From Police Officer to Holistic Healer: Meet Crystal Cliff

By Eren Simpson

Crystal Cliff is the owner of Phoenix Moon Acupuncture and Apothecary

Crystal Cliff

in Plaza Midwood and an award-winning female business owner, but her success didn’t happen overnight.

Cliff grew up in a family of police officers and teachers, but from the age of six knew she wanted to do something in medicine.

“I had no choice but to blend all those things together at some point,” Cliff said.

Cliff eventually went to work for the Charlotte Police Department, where she worked for nine years as a police officer, and simultaneously enrolled in college to start her biology degree, intending to go to medical school.

But then Cliff suffered a traumatic brain injury, which took away her photographic memory, limiting her ability to make the grades required for medical school.

But her love for things such as anatomy and physiology persisted, and she ended up helping a friend study for the subjects when the friend was in massage school. Cliff went to check out the massage school, and when she saw the teacher leading the community meeting work on a patient who had chronic pain — due to four spinal fusion surgeries –walk away from the table feeling better than she had in years, she knew she’d found her calling.

“It heals people, helps people, I still get to work with the body; I need to do this,” Cliff said.

So she quit the police department, finished her undergraduate degree during the day while she went to massage school at night, and two weeks after she graduated, the school brought her back to teach anatomy and physiology to new students.

Cliff ended up teaching for six years, and managed two massage companies: a private practice and a seated chair massage company that worked with major businesses in and around Charlotte.

“It was a really great time, but I sustained a great number of injuries on patrol — I worked in a really tough area in Charlotte -– and I knew I couldn’t do massage forever, because my body wouldn’t hold up,” Cliff said. “Even though people said I was good, it was not my calling.”

Fortunately, while she’d been training for her national certification exam, she learned about Eastern medicine, such as acupuncture and, acupressure,  “and that lit a spark in me that never went out, because it was energy-based medicine and cultural folk medicine,” Cliff said.

Cliff then found an acupuncture school in Asheville, and for nine months worked full-time at the massage school and drove up and back to Asheville four times a week.

But in May 2010 she gave up her job, packed up her life in Charlotte and moved to Asheville to finish acupuncture school. She graduated in 2013, and came back to Charlotte to set up her new venture.

With her network of former students and professional connections, Cliff was able to set up shop and build her new business.

Cliff said her practice is different from many others because she is a classical Chinese practitioner, which means she treats everything from the skin and surface level to the DNA level.

“Spirit is a huge component in Taoist-based Chinese classical medicine,” Cliff explained. “It takes into account the aspect of spirit, the individual, the spirit of organs … It’s definitely a spirit, body and mind medicine.”

Her practice, Phoenix Moon Acupuncture and Apothecary, has been operating for five years now, and she recently received the National Association of Women Business Owners 2018 Rising Star Award. The award is given every year to a member “who demonstrated entrepreneurial creativity and determination in successfully managing a business less than five years old.”

To learn more about Cliff’s practice and classical Chinese medicine, visit