Inquiring Minds... Pulse Readers Ask,
and I Answer:
Short Questions and Answers
From the Pulse Website
Brian B. Carter, LAc
How can I find out if the Chinese herbs i take are safe? Thank
you very much for your help -- Sheila Smith
The best way is to get them from your local practitioner (who
was trained in Chinese herbal medicine, especially one who knows
how to watch out for drug-herb interactions). Most Chinese herbs
are safe. The unsafe anecdotal info, such as with ephedra, are
almost always due to self-prescription, or buying products from
companies whose main interest is to make a buck off you.
Chinese Medicine Career
I've always been interested in learning more about 'alternative'
healing, so this site is a great resource for me. In fact, I've
even thrown around the idea of becoming a practitioner of oriental
medicine. However, there's only so much I can learn about it by
reading on the web. How can I really find out if it's for me or
not? I want to be sure I'm making the right choice before I plunk
down the tuition.
Oh, another question: for some reason, I find myself much
more interested in herbs rather than acupuncture. How would only
dealing with herbs affect my options, compared with doing both
acupuncture and herbs?
Call Gina at PCOM - 619-574-6909 - she's the admissions couselor
and answers detailed questions all the time. I think she's light
on the sales and heavy on compassion.
Herbs are legally the black sheep of our profession- and most
of the licenses emphasize acupuncture- i.e. if you want to practice
CM in most states, they require the nat'l acupuncture test, not
the nat'l herbal test. It's not separated, and I don't know of
any state that actually requires the national herbal test except
for Texas (thanks to Kristen Horner, LAc, in Hewitt, Texas for
Socially and in practice, people don't really understand Chinese
herbs- the main thing is to impress them that you are a serious
health professional, then what treatments you work out with them
are secondary. Most acupuncture patients will take herbs - Very
few don't want the acupuncture- though after a time some want
to only do acu monthly, but may still want to buy the herbs.
It all started once I started learning iron palm. We have
to use stuff called dit da jow on our hands to keep them from
getting bruised and injured while we do our pounding. We also
take chi-building formulas for... well chi buliding. I was completely
fascinated. I started learning as much as I could about TCM. I
had a ruff idea of what it was, I didn't assume I knew hardly
anything, I realized it took years of practice, but I figured
I'd learn something and it would be harmless if I started growing
a couple herbs and doing some "self medication" (as
you called it).
I was going about the internet, looking up names of herbs
to grow or buy and I came across your site. My master had always
taught me that the easy ways are too often the wrong ways (he
used this argument to convince my mother that internal martial
arts, which takes years, cannot possibly be "evil" because
most things evil are easy). Now here along comes your site, which
informed me that self medication isn't always a good idea and
I should seek out a professional. Your argument was sound and
logical and I was convinced. One article suggested I try a free
consultation, and it gave excellent questions to ask the "doctor".
Well... true, and that's what I have written BECAUSE of things
like the baseball pitcher dying of too much ephedra and sunstroke...
if people took the time to educate themselves, it would still
take a good year to be sure they were taking herbs that wouldn't
And yet, I am writing a book on how people can help themselves
at home... eating, exercising, sleeping, herbs, acupressure, etc.-
some risk that people will misunderstand and take the wrong herbs...
but there will be warnings about the dangerous ones, etc.
My change of heart is because so few people CAN get to an acupuncturist-
only 15k acu's for the 300m people in this country. And those
that can get to one don't always have the money. And if people
would only live more wisely, many could avoid a lot of misery,
save money, avoid drugs and their side effects...
Reference Books for Drug-Herb Interactions
Hello - I am a reference librarian at an academic medical
library. I have been looking for a reference book (or website)
that would be helpful to MD's and medical students, when they
are treating patients who are already taking herbal medications.
We have several books that describe the individual herbs and their
characteristics, including chemical information for some of them.
I have not found any tool that lends itself to the specific questions
our physicians have. I notice that you have articles on some interactions,
so I am inquiring if you have a resource that you could recommend.
An example of a question - if a person is taking spute, blue citrus,
and several other herbs, can they also take a particular drug
for heart arrhythmias, such as sotalol? Any suggestions for reference
books, websites or other resources would be most appreciated.
Thanks for your interesting request.
I believe that my
articles on drug-herb interactions are the most comprehensive
out there. They summarize several books (which only included a
few interactions) and a number of review articles from medical
Unfortunately, each drug and herb must be taken on a case-by-case
basis. The best thing to do is to consult an herbalist or pharmacist
who can apply the information in this article: http://www.pulsemed.org/heartattackdrugherb.htm
- They need the Drug Information Handbook to do this.
All the best,
Acupuncture is Sensational
I would like to provide some feedback on your comments about
whether or not acupuncture hurts.
I have trained in craniosacral therapy (+ osteopathy) as well
as oriental medicine.
I do not believe that the electrical senstation you speak
of is always a negative. Through the cranial rhythm I can tune
into precise points of energy stagnation/congestion/weakness (often
these coincide with well-known acupuncture points or they are
on the main meridians). By needling these points I obtain signifcant
therapeutic effect, as energy is released/redirected and the cranial
pattern is improved.
Occassionally, an electrical sensation is produced. On one
particular occassion this travelled from the ankle (where the
needle was inserted) up the leg, up the back and up into the neck
on the contralateral side - exactly following the course of energy
obstruction I was aware of.
I am perfectly well aware that one needs to be very careful not
to injure the nerve and that the electrical sensation may often
indicate that one has penetrated and perhaps injured the nerve-sheath.
I suffered the consequences of this whilst at acupuncture school
when our teacher was teaching point location and needled S.I.4
on my wrist. Thereafter, it was painful for me to use that hand
for at least 3 or 4 months.
However, I re-emphasise that I do not believe that the electrical
sensation is something to necessarily avoid.
Additionally, when I needle points of severe energy stagnation
it can occassionally hurts quite significantly. Obviously, I have
to be careful on whom I do this kind of needling. However, I have
some loyal patients with chronic ailments who have recieved little
help elsewhere; and they are usually quite prepared to put up
with the passing discomfort for the lasting results that are obtained.
Thanks for your marvelous work,
Michael Spottiswoode, DOM
Good point- in fact, I think the research corroborates the idea
that an electrical sensation, or even a strong achey one, increases
the effect of the acupuncture- Kendall talks about that in his
phenomenal book, The Dao of Chinese Medicine.
However, considering that we can get a result without the electrical
sensation, and that it's unpleasant, and can cause neuralgia like
yours for months, I think it's best NOT to do it on purpose, or
for the acupuncture newbie!
Thanks for the feedback and compliments,