A recent article in Time magazine (1) announced that the world-famous Cleveland Clinic in Ohio has integrated Chinese Herbal Medicine into its patient treatments (2). Why, you may ask? There are many reasons for using Chinese Herbal Medicine in treatment protocols and some of them include:
- To offer treatments for which there is no Western Pharmaceutical treatment available
- To be able to customize treatments for complex diseases, especially when there is more than one disease involved
- To offer safer alternatives with no to minimal side effects
- To augment pharmaceutical treatments
Chinese Herbal Medicine is as old as acupuncture and is a sophisticated system of customized treatment. It looks at each patient individually and takes into account one’s constitution, disease presentation and accompanying symptoms. There are thousands of known Chinese herbal formulas and the ability to customize them to individual patients is something that cannot be achieved with pharmaceutical drugs.
As with acupuncture, Chinese Herbal medicine works best as a first line of treatment and in the early stages of a disease. It is also helpful in chronic conditions for which the body needs external support and for some conditions it provides answers when there is no effective Western treatment available.
There are several forms in which Chinese Herbal preparations can be taken:
- Decoctions (dry herbs are boiled and drank as a tea) – this is one of the traditional ways of taking Chinese Herbs and is often the most effective (the downside is that preparation is necessary and sometimes the tea has an unusual taste)
- Herbal granules - this is a modern invention where decoctions of individual herbs are put on a base of maltodextrin (potato starch) and dried. They can be mixed to create custom formulas.
- Tinctures – alcoholic or water-based tinctures of single herbs or formulas
- Patented Formulas (tablets, capsules, tea pills) – these are either classical formulas or formulas patented by various manufacturers - they are easy to take by patients, but cannot be further customized beyond what is available on the market
So the next time you feel a cold coming on, stop by the office for an appropriate herbal remedy that will help you get over your cold, allergies, ear pain, cough etc. more quickly.
Although very safe when prescribed properly, you should not take Chinese Herbal Medicine without consultation with a Board Certified Chinese Herbalist. Some herbs can produce side effects that can be unpleasant or if the wrong remedy is taken, conditions can worsen. There are also special protocols needed if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you are taking prescription or over-the-counter medication.
To stay healthy, wear weather appropriate clothing (think socks and hats), and get adequate sleep. Avoid salads, smoothies and raw foods in the fall and winter and eat more soups, stews and steamed veggies. Always have some fresh garlic and fresh ginger in your refrigerator and ask your doctor to check your Vitamin D levels (most people are deficient and need to supplement for optimal functioning of the immune system).