Chinese herbal medicine goes mainstream

I was so excited when I opened the April 28th edition of Time magazine and found this article "New Medicine. At one Ohio hospital patients get herbs as well as drugs", reporting on the herbal clinic/pharmacy that recently opened at the Cleveland Clinic.

My excitement grew when I read about the 59-year old patient struggling with poor sleep and anxiety who was prescribed Gui Pi Tang... I LOVE GUI PI TANG !! This formula is one of the ancient classics and is designed to support the Spleen and Heart. In Chinese Medicine, the Spleen is central to the 'production of blood', and in turn, blood is necessary to 'nourish the Heart'. When the Heart isn't nourished by sufficient blood, the result can be anxiety, palpitations and difficulty sleeping. The formula Gui Pi Tang aids the Spleen and nourishes and calms the Heart and may be* a wonderful side-effect-free alternative to over the counter sleep aids.

*Note that I say it 'may be' effective, because it will only be helpful if a Spleen/Heart imbalance is the root cause of your sleep or anxiety problem. There can be other reasons/imbalances that cause insomnia, anxiety and palpitations, in which case this remedy would not be suitable, and you would need a different formula to address the underlying imbalance. This specificity in prescribing highlights the importance of finding and consulting with a licensed practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine! Each formula is designed to deal with a particular imbalance and a unique manifestation of that imbalance, and knowing how to evaluate these imbalances and match them to the appropriate formula takes years of training. As the Time article states:

To become an herbal therapist requires three to four years of master's-degree-level education in Chinese medicine and a series of certification exams in Oriental medicine, herbology and biomedicine.

Yes, it did take years of hard work to learn herbal medicine, but it was so worth it, because it is such a powerful supplement to acupuncture, and can speed up the healing process by up to 30%. As a matter of fact, herbal medicine can stand alone, too, and may be ideal for people who are interested in the holistic approach of Traditional Chinese Medicine but who are nervous about acupuncture needles. Just like the 'herbal-therapy ward' at the Cleveland Clinic, I offer herbal consults on their own and would love to explore if this is a good treatment of option for you.