Why Chinese Herbs? Part 1

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Several people recently have asked me about why I want to grow Chinese medicinal herbs. As some of you know, I work in the administrative office of a nationally-accredited acupuncture school. I have been receiving acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbal medicine since I started working here, and both have changed my life in different but equally significant ways. For my entire life I have suffered from severe “allergies”. I had scratch tests, took over-the-counter and prescription allergy medicine, and even did a neti pot routine for a while. Antihistamines never worked well on my symptoms, and then the side effects started worsening. The only drug that made the sneezing, itching, raw/burning sinuses, and severe runny nose stop was ephedrine, and then when the FDA took ephedrine off the market I moved to pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. Both of these have worse side effects than ephedrine including racing heart and anxiety/aggression/mood swings, and they didn’t work as well.

After moving back to Florida my “allergy” symptoms increased dramatically. After acupuncture made such dramatic improvements on my chronic insomnia, I decided to try herbs for my allergies. The patent formula prescribed by my first student practitioner had no discernible effect. I hate taking “pills” so I often forgot doses and felt discouraged. Herbs can take time to affect the system but after almost a year of trying patent herbs I gave up. After a particularly tough summer where I was having severe attacks at least twice a week I decided to try again with a new student herbal practitioner.

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My formula, which includes 14 herbs: Huang qi, Bai zhu, Fang feng, Chi shou, Xin yi hua, Bai zhi, Mei gui hou, Fo shou, Kiang fu, Zhi he shou wu, Bai shao, Chen pi, Suan zao ren, Bai zhi ren

The root cause of the symptoms was not “allergies”. When I tracked my symptoms the trigger was *always* temperature and wind-related: moving from a warm outside air into air conditioning, air conditioning blowing on me, being outside in cold weather and then going into an overly-heated room, or the worst- sleeping under a ceiling fan. In Western medicine, this collection of symptoms is called “non-allergic rhinitis” and there is no treatment for the root cause, only treating the symptoms. In Chinese medicine, this is called “wind invasion” and there is a definite course of treatment of the root cause- strengthening the system to resist wind invasions. Then my new student herbal practitioner suggested something new- raw herbs.

Raw herbs are much stronger medicine than patent pills, because you brew the herbs yourself at home from pieces of the plants themselves- dried leaves, roots, bark, animal parts, whatever. Patent medicines are mostly made in industrial-size compounding pharmacies in China, and then the patents can sit for long periods of time in warehouses. Patents are infinitely more processed. The pills are more convenient but weaker medicine. I decided to give the raw herbs a try and haven’t looked back since. I have always loved herbs and herbal medicine. I enjoy the ritual of brewing my own herbs twice a month and would much rather drink a glass of warm decoction than take pills. But what got me really motivated was their effect- they work. They work better than any allopathic medication I have ever taken, with only positive side effects.

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Next blog- How I moved from an herbs patient to wanting to start a Chinese Medicinal Herbs farm.