What is it?
Herbal medicine encompasses many traditions of cultural plant wisdom. Here at All Creatures, we are fortunate to have had teachers who are well-versed in many herbal traditions, but most particularly in Traditional Chinese Medicine (Steve Marsden) and modern Western herbalism (David Winston). Herbs are used as tinctures, powders, and pills; as well as individual herbs, custom-made combinations, and ancient formulas as best suits the individual patient.
How does it work and why is it helpful?
Herbs have many compounds that are bioactive in mammalian bodies: alkaloids, flavonoids, terpenes, phenolic acids, glycosides, lignans, saponins, tannins, polyacetylenes, polysaccharides, amines, organosulfur compounds, lectins, and glycosaminoglycans. And these are only some of them! Some of these compounds are used by the plants to protect their own cells from stress, and some may have evolved to affect insects and mammals directly. The beauty is how they benefit our animals' cells and organ systems as a result! Science has long drawn from cultural plant knowledge to build our pharmacopeia: the original chemical backbone for aspirin was isolated from willow bark, which was traditionally used to treat fevers and pain. Curcumin, derived from the Indian kitchen and ayurvedic herb turmeric, is widely used to help control inflammation. Debate continues, however, about whether the energetic qualities and complex compound combinations of full herbs offers better support for many patients. The synergistic interaction of multiple bioactive compounds in an herb can produce effects greater than the sum of their single contribution. This is known as the entourage effect, and it highlights the benefits of consuming whole herbs. There are a great many beneficial herbs that offer therapeutic actions not offered at all through medications, such as mucilaginous moistening herbs and TCM blood moving herbs. Herbal formulas are gentler and better tolerated than medications for some patients. Herbal formulas can also be custom-made to suit not just a patient's symptomatic picture, but also their underlying constitutional imbalances, and this often proves to be quite a powerful combination.
Who can benefit from it?
Patients who don't tolerate or respond well to medications may be more responsive to herbs. For example, patients with allergies gastrointestinal disease can often fit in this category. Patients who suffer from symptoms and diseases which have few treatment options in Western medicine are also good candidates. Examples of some diseases that can be better addressed with herbs than pharmaceuticals include corneal keratopathy, keratoconjuctivitis sicca (dry eye), early nuclear sclerosis; pancreatitis, chronic gastrointestinal disease; strokes, spinal cord and brain trauma; medial shoulder instability pain, stiffness, and poor circulation. Another big category is patients with progressive diseases, such as chronic kidney disease, chronic heart disease, chronic sinusitis, and even chronic periodontal disease when dental care is delayed.
What should I expect?
During an appointment, herbal medicine may be indicated, either as the primary treatment or as a supportive treatment. Herbs may either be dispensed in house or ordered through our Chinese herbal dispensaries. For some diseases, herbs can resolve issues; for others, they may be used to slow progression of chronic degenerative disease; and for yet others, they may be used to help diminish and manage symptoms. Recheck appointments are used to assess the efficacy of the herbs. Don't be discouraged by a negative response! These can be very helpful in guiding us to the best herbal approach. Also, patient presentations can change as they respond to herbal support, and herbs often need to be adjusted. Many herbs are used longterm to provide good effect. The length of use is determined by patient disease and patient response.