When I arrived at Wellness Above Walnut, I was beat from a tough workweek. I’d been out late covering this and that. The hobnobbing included way too much wine. And I also had cramps that were unapologetically kicking my butt.

I was feeling like a wilted flower when registered nurse Christie D’Arcy greeted me in blue scrubs and with a reassuring smile.

And then she gave me a shot.

I was there for hydration therapy — a combination of saline, vitamins and minerals and saline fluid given intravenously and specially designed to perk me up.

The night before my appointment, Christie and her sister Casey celebrated the merging of their two brands: City Hydration and Luminous Chiropractic under the Wellness Above Walnut umbrella. The D’Arcy sisters threw a party with the kind of red-carpet fanfare and celebrity sightings — Eagles tight end Zack Ertz was in the house — reserved for the openings of specialty boutiques and restaurants.

Wellness collectives are the latest in luxe retail. They are as diverse as the owners who dream them up so no two are alike. Basically, places such as New York City’s Clean Market and HealHaus offer inner peace-seeking patients a variety of wellness services in one place, from the physical — such as Wellness on Walnut’s chiropractic services and hydration therapy — to the spiritual — such as chakra cleansing — to the mindful — such as meditation and yoga.

The deal is that proprietors hope that by putting all these services under one roof, they can entice wellness seekers to try to more than one service. For those in search of nirvana, it’s one-stop shopping. The Wellness Above Walnut collective also includes massage therapist Paulina Walska and fitness coach Jessica Sullivan.

These collectives are becoming so popular that some even travel from city to city. This Saturday, natural hair paradise Marsh + Mane will host BLK+GRN, a wellness collective and pop-up that will offer yoga, mindfulness workshops, and healthy bites for women of color.

Christie D’Arcy (left) and Casey D’Arcy have opened Wellness Above Walnut at 1315 Walnut St. They are shown with Zach Ertz of the Eagles at their grand opening on June 13, 2019.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Christie D’Arcy (left) and Casey D’Arcy have opened Wellness Above Walnut at 1315 Walnut St. They are shown with Zach Ertz of the Eagles at their grand opening on June 13, 2019.

“We are spending less on things and more on self care,” said Beth McGroarty, vice president of research at Miami-based Global Wellness Institute. “People are looking at healing their whole bodies, so we are seeing growth in the number of places that offer one-stop shopping for wellness services ranging from acupuncture to reiki.”

The D’Arcy sisters say they hope the 2,500-square-foot collective becomes a place where people can practice preventive care to help clients avoid emergency room visits and hospital stays. They don’t discourage going to the doctor, but for many, doctors can be a scary place.

“We are about working on the mind, body and spirit connection,” Christie said.

Rather than go all in, I decided to go a la carte and try Christie’s hydration therapy service.

I was excited, but I was on the fence. Over the last decade, I’ve experimented with many an unconventional health and wellness practice, from getting my chakras — points of energy along my spine — aligned to burning sage in my apartment to keep the evil spirits out. I froze my tuchis off a few years ago when I tried cryotherapy.

Hydration therapy is based on the work of Johns Hopkins physician John Myers, who, in the 1960s, concluded that we didn’t absorb enough vitamins and minerals through digestion. He developed the Myers cocktail, a selection of vitamins and minerals designed to boost our cells’ performance. Some have reported relief from such chronic conditions as fibromyalgia and migraines. But the practice has also been criticized by many for not having a documented scientific benefit.

So what’s the point? Plus, needles freak me out and a friend of mine who received what was supposed to be an age-defying hydrotherapy treatment at a trendy New York spot found herself with a painfully inflamed vein.

And then there was the cynic in me: Who’s to say my vein wouldn’t be pumped full of clear placebo?

Christie calmed my nerves. At 33, she’s been a registered nurse for 13 years, spending about half of that time as a traveling to such cities as San Francisco and Denver, where hydration therapy is popular. She became a believer when she received a few infusions to boost her immune system and cure hangovers.

“Hospitals put IVs in patients every day," Christie said. “We are just taking you out of that environment into one that’s more comfortable,"

She moved back to Philadelphia to start her business and in a few months launched City Hydration in her sister Casey’s offices (Casey, who received her chiropractic degree at Life University in Georgia, had been practicing for three years and built a steady clientele as one of the few chiropractors who uses motion therapy to identify locks in the vertebrae.)

It wasn’t long before Christie opened a second pop-up location in the Bellevue. Today, 17 nurses help her administer City Hydration’s menu of services. Drips range from $140 to $170, but specially curated ones cost upward of $200.

Inquirer columnist Elizabeth Wellington tries hydration therapy at City Hydration.
Christie D'Arcy / City Hydration
Inquirer columnist Elizabeth Wellington tries hydration therapy at City Hydration.

“Once people try it they always come back,” Christie said. "The truth is in the pudding.”

Meet the pudding.

After a brief chat about how low down I was feeling, Christie D’Arcy mixed up an IV bag of yellow liquid she juiced up with B-complex and B-12 for energy and nourishment; Vitamin C for immunity; glutathione to detox my liver; and toradol, an anti-inflammatory — in other words, Motrin for the cramps.

Christie felt around my left arm and slipped the needle in the vein. My arm went stone cold and my mouth tasted as if I’d just finished a Flinstone vitamin from the B-12. (Luckily, I loved them growing up.) I snuggled under a blanket and tried to relax my arm. Within 10 minutes my cramps had subsided and I forgot there was a needle in my arm as Christie and I chatted it up. I was hooked up for about an hour and a half.

That night I had two glasses of wine with friends and the next day I went to hot power yoga and wasn’t nearly as dehydrated as I usually am. My energy levels stayed pretty level. But the bottom line is that I kept my yoga schedule and managed to stay hydrated each class that week.

And that’s definitely a win.

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