OVA Health + Fertility: Dr. Carolina Zakes
Updated: Sep 14, 2020
Can you introduce yourself and where you're from? Hello! I am Dr. Carolina Zakes, DOM, AP and I specialize in integrative women’s health and fertility. I was born to Mexican and Cuban immigrant parents, which has greatly shaped my approach to patient care. I am a mix of two vastly rich cultures, but often find myself wondering: “Soy de aqui? O soy de alla?” But to be precise, I’m from Hialeah, la ciudad que progresa!
How did you get into holistic women's health? I come from a long line of female healers. My mother is a surgeon, my aunt is an herbalist, my grandmother was a nurse, and her mother was a midwife and healer. I grew up gathering herbs from my abuelita’s garden and writing down recipes handed down to her by her mother. The smell of manzanilla and ruda tea brewing in the kitchen were my first tastes of healing the body in an honest, holistic and powerful way. As I pursued my studies in Biology and Chinese Medicine, it became apparent that my path
to healing the human body began with my ancestors and the knowledge they derived from the Earth and its plants. It was up to me to marry that knowledge with the technology of modern medicine.
What are some of the Mayan and Aztec health care practices that you offer? Can you tell me more about them? Their history? There’s something magical about Mexican women and the nurturing they provide! I believe this ancestral relationship with herbs, the moon and the womb bring to light an ancient science that is revolutionizing so many fields of medicine. The traditional healing modalities used by the Aztecs and Mayans are truly too many to mention, but I have found a profound interest and clinical success, in the use of bajos, or yoni steams. The specific blends I use: The Lola Blend, La Perla Blend, and La Madre Blend, are recipes passed down to me by my grandmother, who in turn was taught by her mother and grandmother. During a bajo treatment, gentle heat and medicinal plant oils are applied to the exterior tissues of the vagina via steam. It is supported that bajos increase circulation and blood flow through the vagina allowing the porous tissues to absorb the bioactive plant oils in concentration carry them through the bloodstream. The treatment works on the reproductive system, including the uterus, where it helps to thin mucus, shed build-up, heal, tone, and revitalize the reproductive system.
How did you get into traditional Mexican healthcare practices? My Bajo herbal blends are something that I didn’t think much of growing up. If I had cramps, I just knew to brew some ruda with a chunk of La Abuelita hot chocolate (pro tip: it sweetens the potent taste of rue, and the dark chocolate soothes uterine cramping) and get my yoni steam ready over the toilet. Sure enough, my period would show up and I’d be spared the pain of my cramps.
It wasn’t until I went to college, started grad school and clinicals as an intern, that I realized just how many women were crippled by menstrual cramps and heavy bleeding! All I could think was: “Why don’t you just take some herbs?” It wasn’t until I realized… they didn’t know any better; no one had taught them what I knew. Women’s pain and resilience has been “normalized” to a point where women die from uterine fibroids and cervical cancer because no one took them seriously. Women black out and call out of work due to menstrual cramps. Why and when were we taught that it's normal? If my family’s legacy is to help women regain power and restore their health, one bajo at a time, then I am definitely living my ancestors’ wildest dreams.
How does being a hispanic woman affect how you run your business (daily life/challenges/positives/etc) I think any woman in medicine, specifically one of color, has at some point in her career faced adversity. While it is a heavy and unfair load, I must admit it has sharpened me and elevated my practice to another level. I went to school in Tulsa, Oklahoma and looking back, some situations were certainly interesting. But it elevated me. It showed me that the child of an immigrant, on a scholarship, was capable of obliterating the competition… and in two languages. As the child of immigrants, there is this sense of “grit” and “resilience” that we must develop. It definitely sets us apart, but it can also create an incredibly stressful environment. Even as a child, I felt the need to juggle my parents’ expectations in a world where I didn’t quite fit in. Often times we feel a need to “make good” on the sacrifices our parents made. When that sacrifice entails picking up an entire life and moving across the world, it can be difficult to “keep our end of the bargain”. I say this as a reminder to the younger generations who are juggling these responsibilities and decisions. Stay true to yourself and your passions; don’t ever forget where you come from. What kind of woman do you want to see in the world? My daughter. Strong, kind, resilient; a mixture of intellect and magic. I want to see women who walk strongly in their culture and identity. I want women who dream and take leaps of faith knowing that we’ve got their back. I want to see more women supporting and uplifting each other; less tearing down and competition. We owe it to give our girls the opportunities we never had. We are at such a divisive point in history! As a young adult, it can be very daunting and terrifying. But it is the unity and resilience of our culture that has brought me the most comfort and hope. My hope is to create a center where women of the world can come together and bond over what makes us human. Amidst such uncertain times, I want to restore the natural healers, the herbalists, the medicine women in all of us. I dream of women that are educated and that change the world one daughter at a time; reclaiming our power through re-learning our bodies and their individual rhythms. There is magic in knowing yourself.
Do you have any words of inspiration for others? (words of wisdom?) I believe there is a conscious shift happening in our society. People have access to research and connection like never before. We are no longer willing to blindly medicate our children. As physicians are going through school, they are asking uncomfortable questions and pushing the boundaries of what medicine has been, to what it should be. I believe it is in this revolution that mothers and children will come out victorious. For every woman we lost to cancer, for every undiagnosed illness, for every mother lost in childbirth, this is our time to break the mold and change the future for our daughters. Is there anything else you'd like to share. Myovahealth.com