15 Alternative Wellness Practices to Try in Delaware

If you want to switch up your health and wellness routines this year, consider these alternative practices with a variety of benefits.

While the First State might not be at the cutting edge of alternative wellness practices, it’s catching on. From the ancient to the avant-garde, explore these 15 healing modalities.


Need to chill out? A millennia-old practice shows signs of icing out dis-ease.

Cold-water therapy—immersing the body in water between 39 F and 59 F—is said to offer such benefits as improved metabolism, immune response and sleep quality while also reducing anxiety, depression, pain and inflammation. It can trigger adaptive and protective responses in the body.

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Credit Wim Hof, an extreme athlete nicknamed The Iceman, for taking it mainstream. He began submerging in Amsterdam’s frigid Beatrixpark Canal at age 17, and claims it reactivates the deepest part of the brain.

Megan van Riet, owner of Bikram Yoga Chadds Ford (bikramyogachaddsford.com), orders up to 800 pounds of ice from A&B Ice in Wilmington for her workshops, which she says leave her feeling euphoric for days. “At first, I thought, no way—I have been practicing hot yoga for 18 years,” says van Riet, noting her initial aversion to the cold. “Getting in is hard, but [then] you’re fully in the here and now.” She now hosts monthly plunges at her studio.

Late fall and winter temperatures provide the perfect opportunity to plunge outside. Droves of participants turn out for the annual Lewes Polar Bear Plunge in Rehoboth Beach. (The next event is slated for February 4, with a virtual option for those who can’t make it to the Delaware beaches; plunged.org.)

Cold water immersion
Photo by Joe Del Tufo

And though a bathtub will do just fine, myriad inflatable barrels have emerged at various price points, making plunging available right in your backyard. —M.S.


Picture your worries drifting away. Neuroscientist John C. Lilly’s pioneering work with sensory deprivation led to profound initial insights in the 1950s. Studies now reveal that flotation therapy mimics the effects of certain antidepressants, calming the amygdala’s fight-or-flight response and inducing a restful theta brainwave state that’s ideal for creative problem-solving.

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Floating entails effortlessly reclining in a sensory-deprivation tank filled with 1,100 pounds of pharmaceutical-grade magnesium sulfate, or Epsom salt. The buoyant water eases muscle and joint strain, and blocking sensory input induces deep relaxation. Floaters often report heightened mental clarity, creativity and improved sleep quality.

flotation therapy
Photo by Dylan Calm

David Ruby, co-founder of First State Floats in Newark (firststatefloats.com), advocates for the noninvasive solution. “We believe there’s not a pill or procedure to cure everything. Floating provides a nonpharmaceutical intervention to help folks with pain, anxiety and stress,” Ruby says. Research substantiates its efficacy, with significant reductions in anxiety and depression symptoms observed across different age groups and genders.

Children also benefit from flotation therapy, finding respite from the overwhelming digital age. “They’re inundated so much now with [technology]. Little brains aren’t designed for that,” Ruby says. “[Floating] not only allows them the novel experience of being able to bob like a cork, but also the invaluable opportunity to disconnect.” —M.S.


Starting New Year’s Day, you’ve resolved to be more healthful. There’s just one problem: That 12 a.m. Veuve Clicquot has curtailed your motivation to embark on a First Day Hike. If you can muster the energy to lace up your trail shoes, IV hydration therapy can help keep you moving.

At Lyteguards Electrolyte Therapy in Trolley Square (lyteguards.com), co-owner Emily Green, RN, helps clients with everything from crapulence to colds to chronic illness. Her infusion menu serves up seven-plus elixirs, ranging from a “base” immune-boosting electrolyte blend to a comprehensive cocktail of B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc and glutathione.

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After relaxing in a recliner for 30 minutes, a cool liquid dripping into your veins, the effects are immediate. “With IV, vitamins and minerals are 100% [bioavailable],” says Green, whose clientele includes professional athletes.

At IV Drip Bar in Rehoboth Beach (dripbarr.com), order vitamin injections straight up, or sit with one of eight solutions designed for specific ailments (Too Much Exercise, Too Much Everything). Need an extra boost? Add a shot of zinc or magnesium to your tab. —A.B.


“Reflexology is as old as walking barefoot, our bare feet pumiced by rocks, roots and leaves,” says Claire Marie Miller, a board-certified massage therapist and teacher. “[T]hey are stimulated by the texture of the Earth and serve as a connection between our nervous system and the magnetic energy flowing through the Earth.”

Pictographs across the Middle East and Asia hint at reflexology as an ancient healing modality using the fingers that has since splintered into various methods based on different belief systems. Some practitioners think certain reflex points on the feet, hands and ears correspond with specific parts of the body, and that pressing on these points can treat ailments, explains Naomi Hoffman, a massage therapist at Heaven & Health in Greenville (heavenhealthllc.com). Here she provides Integrative Reflexology, a holistic whole-hand approach developed by Miller that combines different theories to “honor” the body’s complexity.

