Hello everyone, my name is Cynthia, thank you for taking a moment to read about my adventures in China and student training organized by TCMzone, LLC.
Let’s begin with a brief introduction about myself, I am a recent graduate from Phoenix Institute of Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture (PIHMA) in Phoenix, Arizona. Before seeking a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine (MSOM), I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in Health Science from California State University San Marcos (CSUSM). During my academic career at PIHMA, I studied and gained a deeper knowledge in acupuncture, Chinese herbology, cupping, and other TCM modalities. Based on my personal experiences, utilizing Chinese herbal formulas in conjunction with acupuncture can help people achieve optimum health by either reducing stress, regulating sleep, improving digestion and overall mind-body health.
In November 2017, I became part of the TCMzone team, a company that plays a crucial role in the herbal industry serving integrative healthcare practitioners and TCM students, like myself. I feel extremely honored to have worked alongside Dr. Dan “Jipu” Wen (TCMzone founder and president), Jennifer Knapp (Vice-President) and the entire team at TCMzone, LLC.
TCMzone is recognized for organizing overseas practitioner-level trainings, however this year they decided to embark on a new venture, a student-level training. From September 14 to 28, I took advantage of the incredible opportunity to travel to the source of the medicine. I traveled to China with my father, my dearest friend and classmate Ofelia, and a group of amazing students from Wongu University of Oriental Medicine. Truthfully, this adventure would not have been the same without this group of like-minded individuals—sharing the same passion for the medicine, culture, and history.
The first 2-days of our trip, which is truly a cultural learning journey, we visited some of the most iconic and breathtaking landmarks in Beijing, including the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace. The fact that we were able to see so much in a short amount of time was impressive. I applaud Michael, our tour guide, for going above-and-beyond providing historical and culture information, fun-facts, answering all of our questions, and of course demonstrating how to “properly” eat Peking duck. Most of us bought jade bracelets, others bought souvenirs for loved ones, and many including myself tried snack after snack, such as cucumber or tomato flavored lays, pocky sticks, a diversity of Chinese bread, bubble tea, lamb kidney, and more!
After saying “Zàijiàn Beijing”, goodbye in Chinese, we then took a 5-hour high-speed train known as Gaotie from Beijing to Shanghai, ready and eager to begin to learn. The next portion of the trip consisted of the clinical observation training at LongHua Hospital, and afternoon lectures at Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SUTCM) International Education College.
The clinical rounds in the morning consisted of outpatient and inpatient departments including: Oncology, Dermatology, Gastroenterology, TCM Internal Medicine, and Acupuncture. I truly enjoyed watching highly respected TCM doctors utilize acupuncture or prescribe Chinese herbal medicine for their patients. Some of the highlights from the clinical rounds was seeing our medicine in action. Flash cupping therapy was used on the face for those who had facial paralysis or Bell’s Palsy, moxibustion was burned over ST-36 and other acupuncture points to help invigorate the flow of Qi and blood in the body, ear seeds, electrical stimulation, and cupping was used on every patient, and Vitamin B-12 injections were injected in acupuncture points for various conditions.
The afternoon lectures included an array of topics such as Ear Acupuncture, Needling in the Neijing, Acupuncture Research by Dr. Wang Fan, Acupuncture and Moxibustion for Asthma by Dr. Zhang Bi-Meng, and we even had the opportunity to practice Ba Duan Jin qigong. On the last day of our clinical training, we had the pleasure to visit SHUTCM main campus for a graduation ceremony wherein we received a formal certification from SHUTCM for completing our student training and for a tour of the Medical History Museum of SHUTCM. I was inspired by all the rich history of TCM dating back to the stone age to modern days. The museum housed thousands of items exhibiting the TCM artifacts, such as ancient surgical instruments and TCM equipment like cupping, guasha, and needles, bronze acupuncture models, and hundreds of Chinese herbs were displayed for all to see. It really was quite stunning and spectacular to say the least, in fact it was one of my favorite things to see.
