Herbal Medicine is very different from what most people know of herbs. The marketing and supplement manufacturers encourage the idea that a specific herb is important and it is for one particular problem. For example St. John’s Wort for depression or Ginkgo for memory. Herbs are tools, and it is important to understand what the tool does, more than how it has been used. Applying the same marketing logic to a tool like a hammer, it could be said that your house has a problem, therefore you need a hammer. You might need a hammer, a hammer is a good tool, but may not help with a plumbing problem. This is no different than saying you have depression therefore you need St. John’s Wort. St. John’s Wort is a good herb(tool) but it may not be specific to your particular type of depression.
Traditional and proper herbal medicine relies on a herbal diagnosis, which is different then biomedical diagnostic terminology. The saying among herbalists is “bring in ten people with the same biomedical diagnosis and you will need ten different herbal treatments”. The reason for this is that herbal medicine focusses on the patient not the disease, and what the patient needs to help themselves. Traditional herbalists took standard herbal recipes and modified them by adjusting the ingredients so that they matched what the patient needed. Likewise a standard herbal formula may be used for many conditions in which biomedical medicine sees no similarity.
An example of this is the relatively modern (circa 1682CE) herbal formula Long Dan Xie Gan Wan. This formula has a specific function of clearing heat out of the what is called the Liver or wood system in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). As a result, with proper herbal diagnosis, this formula may be prescribed, or modified and prescribed by a herbalist many things including;
- gall bladder pain, jaundice, hepatitis,
- conjunctivitis (pink eye),
- vaginal discharges,
- urinary difficulty,
- and can be helpful in controlling herpes (oral and genital), shingles, chicken pox, and some types of hyperthyroidism.
In TCM all of these conditions are seen as related, even if biomedical medicine does not see it that way. The lesson is that if you want to use herbs as medicine, then it is important to find a local herbalist who has the knowledge and training to properly diagnose your condition. Only then can the best tool/herb be utilized without regard to marketing hype.
To find a certified herbalist in Wisconsin go to the WISCA or NCCAOM websites