Chinese herbal medicine is a treasure trove of help for what ails the human body — with many tonic formulas too, to keep us healthy and prevent illness. Its tradition of combining medicinal substances into formulas, modified to suit one’s specific needs, is the essence of “personalized medicine” – something that we are told will become increasingly available in the 21st century – but which 2500 years or more of traditional Oriental Medicine has already refined to a high art. I feel so privileged to be one of the inheritors of this wisdom — and in 21 years of doctoring, I have seen clear and irrefutable evidence of the value of using these medicinals. I use them myself, every day.
To use Chinese medicines appropriately, I recommend a good Oriental Medicine evaluation by someone who is Board Certified in Chinese Herbology by the NCCAOM or the CA Board of Acupuncture. These professional practitioners (like myself) have access to the best-quality and safest forms of Chinese medicine, which meet cGMP standards for pharmaceutical-grade compounds, and are regulated by the FDA. Our profession has strived to go above and beyond the minimum, to have access to the best product lines.
A very important point: Licensed Acupuncturists who have been Board-certified in Chinese Herbology are taught about how to safely combine these medicines with the many, many drugs that some people take… and are also trained to know how to respond, if it appears there is any troublesome interaction or you need a modified dosage.
People often try to ask their physician/MD about Chinese herbs: but generally, they have received no training in this area, and cannot provide a ringing endorsement — beyond the scope of their expertise, they have no way to properly evaluate Chinese herbology’s therapeutic value. Best to ask someone who’s been trained to give you proper information, and uses this modality in his/her clinical practice.
Here are some of the ways in which I have seen Chinese herbs “save the day” for my patients — just to get you thinking!
- Women’s hot flashes, restless sleep or insomnia, night sweats and moodiness: American women think it’s part of menopause, but it doesn’t have to be! Many women begin experiencing symptoms in their late 30’s or early 40’s – the sooner I can intervene, the better. Herbs are critical in restoring what I like to call the “juiciness” of youth! Libido can be restored…
- Osteoporosis, osteopenia, or non-healing fractures: Certain formulas are brilliant at nourishing bones, whether due to normal aging, or injury. Allows one to address bone loss without resorting to pharmaceuticals, which have produced many unwanted effects, including fracture!
- Gynecology: Move over, Monistat! Chinese herbs are great for alleviating vaginal itch, discharge, or herpes breakouts. I’ve also helped stubborn cases of genital lichen planus. Herbs are critical for addressing endometriosis, and can be used in conjunction with surgical intervention. Same goes for fibroids, especially those that bleed.
- Shingles, Herpes zoster: I wish I could broadcast this, for all the times I’ve seen people suffering for 6-12 months with shingles pain — compared to how much relief I can typically bring in a few weeks! Acupuncture helps too, because this tends to occur with a weakened immune system that needs systemic help.
- Migraines: I’ve lived with someone who had pretty severe migraines, and treated scores of patients with the disorder. Quite adept in this area. Herbal medicine is wonderful for getting at the root of all kinds of headaches — and can keep folks off pharmaceuticals that make them feel tired and stupid! Lots of neurologists have been converted.
- Chronic circulatory problems and neuropathy: Cold feet, Raynaud’s, all sorts of neuropathy… Chinese medicinals offer incredible help with this spectrum. Usually benefits from acupuncture and Asian bodywork, too, or what I call “comprehensive care” – the root of these disorders must be addressed.
- Acute home-care: You suddenly have a sore throat – or feel the start of a head cold – or got too chilled and can’t breathe properly – or you feel the dreaded flu coming on – or your son twisted his ankle. Quick! Here’s where you should have taken my Medicine Cabinet Makeover class. You’d know what to do – and you’d have the herbs to treat yourself or your family, till you can get in to the office.
- Post-surgical recovery: I’ve treated patients after open-heart surgery, bowel resection, brain surgery, emergency appendectomy… you name it. Many can safely recover more quickly, reduce the need for pain medication, and see rapid healing of incisions, etc. Doctors frequently remark that they’re amazed with the “vigorous healing” they see!
- Infectious diseases & parasites: Chinese Herbology is has a multitude of safe and effective anti-microbial medicines, that can often be used instead of antibiotics, or as an adjunct to conventional pharmaceuticals, to provide a broader spectrum of coverage. An important treatment for viral hepatitis (all forms), for both acute and chronic stages of mononucleosis or Epstein-Barr, for treating Lyme disease and its variants — or as vital adjunctive therapy for Valley Fever, which is endemic to AZ. Many Chinese formulas treat the sequela of malaria or dengue fever as well — or any relapsing/remitting fevers & chills. Former soldiers or world travelers with mysterious conditions often seek me out.
- Diabetes: Herbs are part of a comprehensive approach, which also includes acupuncture and focuses attention on diet and lifestyle factors.
- Macular degeneration, glaucoma, dry eyes, night vision problems: Eye health is one of the most common areas of my practice. Common with aging, and responds very well to Chinese medicinals.