While reflexology is offered as a stand-alone treatment, Hoffman prefers to integrate it into a 60- or 90-minute massage for added benefit. “The goal of massage and reflexology is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system to help the body rest, digest and heal, she explains. “Our feet have thousands of nerve endings in them, so this directly affects our nervous system.”

To enhance your experience, Hoffman overlaps sounds of crashing waves with meditative music, and also offers aromatherapy. With every movement, you’ll sink deeper into a cozy, heated cot—unless you prefer to sit in a chair.

While there’s no hard science to support the effects of reflexology, thousands of years of Eastern anecdotal evidence is compelling. Therapists like Hoffman are trying to turn these proven techniques into methods even skeptical Western minds can benefit from. Many clients report such benefits as decreased anxiety, improved digestion, better sleep and reduced pain, she says. Kicking your feet up never felt so good. —A.B.


Derived from the Japanese words “shi,” meaning finger, and “atsu,” meaning pressure, shiatsu is a centuries-old healing modality that melds elements of massage, acupuncture and energy balancing.

Shiatsu therapists work along the body’s meridians and acupoints, Dean Hutcherson, Dipl. ABT, LMT, says. During a typical session, he assesses structural and postural distortions, develops a strategy to harmonize energetic imbalances, and releases movement restrictions using touch, pressure and stretching.

Shiatsu wellness
Photo by Becca Mathias

“By applying pressure on specific points along the body’s surface, shiatsu can restore one’s sense of well-being and ability to adapt to changes,” explains Hutcherson, who has been practicing and teaching for over 30 years. But before he can realign the body, his main goal is for clients to chill.

“My primary objective is to activate and engage the relaxation response, thus allowing a state of alignment for one’s healing,” he says. “Relaxation is an indicator that the body’s vital energy, which flows through the meridian pathways, is moving toward balance and wellness.”

Part of shiatsu’s allure lies in its adaptability, making it accessible for all age groups and backgrounds.

“People of all walks of life will come to me to help resolve conditions—such as fatigue, tension, stress, aches and debilitating pain—that may not be getting addressed adequately in a medical setting,” Hutcherson says.
deanhutcherson@gmail.com —M.S.


The healing art of acupuncture, an ancient tradition rooted in Chinese medicine, entails inserting fine, sterile, stainless steel needles into specific points on the body shown to be effective in the treatment of specific health problems.

Acupuncturist Barry L. Gommer Jr., LAc—who treats everything from women’s issues to autoimmune diseases and pain at Delaware Acupuncture (delawareacupuncture.com)—says new patients needn’t worry about the needling. “Most of the time, it doesn’t hurt. What you may feel is more of a sensation that’s odd, initially, on the brain,” he explains. “So, you may feel tingly. You may feel hot or cool. Women usually feel more than men, the front of the body feels more than the back, and some people don’t feel anything. It’s still working; it’s just that everyone’s different.”

Acupuncture restores the body’s natural energy flow by stimulating points along bodily pathways. Gommer likens these paths to highways. For example, a jam at one intersection might result in traffic along the entire road. “Mentally and physically, everything is connected in Chinese medicine,” he says. “Your energy gets better, as well as your moods, focus, sleep and digestion. It can help with everything.” —M.S.


In the quest for innovative wellness practices, LED Red Light Therapy (RLT) emerges as a bright beacon of hope. This modality, harnessing the soothing glow of red and near-infrared light, is not just a trend—it’s a scientific marvel.

The science lies in RLT’s ability to stimulate and rejuvenate cells. When vibrant wavelengths reach the body’s tissues, they trigger a biochemical response, enhancing the production of energy within the cells. This boost in energy sparks a cascade of benefits, from reducing inflammation and pain to promoting skin health and wound healing. Plus, sessions only last 12 minutes.

Red light services in Delaware
Photo by Lauren Golt

The therapeutic effects extend to mental wellness as well, as the gentle warmth of red light can soothe the mind. Though more research is needed, RLT may also help to reduce psoriasis, relieve muscle pain, speed skin healing and improve hair growth. “Cosmetically, RLT boosts collagen and elastin in the skin, reduces surface and underlying tissue inflammation, and increases blood flow,” says Lizzie Johnson, co-owner of Houppette in Greenville (houppette.com).

Although RLT is helpful for most people, there are a few contraindications. “Light-sensitive individuals and those with thyroid conditions, epilepsy or skin cancer should use caution and speak with their doctors [first],” Johnson adds. —M.S.


Ozone therapy is a cutting-edge medical approach that involves extracting a small amount of a patient’s blood, mixing it with a precise concentration of oxygen and ozone, and subsequently reintroducing the enriched blood into the body by IV.

