“I am still psoriasis free – not even one spot thanks to you, Mr. Miracle Worker!” – Vancouver patient
Have you ever heard the story of the race between the tortoise and the hare. Do you remember who won? The slow and steady tortoise right! Well, I would say, that the tortoise is more akin to the natural herbal practice of Chinese medicine, whereas the quick fix model of Western medicine is more like the racy hare. Why? Again because slow and steady wins the race. As you will see in this following blog piece, herbal medicine may take longer to achieve the intended goals than say the fast suppression of synthetic steroids, but the results can be undeniably better- and safer!
Many of the Western medical techniques, particularly for the treatment of chronic skin disease, are aimed at offering instant relief and quick-as-possible clearing. Topical steroids are an example of this. When used for the treatment of conditions like psoriasis, steroid creams can alleviate the symptoms of itching immediately, while also instantly reducing the size of the red raised plaque and persistent scaling. The psoriasis sufferer will obviously feel much better, but this relief may really only be superficial. Upon stopping steroid creams, all hell can literally break out as people start to experience the “re-bound effect”, which is a well known worsening of the original condition from stopping such a powerful immune suppressive drug. So then people want to apply more steroids and may never want to stop them, in fear of experiencing the re-bound effect again!
Long term usage of steroids have obvious consequences and are not a good choice to control chronic skin disease. The most obvious is an actual lack of cure! Other, more severe issues can occur as well, including permanent thinning and atrophy of the skin and internal imbalances like adrenal gland shrinkage with eventual Cushing’s syndrome. Many patients are told that their skin condition may be “un-curable” and that their only hope of relief is through steroids, but that they must be careful with their long term use because of the above mentioned side effects. This obviously makes for quite the dilemma. Patients want relief, but they also want to avoid adding extra damage onto themselves.
Now how about Chinese medicine? Slow and steady remember. Even though herbal medicine may offer quick relief, although not usually as quick as steroids, the real results are what happens in the long term. Rather than a patients problem instantly disappearing, many find that their condition gradually reduces, say over 5 or more months, until it is completely gone. When this happens, conditions like psoriasis are also less likely to return. And what was the cost? Well since Chinese herbal medicine has been practiced for so many thousands of years, there exists a long track record proving that side effects are pretty minimal, or even non-existent in many cases. The main draw back to herbal medicine treatment really comes down to the awful taste, but even that becomes non-problematic as the patient becomes used to it.
As an example of how the slow and steady pace of Chinese medicine can lead to good long term health benefits, I would to like share with you the following psoriasis case that I successfully treated several years ago.
Woman, age 38, with a 10+ year history of psoriasis on her lower legs
When she first visited the clinic she had been using a topical cream containing a steroid, 1 to 2 times daily. From the picture below it is evident that the psoriatic lesions are a light pink, seemingly mild. While using the steroid the lesions did not seem to bother her much.
After our first consultation we talked about how the steroid may be suppressing her psoriasis, but that the lesions were not actually going away. We also talked about how she may experience a “re-bound” effect” if she were to stop using them, for which her condition may become more virulent before getting better. My patient decided that she was tired of using the steroid anyways, for fear of long term side effects on her body (including reproductive health) and so came off of them on her own. At the same time she began a treatment using internal and external Chinese herbal medicine.
She took my treatment and avoided the use of topical steroids for about a month before I re-photographed her. In the below photograph we can see how her psoriasis actually flared up and showed it’s true nature. No longer under the suppressive influence of the steroid, her condition looked a lot angrier! She was now experiencing a lot more itching, particularly at night.
You could probably imagine that this woman was having a hard time keeping up with the treatment, as she was very uncomfortable! I encouraged her to continue with treatment, and rightly adjusted her herbal formula to represent how her skin presently appeared.
This is an important part of Chinese medical treatment- the ability to adjust and refine treatment based on how someone responds. Chinese herbal medicine includes literally thousands of herbs from which the Doctor may choose upwards of 16 different ones to incorporate into the prescription. The choice of herbs is always based on how the patients particular condition is presenting, not just on the mere fact that they have a particular disease, like using the same steroid for every single psoriasis sufferer! Since every patient’s psoriasis will behave differently in terms of looks, location, and severity, and, as well, they themselves will have a totally different constitution and health profile, effective treatment needs to be individual. Treatment options need to be broad and flexible, so as to meet the patient- not the patient meet the treatment.
Below we can start to see how the tortoise effect of slow and steady begins to pull ahead, offering promise for a grand finale at the finish line. The lesions we now see, at three months of treatment, are now thinning out and fading. This woman’s itch has now disappeared.
Now at 5 months we can see below that her skin is virtually clear. There remains just a couple small spots, that are not very problematic. This woman continued with herbs at a smaller dose and frequency for another few months.
The below picture was produced 1 year after the above picture was taken. Her skin is now totally clear and she had been off herbs for at least 9 months or so.
2 years after the above picture was taken I contacted this woman to see how she was doing. She informed me that her skin is still clear and that she has not had any re-occurence, nor has she had to use any steroid or even chinese medicine during this time. It goes to show how slow and steady effort, using the right techniques, applied consistently over time, always wins the race.
Dr Trevor Erikson