people are honest, loyal, and friendly. Dogs are also sensitive and can take on the issues of people around them, especially people they love most. Make sure this year is full of good self care.

Dog's energy is social and bountiful, making it a great year of opportunities, especially in business. Everyone will notice this energy and be able to take advantage of it, not just people born in dog years.

Celebrities who are born in these years include Benjamin Franklin, Prince William, Madonna, Queen Latifah, and Ellen Degeneres. You can find a more complete list here.

Welcome Year of the Dog!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Lentil Sweet Potato Chili To Warm These Cold Winter Days

It's snowing again! And soooo cold out. I want to share with you one of my favorite recipes ever, though in the winter it somehow soars even higher than usual. Lentil Sweet Potato Chili. I make this recipe at least once a week. 

The original recipe is from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's 21 Day Kickstart, which I can't recommend enough. Fantastic whole food plant based meal plans and recipes which come to you for 21 days, starting the first of the month. Sign up for free and you'll get the recipes sent to your email. Or check the website out, the recipes are always there: here is week 1, week 2, and week 3. (Ooh, not to get off track, but today I think I am going to make the Aloo Gobi - Cauliflower and Potato Curry - from week 3! The only reason I'm not making the Lentil Sweet Potato Chili is I am out of lentils from making it so much!)

Yum, look at that sweet potato! Full of beta carotene and vitamin C, plus lots of other minerals and vitamins. In Chinese medicine, its sweet taste and rich orange color let you know it's beneficial to the Spleen/Pancreas and Stomach - Earth element - and excellent for digestion and to boost energy (qi).

Here is how I make this delicious vegan chili:

  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2-3 handfuls of baby spinach (it shrinks!) or lots of chopped kale or other chopped greens to add at end
  • 1/2 -1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • red pepper flakes, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6-8 cups water (or you can use broth or veggie broth cubes or whatever, I just use water)
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes or 14 oz tomato sauce or small jar tomato paste, whatever you have around


* Because I don't use oil in cooking and because I like to make things as easy as possible, I just put everything into a pot without sauteing things first, so...

1. Into 6 cups of water (or broth) as it comes to boiling, add:
  • both kinds of rinsed lentils
  • onion
  • celery
  • garlic
  • sweet potatoes
  • spices
2. Let that come to a boil, then cover and simmer until the lentils are cooked through, about 25 minutes, adding water and stirring as necessary so it doesn't burn.

3. Then add the tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, let it come back up to boil again.

4. Finally add the greens at the very end, and cook until wilted. 

5. Taste to adjust seasonings and enjoy!

I love to eat this chili with hot sauce.

If you don't have (or don't like) sweet potatoes, it is delicious with regular potatoes as well. 


~ Melissa

Monday, February 5, 2018

Cinnamon, Ginger, Onions, and Garlic Strongly Protect Us From Colds and Flu

Cinnamon sticks
As the winter progresses, the cold weather can affect our Lungs in the form of coughs, sinus issues, colds and flu. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the metal element corresponds to the Lungs. The taste that strengthens the Lungs is pungent: the spicy flavor of foods and spices like cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and onions.

In traditional Chinese medical theory, when one gets sick with colds or flu it is thought that an external pathogen has invaded the system. Western medicine similarly holds that colds and flu are caused by bacteria or viruses. Each of the five tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, sour and pungent) has a specific action. The pungent taste has the action of pushing outward and dispersing unwanted "invaders" through the skin, as evidenced by sweating.

When coming down with a cold or flu the herb to take is actually a food: scallions. Known as the Chinese herb cong bai, scallions release the pathogen by inducing sweating. Simmer scallion or other onion along with garlic and ginger and drink the broth to keep a cold or flu from going deeper.

If a cold or flu has gone deeper and has affected the muscles, the herb of choice is cinnamon, known in Chinese as gui zhi. Cinnamon is warming and can help when the person is feeling weak especially if sweating does not help them feel better. In this case, cinnamon will warm, strengthen and increase immunity.

Fresh ginger (sheng jiang) is also warm and releases the pathogen. Ginger is especially good if the person feels cold and is coughing. Similar to cinnamon, ginger strengthens the immunity for weaker people who are sweating without relief of symptoms.