The benefits are multifaceted. First, ozone has powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties, making it a promising treatment for infections. It destroys microorganisms (such as bacteria, mold, yeast and viruses) on contact. Ozone therapy also enhances the body’s oxygen utilization, improving overall cellular function and energy production, and can stimulate the immune system.

Henry Childers, MD, FAAO, IV, founder of Delaware Integrative Medicine in Georgetown (delawareintegrativemedicine.com), explains it this way: “Say you had a Ferrari and you’ve only used low-grade gas. It drives and looks nice. Now, suddenly, you’re going to use racing fuel. The performance completely changes. The car didn’t change. The engine is the same. The fuel is different. Ozone doesn’t do magic. It’s increasing the oxidative potential, which is why it works so well.”

Many patients suffering from autoimmune disorders, chronic infections and degenerative diseases are finding relief. Childers even injects directly into joints for those ailing with arthritis or injuries.

“Ozone, in my mind, is the single best treatment for wellness or just about any disease, because you’re optimizing the biologic system to do what the biologic system does—heal, surveil, maintain [and] grow.” —M.S.


Delaware boasts just a single BioCharger NG, a device resembling a prop from a sci-fi flick. This revolutionary apparatus serves as a health optimization platform, integrating four harmonious energies: light, voltage, PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic field) and frequencies. With over 1,000 programs in the company’s cloud-based library, users can target specific aspects of well-being.

At Newark’s Aspire Wellness (aspirewellnessnow.com), clients can book time in front of the uniquely visual machine that encompasses a red Tesla coil surrounded by spectrum tubes filled with various gases. The only instruction is to be in its presence (although the energy can also be transmitted reiki-style over long distances). Group sessions address broad concerns like inflammation, stress and weight loss, while individual sessions can tackle more personalized issues, from sports injuries to abnormal cell growth.

“We had a little bulldog come in regularly with respiratory issues that the vet said looked like cobwebs in his lungs,” says co-owner Cheryl McClea. “He would sit in front of it, get all comfy and push his chest out.” The vet was stunned when scans came back clean. “It was amazing to watch,” she says.

Each BioCharger program lasts approximately 20 minutes. Contraindications include pregnancy, photosensitivity, metal implants and pacemakers. —M.S.


Sound therapy dates back to ancient Egypt and Greece, where sound and vibration were used in prayers and chants, such as the primordial sound of “Om.” It is universal in its ability to transcend language and culture. Nature itself carries healing sounds, such as the buzzing of insects or the crashing of waves.

Sound Therapy
Photo by Lauren Noelle

Elizabeth Kerrick, a shiatsu practitioner based in Wilmington (elizabethkerrick.com), uses tools like the sacred frame drum and tuning forks in her meditations. “The rhythmic beating of the drum connects one to the soul and spirit realm, awakening the innate ability to heal oneself,” she says. “It serves as a natural stress reliever, improving immune function and tonifying the organs. …Just listening to the drum grounds and calms the mind, taking the brain and nervous system to a deep state of meditation.”

Kerrick explains that our bodies, which are 70% water, serve as ideal resonators for vibrational healing, as sound travels through water four times faster than any other medium. For those in search of a shared experience, group sound bath meditations, like those offered at Bath House in Greenville (thebathhousegreenville.com), integrate the powerful element of community. —M.S.


Outside the world of scientific advancements, there exists a realm that transcends the boundaries of the tangible, one deeply rooted in mysticism and ancient wisdom. Shamanic healing, a practice with tribal origins, offers a unique blend of therapy and spirituality that aims to mend souls and delve into past lives to facilitate wellness.

In the practice of soul retrieval, shamans believe that life’s traumas can cause fragmentation, leaving us feeling incomplete or disconnected. Through ceremony, they seek to reintegrate these lost pieces and bring back a sense of wholeness. Shamanic healer Terri Pippin, founder of The Medicine Woman’s School of Holistic Healing and Education in Dover (terripippinthemedicinewoman.com; heathersholistichealth.com), says “When we have trauma in our life, part of us will splinter off to get through it. I have been taught by my teachers how to journey, get those soul parts and bring them back.”

Past life journeys, on the other hand, invite participants seeking insights into current life challenges to explore their previous incarnations. They offer a fresh perspective, empowering individuals to overcome obstacles, resolve karmic patterns and unleash their true potential.

As our world seeks to rekindle its connection to the spiritual, shamanic healing provides a profound path towards self-discovery. It’s a reminder that sometimes the answers we seek can be found in the wisdom of the ages. —M.S.


Unlock the power of suggestion while getting very sleepy. Considered a gateway to the subconscious mind, hypnotherapy empowers individuals to overcome stubborn habits, banish fears and conquer self-doubt. Envision a journey where cravings, anxiety and withdrawal effortlessly fade away, allowing you to embrace a healthier and improved self.

