In addition to acupuncture treatments, I prescribe Chinese herbs with medicinal properties to enhance the treatment effect. The herbs I use are 100% derived from leaves, roots, stems, flowers and/or seeds of plants, and many are commonly-known and some even used in the kitchen, such as cinnamon, ginger and turmeric, ginseng, Chinese red dates and goji berries. I work with safety-regulated, granulated formulations for ease of use.
Why use Chinese herbs
Chinese herbal medicine has been used for more than 2000 years, with the earliest recorded text Shennong Bencaojing or The Classic of Herbal medicine written about 250-200 BC. Rooted in the same principles as acupuncture – aiming to restore the balance of yin and yang; qi, blood and body fluids, and expel harmful pathogens from the body – it makes an excellent addition to acupuncture treatments, although it is a powerful treatment on its own. In China it is extensively used alongside conventional medicine practices, for instance to support patients while going through chemotherapy1Chen S. et al., “Oral Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) as an adjuvant treatment during chemotherapy for non-small cell lung cancer: A systematic review“, 2009. or to enhance the effect of antiviral drugs for influenza2Chen W. et al., “Oseltamivir compared with the Chinese traditional therapy maxingshigan-yinqiaosan in the treatment of H1N1 influenza: a randomized trial“, 2012.
Chinese herbal medicine, unlike Western herbal medicine traditions, relies on combining several herbs into a formula rather than using single herbs for any given condition. This allows for addressing the patient’s specific diagnostic pattern, rather than their symptoms; for instance instead of treating someone’s headache, we combine Chinese herbs that expel wind-cold pathogens, dispel stagnant blood circulation, or calm an overactive liver fire. Thus, by using Chinese herbal medicine, we aim to resolve the condition instead of treating its symptoms.
While this approach allows for very individual treatments, it creates challenges for researchers trying to understand the treatment mechanism and efficacy of Chinese herbal formulas. Still, steps are being taken in the right direction, either in terms of researching certain formulations as a unit, or researching the chemical composition of individual herbs. Well-known herbs such as Huang qi or Astragalus root have been found to possess anti-aging components which reduce oxidative stress3Liu P. et al., “Anti-Aging Implications of Astragalus Membranaceus (Huangqi): A Well-Known Chinese Tonic“, 2017., whereas liver cell-protective components have been found in others4Lam P. et al., “Hepatoprotective Effects of Chinese Medicinal Herbs: A Focus on Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Oxidative Activities“, 2016.
I offer Chinese herbal medicine treatment for any of the conditions that I treat with acupuncture, either on its own or as part of the acupuncture treatment. Ultimately, everyone has the potential to be healthier, and there is a herbal formula for them waiting to be discovered.