Pros And Cons Of Chinese Herbs
I love Chinese Medicine, yet as an Oriental Medical Physician I had to stop and ask myself, what are the pros and cons of Chinese Herbs? This is a difficult question as in my experience it is completely dependent on the skill and training of the physician administering the herbs.
As you may or may not know, Chinese Herbal Medicine is well over 5000 years old, and modern day Western Medicine Pharmacology is less than 80 years old (Antibiotics were discovered in 1928). While we live in a world of technology where the future is seen as the most intelligent reality, the truth is that the Chinese Medicine is built on experience. For 5000 years the medicine has witnessed disease and for 5000 years it has been modified some, but most of the Materia Medica has remained the same because it works.
I have seen patients two weeks prior to having their Thyroid gland radiated with life threatening hyperthyroid symptoms (resting hart rate of 125) recover in 2 weeks. I have seen patients with eczema all over their bodies recover in three weeks. But the truth is, in each case the result was a case of the quality of the practicing physician and the extreme dedication of the patient to their own healing process.
Chinese Herbs - The Pros:
The pros are significant. First, the herbs treat a large number of diseases including almost all of the diseases you can think of. From acute disease such as the flu to chronic disease, there is a formula that can be used and a desired result to be expected.
Next, within the world of Chinese Herbal Medicine, every body is seen as a whole and complete unit. If you have the flu, but you also suffer from disease "a" you will get a different formula than someone with disease "b" This is because the way the medicine is laid out each herb has a role and is placed to act specifically with the patients given symptoms. Another example, lets look at hepatitis. In hepatitis, there are many different types according to Chinese Medicine, at least 6 for hepatitis c alone. Each type has a recommended herbal combination and dietary suggestions. In this way the medicine is fully customizable.
With this breadth of effectiveness, there are also many herbs to choose from. What’s more, because the Oriental Medical Model is so different from western thought, there is never one herb used to treat one ailment alone. There are over 350 herbs, the average formula I see has at least 6 – 20 herbs in it. Each herb has a significant role in the formula and has a specific interaction with the other herbs that is expected and desired. It might be hard to believe that with a bag of 20 herbs, every herb has its place, but it’s true. There is one formula, Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, which I have seen used very often. For some individuals with weak digestion, this formula gives them gas. By adding a small amount of one herb, Mu Xiong, the gas and bloating is always greatly reduced. Likewise, there is an herb called Chai Hu, often times referred to as the “emotional dredge” by herbalists. When added to a formula, it definitely increases the moving of emotions in clients. It is often paired with another herb, Bai Shao to smooth this action and allow the emotions to move, but not to be overwhelming. Without the patients knowing what changes are being made in the formulas, time and time again I have them come up to me, or a physician I am observing and say, “this new formula, I am much less emotionally reactive now. Thank you,” or whatever the appropriate subtleties are being shifted. It is amazing how each herb has its place.
A few more pros before we move on. No chemicals, no harsh isolated compounds. The herb is in its original holistic and balanced form. What’s more, the waste product is bio-degradable and makes incredible compost.
Chinese Herbs – The Cons:
The cons are not as significant, but for some they can be profound. First, know your physician. Make sure that they are licensed in your state and that they have had good results. Students out of school actually know a lot and are also as good a bet as established physicians.
One con that is fairly easy to get over is the smell and the taste. Chinese herbs do not taste like heaven. Then again, have you ever eaten an aspirin? Yuck! The good news is that most people get over the taste in a few days and begin to crave the flavor. This might be hard to believe when you first taste it, but it is true, you will learn to love it
Another con is the time required in preparation. This can be mediated by the use of prepared formulas and powders, but I have always loved the bulk herbs. They are much stronger and get greater results. When cooking the bulk herbs, the smell is intense, so I tend to cook my herbs outside on an electric heating element. This prevents loved ones from rebelling,
Animal Products… The truth is, in most clinical oriental medicine, animal products are a last line of defense. The stories of rhino horns and animal genitalia are more pop culture than medical. They have been used, but I don’t see them used in most practices. All physicians will provide vegetarian versions of the formulas if requested.
Certified organic Chinese herbs are not widely available, but they are coming into more demand, and with demand comes supply.
Pros and Cons of Chinese Herbs – In summary
I use Chinese herbs every day, so I am bias. I have seen amazing things with them, and as I am trained in the field I have an eye for the medicine. For the most part I see that physicians that are well trained do an amazing job with their patients. The biggest hurdle is the discipline of the patients to take the herbs at first in order to get to the point where they get the results they are looking for. Holistic medicine is not an over night project. Most traditional herbalists will say three months to a year to get the desired results for a chronic problem. Patients is the key. If the average person knew what Chinese Herbs could do for their health issues, they would most definitely choose this direction for their healing needs. When in need of finding a licensed herbalist, contact your state acupuncture board or the NCCAOM(National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine).
Posted by Mark at August 6, 2004 05:07 AM
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