A nice tea when feeling chilled and recovering from a cold or flu, is made by simmering a couple of cinnamon sticks and sliced fresh ginger in water for at least 20 minutes, strain and drink as needed.

If there are heat symptoms such as a sore throat or fever, switching to a cooler herb which still releases the pathogen is appropriate. One such herb is mint, or bo he. Flowers such as chrysanthemum (ye ju hua), honeysuckle (jin yin hua), and dandelion (pu gong ying) mix well with mint to cool the body and release the pathogen.

One important note: herbs such as ginseng, astragalus and bee pollen also strengthen the immune system, but these herbs have a sweet taste and will actually strengthen pathogens. They are wonderful to take as prevention, but if you end up coming down with a cold or flu, stop taking them and switch to one of the above remedies. Once the illness has passed completely, it is safe to take the sweet strengthening herbs again.

And of course acupuncture is always helpful to boost your immune system to prevent and/or recover from cold or flu. If you'd like an acupuncture appointment please give us a call at (412) 381-0116 and we'd be happy to see you!

Food is the best medicine! Eat well, drink lots of water, and incorporate these wonderful spicy tasting foods, herbs, and spices into your life!

Be well!

Melissa and David Sokulski, licensed acupuncturists
Birch Center for Health

(412) 381-0116

a version of this article first appeared in Natural News.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Winter And Traditional Chinese Medicine

Winter has no doubt arrived in Pittsburgh! With the temperatures below freezing for a week and counting, I think it's time to discuss winter, traditional Chinese medicine, and ways to keep warm!

Winter is the time of year which corresponds the water element. In our bodies, that relates to our Kidneys and Bladder. In five element theory, the color correspondence is black or blue, and the emotion is fear.

Symptoms which may be associated with the Water element include

  • bladder and/or kidney infections
  • low back pain
  • knee pain
  • cavities in teeth
  • weak or broken bones
  • infertility
  • premature gray hair or hair loss
  • ringing in the ears
  • increase of phobias or fears

To strengthen the Water energy and keep the body in balance, it's important to keep yourself warm. Wear scarves around your neck and extra layers or scarves around your mid-section (in Japan, this is called a haramaki, or belly warmer: a tube of material which can be fashionable, which goes around your midsection to keep your abdomen and kidneys warm.)

If you are on a high raw or 100% raw food diet, you can add spices such as ginger to your juices and cinnamon to your foods. You can gently warm soups, and make sure to eat plenty of well blended food, as these meals are easier to digest. Fresh cranberries also make a nice addition to juices or purees this time of year, and help protect the bladder and kidneys from infection as well (especially if you are prone to this type of infection.)

Here is one of my favorite winter juice recipes:

Juice the following:

  • 5 carrots
  • 3 apples
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 inch knob fresh ginger

I usually add water to the juice, especially because this one is so sweet.

Warm miso soup is also a wonderful meal: heat the water and let it cool back down to ninety or one hundred degrees (warm to the touch.) Add scallions, sliced mushrooms, wakame (a sea vegetable), grated ginger and carrots, and miso, which is best first made into a paste with warm water and then added to the soup. Enjoy this soup warm.

In macrobiotic cooking, aduki beans and black beans are beneficial for the kidneys. Millet and winter squash are also good choices for balancing energy this time of year.

Herbs which benefit the kidneys are nettleshe shou wu (also known as Foti root), and the formula Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, or Rehmannia Six.

Now is a wonderful time of year to get acupuncture, especially if you notice any of the above symptoms. Points such as K3 and K6 on the ankle are helpful to boost the Kidney energy, as well as bladder points along the spine on the back. Moxibustion is wonderful this time of year to help add heat to the body via the acu-points, abdomen and meridians.

As always, we are happy to answer your questions. Please comment below, email us at or give us a call (412) 381-0116.

David is now seeing clients in the North Hills, at St. Barnabas Health Center (lots of FREE parking!!!) in addition to our regular South Side location, so give us a call today!

Stay cozy and warm!

Melissa and David Sokulski
Licensed Acupuncturists
The Birch Center for Health
(412) 381-0116