Ross J Barr
FILED UNDER: INTERVIEWS
The sought-after British acupuncturist who stole our hearts, eased our pain, and gave us the at-home quick fixes for better sleep and a calmer existence.
- Written By:
- LENA RAFF
Ross J. Barr is charm, personified. Even through a Zoom screen, his unique brand of charisma is genuine, relatable, and heartfelt in a manner that puts a person immediately at ease. One can assume this skill comes in particularly handy in his deeply intimate work as one of the U.K.’s most sought-after acupuncturists and fertility specialists. Just ask the top magazine editors, actors, aristocrats, and royals who keep him on speed dial. With his combination of dark, floppy hair and a face-illuminating grin that gives off serious 90s movie star vibes, Barr listens thoughtfully and peppers his speech with a torrent of curse words that somehow sound wholesome delivered in his earnest way and posh accent.
The born healer can be found all about London, from his own clinic to residencies at the spa at Claridge’s Hotel and Soho House. After one or two sessions targeting everything from chronic pain to that ineffable feeling of “stuckness,” his clients regularly report feeling more like themselves than they have in quite some time. Since the pandemic forced him to think outside-the-treatment-room, there is now more Ross to go around, in the form of his shockingly effective topical wellness patches, launching exclusively in the U.S. at VIOLET GREY. The trio of Healing, Calm, and Sleep treatments are designed to be applied directly to affected areas as well as acupuncture points, in order to holistically ease menstrual cramps, bad backs and sore shoulders, to mitigate brain fog and anxiety, and to help improve sleep.
Everyone at VIOLET GREY quickly became obsessed with the patches… and with Ross.
We needed to know everything. Here it is, below:
VIOLET GREY: HOW DID YOU FIRST DISCOVER ACUPUNCTURE?
ROSS J. BARR: I came to it because, like many practitioners, it made such a huge difference to me when I was a kid. It helped me through a really traumatic time: My dad died out of the blue when I was about 20 years-old, and I went for acupuncture soon after it happened. I was quite skeptical, but my mum encouraged my brothers and me to go for it; she'd been having acupuncture for years. It changed my whole perception about what we were experiencing as a family. It treated the shock; it helped with the pain, the grief, all of those things. I vividly remember coming out of my first session, being amazed that I could feel as good as I was feeling considering everything that happened. I just had this feeling like somehow everything was going to be okay, despite how shit everything was, if that makes sense.
This guy saw me through a big chunk of that grief, and at one stage, I went to him and told him that I’d like some help figuring out what to do, work-wise. He did some great [acupuncture] points that were good for decision-making and clarity of thought, and about two weeks later I went back to him and told him that I wanted to be an acupuncturist.
VG: I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY CAN PICTURE ACUPUNCTURE—THE NEEDLES—BUT DON’T REALLY UNDERSTAND HOW IT WORKS.
RJB: It's the manipulation of Qi. We all have a kind of current that runs through our body, and what the needles do is to help distribute, or redistribute it, to invigorate change. It also helps stimulate the organs to do their jobs more efficiently.
VG: YOU SPECIFICALLY PRACTICE FIVE ELEMENT ACUPUNCTURE. WHAT MADE YOU PURSUE THAT AREA WITHIN TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE?
RJB: It’s what I received, and when I asked my acupuncturist where to study, he pointed me in the direction of a particular college that integrated Five Element with traditional Chinese Medicine. The reason I like this integration is because it gives me lots more tools to help treat the root of a problem, as well as the manifestation. We all have a kind of constitutional make-up, where our physiological and psychological attributes come from, and what Five Element does is help restore you back to factory settings. It's much more about treating the emotional make-up of an individual. Largely, I get people coming in to see me because they just don’t feel like themselves. They might have explored other Western medical models, but what Five Element acupuncture does beautifully well is to help them feel like the version of themselves that they know to be truest.
VG: NINETY-PERCENT OF YOUR CLIENTS ARE WOMEN, AND YOU ARE ESPECIALLY KNOWN FOR YOUR WORK WITH FERTILITY. HOW DID THAT COME TO BE YOUR SPECIALTY?
