Treating Respiratory Ailments with Chinese Herbal Medicine


The following is a discussion of common acute respiratory ailments and their treatment with traditional Chinese herbal medicine in my clinic. A short note on prevention is added at the end. Please call with any questions and/or to purchase the herbs. All herbs are processed individually in alcohol, and then combined in my clinic to make the formulas; they are very easy to take in a small amount of water, and remain viable for at least 5 years.Continue reading

Introduction to Oriental Medicine, part 1

This first article will serve to introduce traditional Oriental Medicine as it has grown out of a particular way of looking at life. The philosophy that forms the fabric of the medicine is essentially of Far Eastern origin (including India, but traditional Indian medicine is by itself known as Ayurveda). Although there are parallels in other cultures, it is the breadth and depth of its /continuous/ expression, for over 5000 years, that provide the solid foundation for an effective and gentle medicine.Continue reading

Introduction to Oriental Medicine, part 2

This article and the next will serve to introduce the practice and clinical range of Oriental Medicine: what one may expect to find upon a visit to a practitioner. This, in turn, will pave the way for discussing the treatment of specific disease in subsequent articles.

First, how does someone become a practitioner of Oriental Medicine?Continue reading

Introduction to Oriental Medicine, part 3

This article completes the introduction to the clinical side of Oriental Medicine, briefly describing its main techniques.
Qigong (pronounced ‘chee gung’) may be used to show how relaxation and movement blend together harmoniously. Qigong basically means working consciously and patiently with life’s forces. It includes aspects of awareness, posture, and breath. Any human act that blends these things is qigong. A good practitioner will help the client become aware of ways she already does these things and work to enhance or expand them. Also qigong is an art and science itself, and can be taught for health and well-being, or prescribed to treat disease (similar to physical therapy).Continue reading

Chinese Herbs, part 1

Many cultures share a long history of ‘folk’ or local usage of nature’s gifts for healing purposes. In China, however, dovetailing with this tradition has also developed a recorded system rich in theory and substance (the word ‘herbs’ as used here includes many animal and mineral products in addition to plant material). Over the centuries, the Chinese have described the natures of thousands of substances, including those imported from foreign countries. Their formal medical use has consistently been applied in formulae that treat the whole of a person’s condition, as opposed to simply matching symptoms to individual herbs. As such, Chinese herbalism forms a complete form of medicine.

The growing, harvesting, and processing of these medicinals has traditionally been regulated as a special branch of Chinese medicine requiring special knowledge and skill. Today, modern standards also apply, including laboratory screening and the push towards organic and local production. From the fields, oceans, and forests these medicinals are transported to companies, pharmacies, and also direct to practitioners for formula preparation.

Traditionally, herbs were prepared in a variety of simple ways. Most commonly, the fresh and/or dried medicinals were boiled together in water and taken as a highly concentrated tea. This method yields strong medicine that excels at ridding acute diseases, especially those of respiration and digestion.  Otherwise, they might have been dried, ground into a powder, and either taken as a draft or formed into pills with honey. This method was more suited to chronic ills that required long-term treatment. In some cases, especially those involving circulation, the herbs were extracted in alcohol or vinegar and taken as liquor. Other methods included: the simmering down of decoctions to syrups for irritated membranes like sore throats; preparation into plasters, poultices, liniments, and oils for external use on strains, fractures, and joint pain, or to heal skin conditions; and the special extraction of volatile oils for aromatherapy.

All of these methods are still in use today. A visit to a typical Chinese Pharmacy, usually found in urban centers in the US, will provide a lively view of this world of medicine. One will see Chinese doctors diagnosing clients, pharmacists weighing out raw herbs for home brewing, and a host of pre-prepared products. Most non-Asian Americans, however, do not visit these herb shops, excepting practitioners. And it is increasingly rare, even for Asian- Americans, to smell the distinct aroma of simmering Chinese herbs wafting from the kitchen.

More often, clients receive a diagnosis from a private practitioner, or even self-diagnose from a common source on Chinese medicine, and purchase patent type formulae in pill, powder, or extract form for easy digestion. These formulae are available from these Chinese pharmacies, from practitioners themselves, and increasingly from common grocery stores as well. They are usually time-honored prescriptions that treat general patterns of disharmony matched as closely as possible to the client’s presentation. Unfortunately, there is little room for improvisation to the person’s unique presentation and to the natural flux of disease. Along with this trend has also ebbed traditional home care with poultices, washes, steams, and especially remedial cooking.

To counter this situation, some practitioners are making use of herbs processed as single powders or liquid extracts, and then combining these as custom formulae for the client. This practice more closely resembles the traditional way, and lends itself to a closer relationship between the client and doctor, leading to better results with minimal side effects.

Indeed, the methods of traditional Chinese medicine differ greatly from those of the modern western medicine, including western herbalism and naturopathy. They deserve special focus for an adequate appreciation of their art and science. We will devote next month’s article to this topic, differentiating East from West, and illustrating how each is put into practice.


Chinese Herbs, part 2

This month, we illustrate the method of Chinese herbalism with a clinical case of the flu, and compare this approach with common western ways of treatment.Continue reading

Chinese Herbs, part 3

This last article on Chinese Herbs will describe in general how they are prescribed, and define their role within the contemporary medical world. Last month, we saw how a specific case of the flu might be handled with Chinese Herbs versus the commercial use of herbs and pharmaceuticals. Continue reading

Qigong as the Root of Acupuncture, part 1

In this article and the next, we will explore the art and science of acupuncture from its roots in qigong. Acupuncture is a branch of traditional Oriental medicine that works with the physical body, yet affects the function of the person as a whole: body, mind, and spirit. What does this mean, and how is it so? Continue reading

Qigong as the Root of Acupuncture, part 2

Last month we explored the link between the body’s movement and its dis-eases, through the practice of qigong. This link opens up maps used to treat any human problem with physical stimulation. This month we focus on acupuncture, and its map of the meridians, as one such method of stimulation. Continue reading

Asthma in Children, part 1

Children’s health is a special branch of Chinese Medicine, as the Chinese recognize that children’s bodies and minds are quite different from those of adults. Accordingly, there are special ways of diagnosing and treating that are unique to children. In this two-part series of articles, we will discuss the causes of pediatric asthma and its treatment with bodywork, herbs, and nutritional counseling.Continue reading