Most patients receive their personalized herbal formula in a bottle with the ingredients listed and instructions for use.

You Are Not Just What You Eat, You Are What You Drink As Well

More than just a cliche, “you are what you eat”, is one of the truest statements you can make when it comes to health. This does not only apply to vegetables. We, as humans, have been collecting information on beneficial plants ever since we have been on this planet. While some of those plants have been eaten as foods (fruits and vegetables), there are many other plants and plant parts (roots, branches, leaves, etc) that may not be suitable to eat regularly as a food but that nonetheless are extremely beneficial for us. Plants can and have been used throughout time for their various qualities to both maintain and improve health.

From a modern perspective we know that plants are full of phytonutrients. Phyto refers to plants and nutrients is self explanatory. While plants in general are full of essential vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients typically refers to a very broad range of naturally occurring compounds in plants that while we could live without them when incorporated into our lifestyle significantly maintain and improve our health. These naturally occurring compounds often have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties amongst other benefits. If you look at the science around the study of plants and various phytonutrients there should be no surprise that the ingestion of various plant products can improve one’s health.

The use of plants as medicine has already been developed to a high level of sophistication within Chinese Medicine. Starting about 5000 years ago the benefits and uses of individual herbs started to be observed, determined and passed down. A lot of information about single herbs was eventually recorded in classical texts such as the Shennong Bencao Jing. About 2000 years ago however there was a huge leap forward in herbal medicine in both the development of more fine tuned diagnosis and the use of sophisticated multi herb formulas. The work of doctor Zhang Zhongjing is an example of this advancement. In the last 100 years, in addition to carrying on traditional practices there have been huge advancements in the scientific study of herbs. There have been countless studies performed detailing the various natural compounds found in herbs and looking at their effect on the body.

For those unfamiliar with Chinese Herbal Medicine, I think it might be helpful for the time being to think about the benefit of herbs in terms of phytonutrients. There is no doubt that all Chinese Herbs are rich in unique phytonutrients. While Chinese Herbal Medicine uses terms such as Qi, Damp Heat, Yin, Yang, etc. that may be unfamiliar to some it nonetheless has developed reliable and repeatable methods for selecting and pairing herbs that is worthy of respect and usage. However, sometimes it is easier to understand something in terms that you are already familiar with, which for many is science. Let me try and create a small bridge for you.

Let us take a brief look at the treatment of atopic eczema. In many cases of eczema I often see elements of what in Chinese Medicine would be called Blood Heat and Wind, along with other factors occur as well. In this case the term “Blood Heat” describes what is believed to be one of the underlying mechanisms behind the presence of red inflammatory eczema lesions. This excess heat in the blood is said to develop Wind which manifests as the horrible itch associated with eczema as well as fine flaky scaling of the skin among other symptoms. In cases with Blood Heat, I often use the herb Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia Glutinosa) along with a few other herbs in an herbal tea. Sheng Di Huang’s properties include clearing blood heat and nourishing body fluids, which is helpful to treat the dry skin often associated with eczema. Many modern studies confirm that Sheng Di Huang has numerous beneficial phytochemicals that are beneficial for the treatment of eczema as they have been observed to reduce inflammation by varying mechanisms including reducing the hyperproliferation of mast cells seen in eczema. That said, Sheng Di Huang is better and safer when used with other herbs. I chose one herb here to describe as it is easier to illustrate how it works. If you are interested in this sort of material I will go into greater detail in the future in my blog.

While the concepts used in Chinese Herbalism might be unfamiliar to some of you, you can have no doubt that it has been used to treat patients with presentations just like your own for a long time. In my opinion, we are extremely fortunate to have access to Chinese Medicine. I hope this brief review of how herbal medicine works, helps you. Be sure to read about why you would use Chinese Herbs, what is involved, and about the safety of herbs to better understand the whole process.