Peter Jones Acupuncture
Chinese Herbal Medicine
When most people think about seeing an acupuncturist, what comes to mind are needles. But across much of Asia, including China, Korea and Japan, herbal medicine is considered more effective and given greater importance than acupuncture.
Although acupuncture was the first Chinese discipline to gain acceptance in the US, herbal medicine is quickly establishing itself as one of the most popular and effective alternative therapies both in conjunction with acupuncture and as a stand alone therapy.
In modern day Japan, over 70% of Japanese physicians use traditional Japanese herbal formulas in their practice. Likewise, almost all Japanese pharmacies carry traditional herbal formulas and have a pharmacist on staff who's trained in traditional Japanese methods of prescription, called Kampo.
Similarly, in modern day South Korea, over 20,000 acupuncture physicians are employed at over 12,000 traditional Korean medical clinics. In South Korea, acupuncture is considered a medical sub-specialty, just like cardiology, orthopedics or neurology and only MD's are allowed to perform it. Traditional Korean herbal medicine is called Hanyuk.
The Benefits of Chinese Herbal Medicine
Whereas acupuncture needles continue to exert their influence for 2-3 days after a treatment, due to something called the "puncture phenomena", herbal formulas continue to exert their influence for as long as they're consumed. Herbal formulas are usually prescribed where a stronger and longer lasting treatment is needed, which includes both acute and chronic conditions. Also, Chinese herbal formulas have very few side effects and their long term use isn't potentially harmful, like with prescription pharmaceutical drugs.
The most common adverse reaction to Chinese herbal formulas is gastrointestinal upset, which can be quickly remedied with slight modification of the original formula.
***PLEASE NOTE*** If a patient notices any unpleasant or adverse effects while taking Chinese herbs, they are advised to immediately discontinue use and consult their practitioner.
The Difference Between European and Chinese Herbalism
Many Americans who use natural medicine, often use herbal remedies to help with their day to day ailments. There's Echinacea and Vitamin C for immune support, Camomile and St. John's Wort for emotional support, Ginger and Mint tea for digestive support, and Cranberry juice for urinary tract support. But these and many other herbal remedies like them, are all part of Western or European herbalism, and while they're certainly useful, they are entirely different than Chinese herbalism.
Herbal medicine forms the foundation of Traditional Chinese Medical theory and although Chinese and European herbalism share many of the same medicinals, their philosophies and use of those medicinals are quite different.
The Major Philosophical Difference Between European and Chinese Herbalism
The major philosophical difference between European and Chinese herbalism is that Chinese herbalism doesn't focus on eliminating disease in the same way that European Herbalism does.
The philosophy behind European herbalism is an extension of the European or western view of disease in general, which focuses on the disease or problem without concern for the environmental context within which the problem appears. This emphasis on disease constitutes a disease based or allopathic approach and has proven amazingly effective when applied to emergency and acute care medicine. When a persons life is at stake and the entire therapeutic focus is on survival, emergency medicine is the only reasonable course of action. Likewise, if a person arrives in the ER suffering from a gunshot, heart attack, or drug overdose, the medical team isn't concerned with the life circumstances that lead up to and precipitated that particular event. Context is certainly an important consideration but entirely outside the scope of emergency medical care.
Emergency medicine and disease based medicine are only concerned with fixing the immediate problem at hand, which in and of itself, isn't a bad thing. But the disease based approach isn't particularly suited to addressing quality of life and wellness related issues.
So although allopathic medicine has given us many extraordinary benefits, it also has tremendous limitations. Of course, to its credit, the medical community wholly recognizes these limitations, which is reflected in the emergence of and increasing interest in wellness, preventative and holistic medicine.
Contrasting sharply with European or western medical philosophy, the philosophy of Chinese Medicine is thousands of years old (4,500 to be exact) and arose within a mindset that focuses on the context of the pathology, rather than the pathology itself. Ironically, this context based approach also exists within the cutting-edge technological fields of cybernetics, non-linear dynamics and systems theory.
Another way to think about the difference between European and Chinese medicine, is that European medicine emphasizes the resolution of disease symptoms, whereas Chinese medicine emphasizes the resolution of disease patterns.
The Major Practical Difference Between Chinese and European Herbalism
The major practical difference between Chinese and European herbalism is the way that herbs are prescribed for a given condition. Because European herbalism is only concerned with resolving disease, it tends to use only one or two herbs to treat a specific condition.
This emphasis on one-herb-one-condition, is the predominant approach to herbalism that most Americans are familiar with. It contrasts dramatically with Chinese herbalism, which almost never prescribes individual herbs as an isolated treatment strategy.
Additionally, Chinese herbal medicine utilizes over 5,600 substances that are derived from plant, animal and mineral sources. A typical Chinese herbal formula often contains upwards of 10-20 medicinals that all work synergistically to promote a desired effect within the mind and body. Because of their complex and synergistic nature, Chinese herbal formulas can be easily modified to accommodate any health condition. There are approximately 450 classical herbal formulas that can be modified into literally thousands of variations within the Chinese Pharmacopea.