Can you improve your memory, concentration and vitality through a combination of natural herbal concoctions and chiropractic techniques? The Brain Boosting Package offered by the Holistic Central Medical Practice claims to achieve all that. The first part of the HK$5,800 package involves a comprehensive interview about my medical history with naturopathic physician Dr Benita Perch. We discuss standard medical issues such as chronic illnesses, surgery, medication, diet and family history. The conversation also covers those recurring subclinical concerns that, in spite of repeated tests and examinations, have never been fully resolved at the GP's office. In my case, this includes mysterious fits of sneezing, reactions to unidentified but persistent allergens, recurring fortnightly urinary tract infections, irregular bowel movements and general fatigue. 'Natural medicine is about using natural substances with a clinical application,' says Perch. In natural medicine, physical and emotional symptoms are not separate. So it's just as important to take the whole basket of symptoms into consideration.' Besides discussing key issues during my first visit, we also go over the details of my health, both the psychological and the personal - from setbacks in my career and quarrels with my husband to a recent recovery from a five-year eating disorder. Perch prescribes a course of green powder capsules, probiotics, and a homeopathic remedy. It is the first time that I've encountered homeopathic medicine. The small, white pills are slightly sweet, like enlarged granules of sugar - three of which I am told to dissolve under my tongue daily. These are dilutions of herbal or mineral essences and work on the body through vibrations or frequencies, Perch says. The greater the dilution of the ingredient, the more potent the medicine. The second half of the treatment involves an examination by Dr Wendy Yang, who specialises in chiropractic techniques. She explains the body's physiological responses to threat called 'fight or flight' whereby certain stress hormones are triggered to ready the mind and body for survival. Although it is a short-term response, city life can present episodes of extreme daily stress that can keep urbanites in a state of tension. 'The tension we store in body can be stress from work, low levels of built-up stress, or conditioning patterns from when we're five years old,' says Yang. 'When people first come in their bodies are still on guard, in fight or flight mode. It's a good way for me to unravel that shell, take off the armour.' I fill out a brief questionnaire, rating my different levels of wellness on a five-point rubric. Yang checks my posture and then has me lie face down on a table to check the tension patterns in my body. With her fingertips, she touches a spot on my lower back - a 'spinal gateway' that functions as a valve of sorts for the body to regulate tension. According to Yang, I store a considerable amount of tension deep in the L4 and L5 lumbar segments which can't be resolved in a half-hour session. She asks me to turn around, lying on the table supine, and instructs me through a series of deep breathing exercises where my hands are placed on my chest, then midsection, and finally lower belly. She sends me off with some 'mind-body' breathing techniques to practise at home every morning after waking. Breathing while lying in bed in the morning feels pretty good. For the first few days, something in either capsules causes a mild case of loose stools. The belly bloating does go down a bit in the three weeks. However, after the initial session, I am disappointed by the lack of noticeable improvements. In part, the name 'Brain Boost' is a bit of a misnomer. No amount of herbs or dilutions can create mental powers not there already. Still, I entertain some notion that the treatments might bestow an extraordinary mental acuity. After three weeks, the homeopathic vibrations and the mind-body breathing start to seem like nonsense. The treatments are fairly harmless. Beyond that, they seem to have little effect. I mention as much to Perch when I return to her office for a follow up. But as she asks me some targeted questions, I realise there have been some subtle changes. For example, the bowel movements have been much more regular. Also, the minor bladder infections that have persisted throughout much of my adult life have disappeared. Although the sneezing fits haven't gone away, they are less frequent. The bloating in my stomach feels much reduced and I am more motivated to run or to practise yoga. And during the entire course of the treatment, I have not had a spat with the husband. How much of this can be attributed to the treatments? I have experienced some, if undramatic, improvements. But it's hard to say whether it's a result of the Brain Boost or just circumstantial. It's at this point that Perch asks whether I like thunderstorms and furry animals. She also asks whether I like to dance. Yes to all of these, I reply, adding how it is odd that she should ask. In a conventional doctor's office, a patient's personality has little bearing on prescriptions. But it does make a difference in holistic medicine as the approach is to treat the overall condition - physical, psychological and dispositional. Perch says that on my first visit, the state of anger was apparent, like a dark cloud hanging over me. But this agitation appears to have abated substantially and she wants to prescribe a different homeopathic dilution more appropriate to my current disposition. Yang re-examines my back. The tension is still there, she says, but the type of stress is different than before, broken up a bit and closer to the surface as opposed to where it was - embedded deep in my lower lumbar segments. I fill out another questionnaire to compare my well-being against that on my first visit. 'Generally, with the course of treatment, this kind of improvement usually takes more than two or three visits,' says Yang. 'So I'm quite happy with what you've reported, just looking at the numbers and where you're at.' 'Actually, your situation was more complicated,' says Perch when I ask how my experience differs from other patients. Others who have tried Brain Boosting mostly complain of stress, anxiety, fatigue and problems sleeping. Perch has also treated women for PMS and painful menstrual periods as well as patients with irritable bowels, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Treatments are customised for each person. 'If [a problem] has been going on for more than five years, then it's not something that I can fix in two weeks,' says Perch. 'Otherwise, I'd be a miracle worker.'