RJB: I think acupuncture is brilliant for regulating the menstrual cycle: You get better excretion fluids and better blood flow; you get better air quality, and better lining. It happened over time—all of a sudden you get a few famous people, and journalists, pregnant while they’re coming to see you, and before you know it, they’ve got two friends… It’s a part of my work that I love. It's really satisfying, and nice, to be working in that area.
With men—when you treat them and get them balanced, they tend to stay balanced longer because they don't lose blood. And they're quite simple beings; that we know.
VG: HOW DID YOU COME TO CREATE THE PATCHES WE NOW CARRY AT VIOLET GREY?
RJB: At the start of COVID lockdown, I couldn’t work anymore—I wasn’t allowed to see patients. The owner of [British retailer] Victoria Health and I came up with the idea of a healing patch, which has been used in Eastern medicine for years, but I changed the formulation a little bit. The Healing Patch was basically a way of getting to patients that I couldn’t see. It started with a fun idea. I didn’t know how well it would do, but we sold about 10,000 in about six months.
VG: NOW YOU HAVE THE CALM PATCH AND THE SLEEP PATCH, TOO.
RJB: Yes, the one that I brought out deeper into COVID, when everyone was in lockdown, was the Calm Patch. These things are really simple: You stick them on your temples; there’s an acupuncture point there that’s really good for calming the neurological pathways. The Calm Patch is good for headaches, relief of stress, tension, the brain fog that people are getting after COVID, and neck pain. Within a few minutes, you start to feel their sensation on the temples, and they last about 20 hours. They’re very effective. I think people are kind of surprised by them. They work on the olfactory level, where the smell induces a feeling (the herbs in them are really calming from an aromatherapy perspective), and then you get a transdermal effect on the local acupuncture point, as well.
We gained a lot of traction quite quickly because, around COVID, people were using them when they were having headaches, or anxiety attacks, or kids were doing exams. They’re good for anyone who’s studying, because of what they do to the neural pathways. If you’re concentrating hard on something, they’ll help with that, as well.
A lot of people told me that they were using them to get off to sleep, too, so [for the Sleep Patch] we used the same type of patch and introduced some herbs that were much more about sleep. You put them on your temples about half an hour before you get into bed. You’ll notice they're really good at just calming the mind and shutting down the neural pathways.
VG: ARE THERE ANY PATCH SUCCESS STORIES—APART FROM OUR ENTIRE VIOLET GREY TEAM—THAT YOU CAN SHARE?
RJB: Claridge’s, which is a swanky hotel in London, put them in the minibars. The general manager told me last week that the only thing that outsells the patches is bottled water. That shows the efficacy of just trying them once. I was in the spa last week and a lovely Japanese businessman came down; he’d used the Sleep Patch the night before, and slept better than he had in a while, so he bought like 50 packs to take away with him.
I also got a lovely letter, which is not something you get much these days, from an old couple who live in the north of England. She actually went to a local post office to send me a letter, to say that her husband had been up in the loft for the first time in five years, because he had the Healing Patch on his knees, and they really helped his arthritis. All he’d had before was ibuprofen. So, they’re effective, and they’re pretty cheap, as well.
VG: IF YOU COULD GIVE US ONE PIECE OF ADVICE FOR OVERALL WELL-BEING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
RJB: I would say that what I've noticed with human beings is that when you're not in good form, or when you're out of balance, it's normally the thing you find the hardest to do that you should do first. I’ll give you an example: When you are running on cortisol or adrenaline, the thing you’d find hardest to do is to do less—to sit down and read a book or watch a movie, because the adrenaline and cortisol will make you feel like you should be doing everything else other than doing nothing. You stay up late, you procrastinate, you end up going to bed later than you should, you drink more coffee. I always find people would rather pay someone like me lots of money than to give up coffee. If I were to give you a list of top five health tips for someone who is adrenalized or anxious, I guarantee the most important one on there would be to do fuckall when you get the chance. And that would be the one they would leave to the end. They would do everything else around the thing that would make them better.