Certified hypnotist Marshal Manlove of First State Hypnosis (firststatehypnosis.com) clarifies the process: “In theory, we divide the mind into consciousness and subconsciousness. The conscious mind engages in critical thinking and analysis. Once it is focused on the task of relaxing, it doesn’t filter or criticize the suggestions which are being made and the body can react differently.”

Manlove says visual thinkers tend to excel in this realm, where positive imagery implants good habits. He recommends a combination of live and recorded sessions for three weeks to achieve optimal results, although even just one session can make an impact. Stress, a common foe, loses its grip during hypnosis, contributing to a longer, healthier life. Because hypnosis is relaxing by nature, every sitting, regardless of the issue, yields the bonus of stress reduction—and that’s a no-brainer. —M.S.


Before Teri Dickerson became a licensed massage therapist and reiki master, she was already discovering her power to heal. Having previously worked with the developmentally disabled, Dickerson held a patient, a little girl, who had seizures. “She pushed my hands away and said, ‘hot-t-t,’” Dickerson remembers. Moments later, the girl stood up and felt better.

Once, when a friend developed a migraine, Dickerson instinctively knew how to treat it. “Call it claircognizance? …It feels like I’ve done this before and carried it through into this life,” she says.

At Chiropractic & Muscle Therapy of Delaware in Newark (chiropracticandmuscletherapy.com), Dickerson uses both massage and reiki—an early Japanese modality meaning “universal life force energy”—to reduce pain and promote physical and emotional well-being for patients who have experienced trauma, like an accident, or who have ongoing anxiety or stress.

“I am an open channel for this energy. …It goes through me and to my client,” explains Dickerson, who also teaches reiki at her Maryland farmhouse. “I am not a healer—I just help [your] body heal.” Reiki works to open the body’s seven main chakras, or energy centers, from root to crown. Dickerson can often sense a patient’s “disease” through a physical sensation she feels in her own body, and she uses specific crystals and a pendulum to help clear old energy.

Recently, when treating a patient who had severe pain and ringing in her ears, Dickerson felt an electrical-type charge as her hands hovered around the patient’s head. Other times, she’ll feel heat. “There was nothing that I could do to touch her to relieve her pain, so I only used reiki,” she points out. “The next morning, she sent me a message saying, ‘I don’t know how that worked but the ringing subsided and I have considerably less pain.’” —A.B.


Developed in the 1970s through the insights of osteopathic physician John Upledger, craniosacral therapy (CST) is quietly making waves. This subtle yet potent method involves gentle manipulation of the craniosacral system—the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The goal is to unlock restrictions in this vital chain, unleashing the body’s innate healing prowess.

Wilmington-based craniosacral therapist Colleen McLaughlin, LMT, RN, explains, “When the system gets disrupted, it can get locked up and slowed down. The goal is to adjust the system using techniques and methods to help open it back up.” By addressing these imbalances, CST practitioners enhance the body’s natural rhythm, providing relief for various conditions from migraines to chronic pain.

CST’s impact also extends to mental health, fostering relaxation and reducing anxiety. “A lot of clients say it feels like energy work, but it does get into a physical, structured system in the body, just in a really light-touch kind of way,” McLaughlin notes. It’s so noninvasive that she counts many newborns, infants and new moms among her clientele at Empowered Bodywork in Wilmington (empoweredbodywork.com). Many of them find solace here, especially regarding nursing challenges like tongue- and lip-ties, both conditions that restrict the movements of a baby’s mouth and can be an obstruction to breastfeeding. —M.S.


Take this with more than one grain of salt. Halotherapy, also known as salt therapy, involves inhaling and absorbing pure minerals in a relaxed environment. The salt, typically aerosolized by a halogenerator, is mucoactive, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting and anti-allergic; when absorbed through the skin and lungs, it can relieve common conditions such as allergies, asthma, skin rashes and sinus infections. The stress reduction properties of its negatively charged ions also help rid the body of impurities and increase blood oxygen levels.

“People are skeptical about salt being part of a health modality, because we spend so much time avoiding high sodium warnings,” says Glenna Walsh, Integrative Nutrition health coach at The Massage Studio in King of Prussia (massagestudiokop.com). She recommends 30 minutes in the Himalayan salt cabin. “It’s tricky. A lot of them are like, ‘I just sit in here? What do I do?’ It’s indicative of how people have a really hard time relaxing.”

Mooloop Photography

Walsh says cabin-goers report feeling like they’ve spent the day at the beach. “People fall asleep. I call it the napping room,” she says. The tactile room is also safe for children—Walsh has even seen it quickly soothe a few colicky babies. Here’s to a breath of fresh, salty air! —M.S.

Related: BrightBloom Centers Provide ABA Therapy in Delaware

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