Friday, February 28, 2014

Balance Your Qi with Chinese Herbal Medicine

Chinese herbal medicine combines modern evidence with time-tested formulas ranging more than 1,800 years into Chinese history.

Employee helping customer at Chinese and Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine Dispensary.

For many patients of Chinese herbal medicine, taste is the biggest clue they are receiving a different kind of medicine. Unlike flavorless pharmaceutical pills, Chinese herbal formulas taste like the plants they come from — sharp ginger root, sweet citrus peel, fragrant cardamom seeds and other deep, earthy flavors less familiar to the Western tongue.

Those tastes speak to the astonishing history of Chinese herbalism, a field that uses 1,800-year-old texts such as the Shang Han Lun that healers have learned from since the Han dynasty. Modern-day Chinese herbalists combine those time-tested formulas with modern evidence to provide a medicine effective for a broad range of conditions.

"It's a very personalized medicine," says Allen Sayigh, MAc, LAc, manager of the Chinese and Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine Dispensary at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University. "There are classical herbal formulas, but the art comes because each patient is different. So we adjust the formulas for them."

Sayigh leads the dispensary in filling orders from practitioners at Bastyr Center and elsewhere. He draws ingredients from row upon row of glass jars, blends personalized formulas, and presents them to customers with instructions on how to take them.

Most patients brew their blend as a tea — the most effective method. They can add honey if they like, or interpret the flavor as a sign of the potency, Sayigh says. The dispensary also provides powdered extracts and pills for patients who prefer them.

Safe Sourcing

Bastyr's dispensary receives its herbs from China through an experienced importer, which brings several advantages. First, the importer verifies that ingredients are free from sulfides and pesticides. Second, many herbs undergo independent testing for heavy metals. Many herbs are also available in organic forms. The arrangement also ensures herbs that are foraged in the wild are collected using sustainable practices.

Like acupuncture, Chinese herbalism rests on the concept of qi ("chee"), the underlying life force that runs through the body. Chinese medicine understands the body as permeable to the surrounding climate, so it can become too hot, cold, damp or dry.

Herbal formulas can correct that imbalance. Practitioners often suggest them alongside acupuncture, but not always.

"Many people think of acupuncture when they think about Chinese medicine, but Chinese herbal medicine can be used independently from acupuncture,” says Sayigh, who is also a clinical supervisor at Bastyr Center.

Abundant Uses

Chinese herbs are useful for many conditions, including ones that Western medicine struggles to address. Chief among them are chronic conditions like digestive troubles, fatigue, hormonal imbalances, menstrual cramps, headaches, cardiovascular health, gynecological disorders and men’s health. They are also popular for colds and flus, respiratory ailments, fertility issues and psychological disorders.

Most importantly, Chinese herbal medicine can be used to correct imbalances before they become full-blown diseases, says Sayigh.

Learn More at Bastyr Center

At Bastyr Center for Natural Health, experts in the acupuncture and Oriental medicine department prescribe Chinese herbs both as a complement to acupuncture treatments and as a primary form of therapy. Acupuncture patients also may request a coupon for a free Chinese herbal medicine appointment at the clinic.

Expect your first Chinese herbal medicine appointment to last one hour, with follow-up appointments lasting a half-hour. During the appointment, you will be asked many detailed questions about your symptoms and lifestyle patterns. Inspection of the tongue and palpation of the pulses at the wrist will also be included in the diagnostic work-up.

To make an appointment at Bastyr Center, call (206) 834-4100.

FALL 2015
Have questions about a program?
Request information »

More Health Tips

These simple tips can help provide relief from seasonal allergies so you can enjoy spring again.

Stainless steel and glass bottles are the safest options for you to drink water out of.

The northern latitude of Seattle allows its residents to make vitamin D from sunshine for only eight months out of the year, but excess amounts are stored for use in the winter, so be sure to soak it up while you can.

You can save money and preserve the flavor of your nuts, oils and whole grains by keeping them cool.

It's easy to hand your compost over to Seattle's curbside pickup program, but why give away your valuable scraps when you can use them to add nutritents to your own garden?

Even though cold and flu are caused by a different type of virus, the symptoms can be similar.

Subscribe to Newsletters

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
1 + 3 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.