I Love Herbs.
People are often intrigued by the mystery of Eastern philosophy and Chinese Medicine. We have a sense that there is a magic cure in the cupboard of Chinese Medicine. This sense should not be disregarded because although there is no magic cure, there are worlds and worlds of potential that open up once we start to understand the way herbs can work. I use herbs as an example here to show how worlds which we did not previously see can begin to open up magically. The same is true for Chinese Medicine itself.
First of all, herbs are not in a competition with pharmaceutical drugs. They work differently, and each has its appropriate indication and contribution to our health and well- being. Sometimes herbs are used as an alternative to pharmaceuticals or OTCs which is nice if done safely. Usually herbs are gentler and less toxic to the system with fewer side effects. This article is more to suggest turning to natural remedies before drugs when possible rather than to promote natural remedies.
Often times, effects are not noticed as directly as they may be with drugs because they are not forcing a specific physiological response. Drugs are indicated when an immediate response is needed in a life threatening or intolerable situation or when natural remedies and therapies do not affect the health concern. Because discomfort or symptoms are often a physical manifestation of another internal imbalance such as a hormonal imbalance, these symptoms may dissolve slowly, as the root of the symptom starts to resolve. A major benefit of using herbs for health and to address symptoms is that the root of herb medicine is to bring health. This means that herbal medicine addresses the actual problem rather than chases symptoms and lab numbers.
For example, if a person is recently diagnosed with high cholesterol in his or her mid-fifties, it may or may not be beneficial to take a cholesterol lowering drug. This is not a life threatening intolerable situation and to simply burden the body with a drug just to lower a lab number is not pursuing health. The cholesterol levels may go down, but other symptoms may arise such as fatigue or pain, and according to recent studies, mortality rate is not actually reduced. Another drug may be prescribed to chase these new symptoms. Depending on the health history and presentation of the person, one approach in this case with herbs would be to improve the function of the liver. Often times this will help the liver utilize the cholesterol in the blood to make necessary hormones that start to drop as we get older. By improving liver function, hormone levels may be balanced, cholesterol levels regulated, and symptoms of fatigue, irritability or menopause may be reduced. This is ideal! And this is herbs!
Another way to use herbs sounds more abstract than it is. The magic that we sense in the herb garden has to do with The Great Unknown. Given the right herb at the proper dosage, a person may have unpredicted physiological, psychological, emotional or spiritual change or growth. I say change instead of transformation because it may be subtle. It is in fact transformation. It may be unimaginable and not researchable in books or research studies because it will never have the exact same effect on another person. Something about the chemistry between the plant and the person at that given time induced a change that may not be replicated or explained. Sometimes it can be explained, but not scientifically (so far). Examples of this change are: improvement in one's ability to have loving supportive relationships with partners, family, and friends, a rejuvenation of every cell in the body resulting in improved organ function, higher energy and feeling of youthfulness, refreshed strengthened physical integrity, less fear or inhibition, a dislodge in the throat resulting in a clearer voice and with easier ability to speak up for oneself, more sexual openness and connectedness, silkier skin and hair, or simply, more restful sleep.
These examples may be the side effects of herbs while trying to address a more concrete health concern or they may be the purpose of treatment. We think this is magic because we do not imagine these positive effects or side effects from treatment. We do not normally seek “treatment” for these imbalances. They do, however, completely affect our health and well being. This is not magic, it is just nature. The herbs and acupuncture treatment are not specifically indicated to cause these changes; rather changes like these happen because the medicine is bringing the person in touch with his or her true self and bringing the person closer and closer to his or her potential. They are doing the same for the physical body, improving organ function, and helping the body work efficiently and effortlessly.
Unfortunately these unpredictable and indefinable effects are exactly what the FDA and allopathic medical world fear. Like life itself, it is impossible to control every aspect of herbal medicine—outcome, effects, potency. However, adverse reactions are extremely rare, and do not happen as suddenly, severely, or frequently as they do with something as potent as a drug (unless it is an allergic reaction which could happen with any food or drug). It is true that herbs should be used responsibly. I am a trained and experienced herbalist in constant study and practice. I use only GMP herbs which are tested for proper identification, pesticides, heavy metals, microbes, and pharmaceutical additives. Herbs are good quality and organic when possible. As a licensed herbalist and health care practitioner, I love to make herbal recommendations to you; however, I would never want this beautiful medicine to be so regulated that it taken out of the hands of the people. Herbs are there for us all to use and try. I encourage you to experiment responsibly!