Herbs are an important complement to treatments you receive in the office. Properly prescribed, herbs both amplify and reinforce the hands of the practitioner. The study of herbs, or herbology, is as old as the art of acupuncture itself. There are over 3000 herbs commonly used by acupuncturists and herbalists, 300 of which we have in house at Energy Medicine Center. We import most of our herbs from China and South Korea, but also use some that are available in the U.S.
Our approach to herbology is to custom fit an herbal formula to each patient, according to their needs and constitution. Using meridian kinesiology, Dr. Moon pinpoints which herbs will best help his patient. Like ingredients in a cake, herbs are much more potent when combined in a formula than when used alone. The recent popularity of superstar herbs, such as ginseng, ginkgo biloba, and St. John’s wort, has misled the public into believing that single herbs can provide miraculous cures. While ginseng and other herbs may certainly be potent, they are more effective when incorporated into an individualized formula for a particular body. As you found out in the constitutional acupuncture section, each person has a specific body type and will therefore react differently to the same medical treatment, including herbs. Ginseng may be good for many, but is actually detrimental to some. Therefore, a wise patient will approach any outlandish claims about a single herb with caution.
The typical herbal formula will have from 5 to 25 different herbs, some of which are tightly-guarded secrets, passed down within families for generations. Each herb must be prepared with a specific method, which is an ancient pharmaceutical process. But for the modern lifestyle, it is simply too much to expect a patient to boil, steam, and sun-dry an herb 9 times before making a tea from it! For this reason, we prepare all herbs for our patients and conveniently package them for single doses. Herbs will usually come in three forms: pills, pellets (small, hand-rolled pills), or concoctions (simply another term for tea). We use only filtered water in all our concoctions.
How exactly do herbs work? As you may have guessed, herbs work through the acupuncture meridians, supplementing areas of deficiency. In fact, all substances, including food and Western medicines, affect the meridians, though not necessarily in a positive way. A big difference between Western medicines and herbs is that herbal formulas are created with the meridian system specifically in mind.
The Bowel Toning herbal formula is a good illustration of how herbology works. This traditional formula for constipation (or any of the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome) contains 12 herbs that tone the intestinal muscles while lubricating, stimulating and cleansing the colon. It not only promotes bowel movements, it also improves the muscle tone of the intestines, insuring that you do not develop any dependencies. Most Western herbal laxatives work by stimulating the colon or producing roughage or bulk. Prolonged use of these laxatives may create addiction and will adversely effect the colon, ultimately weakening it as a muscle. In contrast, this herbal formula will help the root cause of the problem, and rather than address a single symptom, it will fortify the entire system. (For a thorough discussion of the colon, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome or laxatives, read about the Sitolonic.)
The herbs work by strengthening the stomach, large intestine and small intestine meridians, which directly affect the colon. The formula also invigorates the gall bladder meridian to promote bile secretion, and reinforces the liver meridian to improve muscle tone. Therefore, it is especially good for very weak or elderly patients. But even a healthy person can take it to enhance or promote their good health. Some of our patients request it twice a year as a regular cleansing regimen and preventive measure.
Almost every patient can benefit from herbs, but because of the importing required and the labor involved, they can get quite expensive. (The bowel toning formula is about $90 per month –affordable for some, prohibitive for others.) Luckily, herbs are usually not the only route to cure. Often, a knowledgeable practitioner can achieve the same result through acupuncture manipulation or nutritional supplements. Some herbalists may prescribe herbs for every condition, not because herbs are the sole answer, but because it’s all they know. This is when it pays to have a doctor who is well-versed in various healing arts. As an alternative to herbs we often use Standard Process nutritional supplements, which are well made and more affordable. If the patient really needs the herbs and/or can afford it, then we will recommend the herbs.