I hear it all the time. A patient will come in and ask me "Do you think that ____ herb is good for my condition?"
I then have to go into an explanation of how Chinese herbal formulas work. We don't use "an herb". We use formulas, which have been carefully crafted over centuries of study. Any herb - all herbs, in fact - have side effects. So we use herbs synergistically - in combinations - in order to improve their effectiveness. But then we also put in other herbs to deal with any potential side effects. And then there are still other herbs to direct the formula to the part of the body which is having the problem, and still others to harmonize the whole formula.
If you take a look at the photo above, it will list a whole bunch of herbs - in Latin, of course. That's just one formula. Now you can understand why we don't prescribe "an herb".
And then there's another issue. All of these formulas that we use today were invented LONG before the birth of the pharmaceutical industry. No one was taking drugs back then - the herbal pharmacy WAS the pharmacy! So they didn't have to consider herb/drug interactions. We do.
And we also take into account lots of other issues - such as your general health status, your exercise routine, if you drink alcohol or not.....etc. All of these impact whether or not you'll be getting an herbal formula, and if so, which one.
Just for fun, you might want to take our "herb quiz" to see if you'd be a candidate for herbs. (No, I'm not going to sell you anything here!) Click here to take the quiz.
Want to know what your answers meant? Read more...........
1. Is your condition related to your muscles or bones?
While there are plenty of herbal remedies which address musculoskeletal issues, the first line of approach for these is usually acupuncture. Acupuncture will unblock any stagnation of energy which might be making your muscles or bones hurt. You can always get over-the-counter remedies, such as rub-on creams or patches. If none of those approaches work, then consider the addition of herbal remedies.
2. Are your symptoms related to an internal medicine issue?
This is where herbal medicine shines. This would be my first approach treating these kinds of problems, because the formulas address the internal systems of the body very well. That being said, keep reading, because you might not want to dash off and get herbs just yet!
3. Do you have chronic pain?
If you've got chronic pain, the chances are good that you're taking something. Or maybe lots of somethings. This raises a BIG question mark. At this point, you'll have to think about herb-drug interactions.... If by some miracle, you're not taking anything (you're one in a million!), then herbal remedies are a great starting point!
4. How often do you exercise?
Exercise has been shown to alleviate tons of problems - from pain to depression to insomnia. And the great news is that it's free. You don't need to join a gym in order to go for a walk! So if you're exercising, and that's not quite doing the trick, then your healthcare practitioner might consider adding an herbal formula to your regimen. If you can't exercise due to your condition, then the formula which will be prescribed will contain different herbs than for someone who is exercising. Now the issue of blood circulation becomes even more important.
5. Do you drink alcohol?
Are you self-medicating? This might be masking some of the problems, and so your healthcare provider will have to make an assessment of how much of the underlying problem is "showing up", and how much of it is being hidden by the alcohol. Also, alcohol creates something we call "damp heat" in the body. (Subject for a different blog post!) Depending upon your condition, this might affect the herbal formula under consideration.
6. Do you eat gluten?
I know.......the science doesn't support the idea that gluten is a problem. Except for the fact that thousands - if not millions - of people report a gluten sensitivity, and those same people report a lessening of their symptoms when they stop eating gluten. My personal experience is that it's something that creates inflammation in the body. So I usually tell my patients to stop eating it for a couple of weeks and see what happens. Most of them come back smiling!
7. Are you taking medications?
This is where herb-drug interactions can cause problems. I have the good fortune to be able to work with a man who is both a pharmacist as well as an herbalist. I highly recommend that you search for a practitioner who can honestly address the issue of herb-drug interactions before you start on any herbal protocol. Yes, I prescribe herbs to people who are taking medications. But only after a consult with an expert. You should do the same!