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Oriental Herbal Medicine

  • Oriental Medicine treats the whole person
    Chinese herbal formulas address “syndromes” involving the interrelationship of somatic and visceral functions. An internal condition is always viewed in a context of relative strengths and weaknesses of respiratory, digestive, cardiovascular and other primary functions. TCM diagnostic language describes where a body is hot or cold, firm or soft, and wet or dry, and sounds much like a weather report. The goal is to create an environment that supports normal function and healing. For example, gastritis may be caused by an epigastric tension causing a hot and stagnant liver, or from poor diet creating a cold and damp spleen. Think of Chinese medicine as a form of family therapy in which the body (the family) is a dynamic group of interrelated organs with interdependent needs. A symptom may not be primary to the affected organ, just as a rebellious child may express a parents suffering.


  • One Chinese herbal formula may address several symptoms
    Several commercial formulas may be combined to achieve a desired action. There are over three hundred classic Chinese herbal formulas and new ones are continually created as herbs are scientifically investigated and added to ancient recipes. A TCM herbal formula is designed to” harmonize” visceral imbalances, “clear” surface tensions, “purge” stagnant fluids, “tonify” weakened organs, “disperse” congested energy, and many other actions. It is common for a single formula to treat several unrelated western conditions. For example, Pueraria Formula may be used for types of acute flu, recurrent bronchitis, shoulder impingement, constipation, headaches, or eczema that share a particular tension pattern involving the liver, lung, and skin. Since commercial herbal product ingredients cannot be adjusted, an herbalist may combine products to achieve a desired action. This is a rather new TCM strategy, as traditional herbal pharmacies mixed raw herbs to exact proportions. For example, a formula to build blood may be taken with a formula to clear heat at a ratio specific to the patient’s condition.


  • It’s easier to know the formula than the dosage


  • Less may be more and more may be required
    Traditional Chinese herbal formulas comprise 8 to 16 herbs, each having a specific effect on blood, qi, or fluids. Contemporary formulas may combine traditional formulas or add new herbs to old formulas thereby expanding its effect. Several modern tonics have over 50 herbs and provide a diffuse and complex effect.
    Herbal prescribing is commonly confused with western products that require one pill at a regular interval. Herbs are more like food than drugs. They are complex compounds including many cofactors that balance and regulate the action of the “active principle.” Side effects are rare - usually loose stools or mild gastritis - but under prescribing is common. Herbs need to be taken at a dosage and frequency that produces the desired effect. Once the desired action is experienced, the patient may gradually reduce both frequency and dosage to sustain effect. Chronic conditions generally require herbs that need several days to exhibit effect, while acute conditions may use a short and intense course to clear a “surface condition.”


  • Dosage Guidelines:

    1. Acute Symptoms (colds and flu’s, headaches, etc.) - Smaller, more frequent applications (3 tablets every hour for 3 doses, then decrease to 4 X day) Desired results should be experienced within initial 3 doses.
    2. Chronic Conditions (Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, etc) - Require larger and less frequent dosage of tonics - 5 to 7 tablets two to three times a day. Results should begin within 5 days and continue to build over several weeks.
    3. “Shen” (psycho-emotive) formulas - Often need a very low dose to exhibit desired effect - i.e. 1 or 2 tablets, particularly with people who exhibit paradoxical responses to conventional medications.


  • Side effects may be due to processing, not the formula itself.


  • Most formulas are available in several forms. Herbs were traditionally picked locally and brewed as teas. Modern commercial formulas are prepared as tablets including raw herb fibers, alcohol based tinctures, and powders in gelatin capsules with herbal dregs as a base. Commercial preparations increase compliance by avoiding the hassle and odors of brewing tea - yet, the method of processing may contribute to loose stools, or have poor absorption. Most side effects involve GI intolerance that can be eliminated by changing from a tablet to a powder or tincture and reducing dosage until side effects abate.

 


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