- Chronic digestive upsets (IBS, Crohn’s, colitis, reflux, constipation): Always a significant part of my clinical day, and an area I can personally relate to: Chinese Medicine cured me of ulcerative colitis! Acupuncture and dietary therapy are also important, to address the system comprehensively. Many digestive problems also have emotional aspects that benefit from the integrated, holistic approach.
- Fertility: Both men and women experience problems with fertility. Women’s fertility is enhanced by dealing with chronic health problems and strengthening the body to prepare for conception and the rigors of pregnancy. In some studies, as much as 80% greater success was achieved by utilizing Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine. Impressive! I recommend that women try O.M. before going through the expense and procedures of fertility clinics – although I do often serve an adjunctive role when women are already in the process of preparing for egg harvesting, in-vitro, etc. Here is one recent study from Australia which demonstrated the value of Chinese herbal medicine – showing that OM care was capable of at least doubling one’s chances of conception: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22036524.
- Depression, anxiety, PTSD: In this situation, I use herbs as part of a comprehensive program; the same applies if patients (with support from their prescribing physician) are attempting to reduce or discontinue chronic use of anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds, especially after long use. It’s hard to do without support – and herbs, along with acupuncture, make the transition much easier.
- Asthma, COPD, chronic bronchitis or repeated bouts of (usually viral) pneumonia: Along with acupuncture and dietary therapies, many patients with these conditions recover and come off inhalers, steroid medications, and antibiotics. It’s not always a quick fix, but the body responds beautifully, with the right help!
- Fibromyalgia: I’ve been midwife to so many recoveries from fibromyalgia – you can get better. Most patients need frequent care for at least 3-6 months, depending upon how long the condition has existed. Asian bodywork (very gentle) and acupuncture also help – I usually combine them, for the best result. But herbs are necessary to give the body the daily dose of support that is critical to a good recovery.
- Cancer patients on chemo or radiation: Chinese Medicine has many formulations to fight cancer, but in the US it is more commonly used as an adjunct to allopathic Oncology. In other words, Oriental Medicine is used to help patients withstand harsh chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and ameliorate the side effects they typically produce. Chinese Herbology’s role is supportive, and strives to strengthen the healthy aspects of the body, thus helping individuals to survive the treatment — and ideally overcome the cancer itself. Esteemed cancer centers such as Dana Farber, MD Anderson, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic have incorporated the services of Oriental Medicine practitioners to treat their patients. Chinese medicinals can be targeted to overcome fatigue, relieve night sweats, heal irradiated skin (which can be sensitive for a long time) – and keep blood counts in a sufficiently-healthy range to allow chemo or radiation to continue. Customized formulations can also limit certain chemotherapy drugs from causing peripheral neuropathies, or other toxic effects, without diminishing the chemo’s cancer-fighting properties! Herbal formulas can help with constipation, chronic sore throats, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, and sleep problems…to name just a few of the benefits. I use acupuncture along with herbal care, whenever possible, to encourage the best recovery.
- When antibiotics fail: We have many anti-microbial herbs that often do a better job than antibiotics. I recall one case in which a pacemaker was implanted into a 45-year old’s chest and neck – and the incision wouldn’t heal. There was fear it would need to be removed, leaving him vulnerable to having his heart stop, as it had done several times before. After every antibiotic was tried, he came for an herbal consult — and within days, he started to heal. The pacemaker wasn’t removed. In another case, a 10-year old boy with chronic tonsillitis was being told he might need to have these vital glands removed. His mom wanted to save his tonsils, but he’d had so many infections… Thank goodness, a strong course of Oriental Medicine care over about 8 weeks got him off the surgical list — and he still has his tonsils, which have been healthy for several years now! I’ve got scores of these stories–helping with everything from chronic sinus infections to urinary tract infections. One does not have to destroy the biota (flora) of the gut, to get desired results!
- Prostatitis & BPH: You may have heard that screening for prostate cancer (elevated PSA) is falling out of favor – but many men have early signs of prostate trouble, especially as regards difficult urination, or frequent waking at night to urinate. I usually combine acupuncture treatment with herbal medicine, and see gradual progress over 2-3 months. Sometimes, men also need to deal with stress and fatigue: it pays to be comprehensive, for best results.
This is certainly not a complete list: but if you’ve taken the time to look at it, I hope you’re intrigued with some of the conditions I routinely treat which involve the prescribing of Chinese herbal formulas. There are all kinds of ways of dispensing medicine: granules, tablets, powders, patches, poultices, syrups, capsules, and in natural form – boiled once or twice to make a medicinal tea, known as a “decoction.” I also use therapeutic-grade essential oils, which have concentrated herbal properties, in many of my care programs. And patients who come for acupuncture usually experience both the essential oils and the many wonderful liniments I have. Smells incredible in the room!Opening the door to the world of Oriental Medicine brings us closer to medicine as Nature has made it. Our bodies really respond to these natural substances – and the wisdom of the ancients helps us today to treat everything under the sun! If this stimulates your interest in getting OM care, email me: christy@EnerQiHealth.com. We’ll get started!