During our off time, we had the chance to explore the surrounding areas of our hotel and gained a first-hand experience of all that Shanghai has to offer. We visited the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower, we used our bargaining skills and shopped throughout Nanjing road, we even watched a Shanghai SIPG F.C. football match at the Shanghai Stadium, and sang at a local KTV karaoke bar. Like any foreign tourist, we wanted to impress our taste buds and try something new. In fact, we tried dish after dish not knowing what it was due to the language barrier, luckily pictures on menus helped us decide which dish was worth trying. We ate dumplings, organ meats, noodles, soups, and foods that till this day I’m not sure what it was, but it was sure delicious. What makes the cuisine in China so special for us TCM enthusiasts, is that many of the foods incorporate Chinese herbs, such as Sheng Jiang (fresh ginger), Gou Qi Zi (Chinese Wolfberry), and many more. At some restaurants, rice was cooked with Hong Zao (Red Chinese date) and soups were made with various Chinese herbs to serve a medicinal and satisfying purpose for the body.
We also had the opportunity to visit one of China’s largest granule herb manufacturers, Tianjiang Pharmaceutical Company. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, where I gained first-hand knowledge on the manufacturing and efficacy of herbal granules. We walked through the state-of-the-art modern facilities where processes such as multi-function extraction, purifying, vacuum concentration, spray drying, and dry granulation techniques take place. All to produce the quality granules that are the TCMzone finished herbal products. We were also treated to a detailed presentation by the manufacturer wherein we were given the opportunity to ask questions. The tour ended with a magnificent dinner celebration put on by the manufacturer.
TCMzone also organized a 1-day excursion to Hangzhou, the capital of China’s Zhejiang province, known for their iconic Grand Canal where we were able to take a short boat ride tour during the Autumn festival. We also visited the Hangzhou Longjingshan Tea Plantation and tried delicious roasted ‘Dragon Well” green tea. In the evening, we explored and wandered through the Wushan night market. Silk, tea, souvenir trinkets, and an abundance of street food was sold. If you are not familiar with stinky tofu, it can certainly take you by surprise and no, unfortunately I wasn’t that adventurous!
“All good things must come to an end.” As we said our farewells and exchanged contact information, we were packed and ready to fly back to the states. Looking back at this trip, I know I will be going back, as there is so much to see in China, the medicine, the culture, and the history. Perhaps, once I pass my national boards and become a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist I will take advantage of TCMzone’s Practitioner-Level China Training. Thank you for taking the time to read my post-grad school training in China.
If you are an Acupuncture & TCM student interested in joining a TCMzone Student Training, contact TCMzone. If you are a practitioner looking to join TCMzone’s annual practitioner-level China training you can find out more here, https://tcmzone.com/shanghaitour2018 or contact TCMzone, firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-788-8086.
by Sherri Taylor, L.Ac., MSOM, FABORM
As summer comes to an end, we prepare for another season change, transitioning into fall. How do we prepare our patients to stay healthy during the time of transitioning from summer (yang) to fall (yin)?
Chinese Medicine describes our innate ability to harmonize our biological clock with nature. Naturally, we are able to adapt to the changes in the weather, sleep/wake cycles, and dietary habits. We educate patients on the importance of eating and dressing appropriately for the seasons and getting enough rest. However, we do have patients that resist these changes and become more vulnerable to illness. They are unable to adjust their lifestyle and resist the changes that are necessary to keep in harmony with nature. Due to one’s internal disharmony, it simply takes the change in environment for someone to fall ill. A sudden drop in body temperature will lead to a wind cold especially if the wei qi is unstable to begin with. Western Medicine describes this phenomenon as viruses being able to survive longer in the dry, cold temperatures rather than solely the cold environment. Hence, the Cold and Flu season.
As practitioners, we see Eastern Medicine diagnoses of Wind Cold, Wind Heat, Lung Qi Deficiency, Phlegm Heat in the Lung, Phlegm Cold in the Lung, and Wei Qi deficiency during the fall season. Upon entering the Metal element, it is important to have the following herbal formulas in stock to help balance your patients internally during this vulnerable time.
- Yu Ping Feng San– can use preventatively during this time to boost Wei Qi and Lung Qi. It is also the “go to” formula when your patients suffer from allergies during the seasonal transition*.
- Yin Qiao San- is for the beginnings of a sore throat and Wind Heat invasion*.
- Gui Zhi Tang- for Wind Cold Invasion with sweating that is due to an imbalance of the Wei Qi (defense) and Ying Qi (nutrient qi)*.
- Sang Ju Yin- Clears Wind Heat, descends the Lung Qi and stops cough*.
- Xiao Chai Hu Tang- Harmonizes and releases Shao Yang for alternate fever and chills, dry throat, coughing, nausea, vomiting, acid reflux, rib side pain and stiffness of the neck*.
