Have you ever wondered just how powerful herbal medicines really are, as in, ‘What can a plant, say much like the one growing in my garden, really do to help my skin?’ I mean, some skin issues are so crazy, so complicated and so very intense! How could some simple plant alleviate psoriasis, or eczema, or other issue. Aren’t these ‘automimmune’ diseases? Truly that is the work for ‘scientists’ working in laboratories to figure out… right? Well, I think you are going to enjoy what I am about to share with you.
First off, ask yourself this, ‘Do I question the power of plants, as food for me, my family, or any animals (like chicken, cows, Giraffes or elephants) in their ability to facilitate growth?’ Do I think I need to wait for the next scientific discovery before deciding what to make for dinner? Of course not, right. We instinctively trust Nature, and all its abundance. We trust that, being human, being a part of Nature itself, that food found upon this great Earth will indeed make us healthy, strong and nurtured. We would certainly be quite disappointed had we to spend 100’s of dollars at our next dinner night out at the fancy French bistro, only to find a plate full of blue, red and yellow tablets! I know I would be pretty upset, seeing as I totally love good food. Food that is fresh and beautiful. Food that was grown somewhere. Food that I have to actually chew!
How about, ‘Mom asked us over to her place for dinner tonight. Says she is going to mix up that CoQ10, Niacin, and L-Arganine dish again. You know the one with the nice orange Ester-C sprinkles on top. Apparently she got a discount at Walmart for the metamucil she uses as the bulking agent….’. Ugh! I’ll stick to my baked root vegetables thanks.
But surely medicine should be different. Treating disease is different than simply maintaining health. We need something really powerful to fight disease. Something developed by people working long hours in sterile laboratories, looking through microscopes at bacteria and viruses and, you know, all that deadly crazy stuff! Well, guess what? Plant based medicines, herbal medicines, have been the mainstay for the treatment of every imaginable disease, health issue, known to human kind since our earliest beginnings. Modern bio-medicine is barely 100 years old! In every culture around the globe, plant based medicines served as the primary, or only, method of directly tackling disease. We have records, both oral and written, of this long history.
Actually, the medicine of ancient China is still widely used all over the world right now in our modern day. Some estimates are that Chinese medicine represent the second largest medical system in the world. Hospitals outside places like China, Taiwan, such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and even the United States are embracing herbal medicines more and more as a primary method to treat complicated disease. Many western doctors are now learning Chinese medicine. They, more than anyone, have seen the limits that pharmaceutical based medicines can offer. Rather than seeing atopic eczema be merely suppressed with steroid creams, whereby the patient also ends up with severely weakened and thinned skin, whose eczema often flares up even worse as soon as the steroid is stopped (due to the well known re-bound effect), these doctors are witnessing the same result my wife noticed with her skin – that the eczema went away, went into long term remission, even after the herbal medicines were stopped. These doctors are noticing that herbal medicine, when properly prescribed, are working on the body in a much deeper way.
But it is not just the doctors noticing this, it is also the very people who design the drug medicines themselves who are noticing that herbal medicines, and particularly Chinese herbal medicines, are powerful tools to treat disease. In one of the most prominent journals for the discussion on drug creation, the British Journal of Pharmacology, I found the following quote in their december 2006 issue, ‘The development of systems biology has led to a new design principle for therapeutic intervention strategy, the concept of ‘magic shrapnel’ (rather than the ‘magic bullet’), involving many drugs against multiple targets, administered in a single treatment. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers an extensive source of examples of this concept in which several active ingredients in one prescription are aimed at numerous targets and work together to provide therapeutic benefit.’ Clearly the folks making drugs are interested in a Tradition of medicine that is thousands of years old, whereby many tricks have been figured out. A medical tradition that actually works, really well.
(By the way, a quick search on the pubmed online research database using the term ‘Chinese herbal medicine’ reveals more than 16,000 threads, so clearly researchers are interested.)
But to be honest, I don’t think the drug companies will ever really figure things out. No matter how hard we try to re-create Nature, I think our efforts will always be secondary to the greatness of Creation itself. Some things, like herbal medicines, are probably best left alone, i.e., as plants. What needs to be encouraged is for people to continue their studies as to how to properly use herbal medicines, especially to treat issues like widespread psoriasis, or fiery red rosacea, or intensely itchy atopic eczema. It is not as easy as picking some dandelions from the curb-side, nor is it as easy as picking up a book and reading ‘ eczema = use this plant combination’, which is how a large portion of our modern medicine is practiced, AKA cookbook medicine, pick a disease, look it up in a book, and then prescribe a certain drug. Actually the ability to properly treat skin disease with Chinese herbal medicine demands much study, many years of it. In order to achieve the best results, the Doctor of Chinese medicine will create a formulation of 6 to 20 herbs, all in differing dosages, and all based on the individual it is meant to help. The possible combinations that can be made with Chinese herbal medicines are endless, which is why it will be really hard to duplicate it, so as to synthesis and mass produce something. The art really lies in the doctor’s ability to properly diagnose the individual before them, and then to make a custom herbal prescription to match.
Seeing as dermatology is the oldest specialty in the world, being seen as one since at least 300 BC or so, one would think that this particular medical art would need extra training. And really, I am ok with that. For the more time I take to study. The more time I take to fly across the world to train with my great teacher, Mazin Al-Kahafji, so as to see first hand the amazing work that he does, the more I come back inspired. The more confident I thus become, have become, to tackle the hard stuff. The more I am better able to look my patient in the eye and say, ‘Yes I can treat your psoriasis. Yes, I have done it before and I know it can work. It is not easy. It is not always perfect. It does not always work. But most of the time, as seen by the majority of my patients, a significant amount of clearing can be seen on the skin.’ And this, my friends, is all through the power of herbal medicines, which is pretty amazing.
Wishing you health,
Dr. Trevor Erikson