Currently, we are making the transition from the Earth Element to the Metal Element. The Spleen and Stomach meridians should be well prepared if we were in harmony with the season. This will also be dependent on how well we endure the changes. The function of our stomach has always been a key factor in maintaining our health. What we eat plays a significant role in how healthy the gut flora is. Our microbiome is always changing with diet. A diverse, healthy microbiome is necessary to maintain healthy flora and a strong immune system. If we are not eating correctly with the seasons, too much of the wrong food can lead to inflammation of the gut and less diversity in the microbiome. Low diversity of bacteria in the body contributes to inflammation and overgrowth of bad bacteria. One must eat large amount of fruits and vegetables to remedy this. The microbiome starts to change in just 3 days from dietary modifications. In order for the modifications to have a lasting effect, one has to sustain the diet of primarily fruits and vegetables. The Chinese medicine principle of warming, cooked, easy to digest foods always applies anytime you want to improve the microbiome.
It is important during this time to continue to strengthen the Spleen and Stomach meridians since they play a vital role in the immune system as well as boosting the Lung and Large Intestine meridians to prevent Wind Cold, Wind Heat, and Phlegm Cold & Heat in the lungs.
*The information provided here is for healthcare professional practitioners only. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
An Interview with the formulator, Dr. Haihe Tian, Ph.D.(China), A.P.(FL)
Sherri: Hi Dr. Tian, thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to speak with me regarding your new digestive herbal line with TCMCeuticals® by TCMzone. Can you tell me a little more about your background and how you decided on these 3 formulas for your digestive line?
Dr. Tian: Sure. In 1993, I graduated from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine with a Ph.D. degree in Chinese Medicine. I have clinical training in both Eastern and Western Medicine. I mentored under a renowned teacher in China that specialized in Internal Medicine and more specifically Digestive health conditions. I received specialized training in Digestive conditions and when I moved to America, I was surprised to see so many people struggling with their digestive health. Most people would come in to my office and complain of physical pain, but most often they had chronic internal medicine conditions that were also contributing to their physical pain including digestive health conditions. I designed these 3 specific formulas based on what I see most often in my clinic. There is a formula for the upper GI tract, Stomach and Lower GI tract. Since there are many Chinese Medicine patterns for these conditions, I based the formulas on the most common in each of the three areas.
Sherri: I would like to first ask you about the Esophageal Balance Formula. I noticed the base formula is Zuo Jin Wan (Left Metal Pill) which is known as the main formula in Chinese Medicine for esophageal balancing. Can you tell me about the ingredients you added to this formula and how it changes the base formula?
Dr. Tian: Yes, as you know Zuo Jin Wan is for heat in the liver overacting on the stomach. I added herbs such as, Chai Hu, Xiang Fu to help with Liver Qi stagnation and address the emotional component of the Liver Qi stagnation. All of the herbs I added to Zuo Jin Wan help reinforce the rebellious Qi to go downwards.
Sherri: Why did you use Wa Leng Zi in this formula?
Dr. Tian: Wa Leng Zi is used to offset the acid and protect the membranes of the esophagus.
Sherri: What is the Chinese Medicine pattern for the use of this formula?
Dr. Tian: The pattern is excess in the liver, liver heat and rebellious Qi over acting on the stomach.
Sherri: What pattern in Chinese Medicine is Digestive Support Formula indicated for?
Dr. Tian: This formula is mainly for Qi stagnation in the stomach. This may be due to over eating, eating at the wrong time of day or poor dietary habits. Also, this formula is very good for digestive problems due to emotional upset. The function of this formula is to regulate the stomach and liver qi and direct the Qi downwards.
Sherri: Can you tell me what the function of Xiang Yuan is in this formula?
Dr. Tian: Yes, this is an excellent herb to use for digestive problems. In this formula, it is used along with Fo Shou and Chai Hu for Qi stagnation and hypochondriac pain. Xiang Yuan with Fo Shou provides comfort for the middle jiao and eases pain.
Sherri: Can you use this formula for severe food stagnation with heat and phlegm?
Dr. Tian: You can add Bao He Wan to this formula to treat a more severe case.
Sherri: Do you recommend digestive enzymes to a patient when taking this formula?
Dr. Tian: Yes, I do recommend digestive enzymes when needed in addition to taking this formula.
Sherri: What would you say the pattern is for Colon Harmony Formula? Spleen Yang deficiency?
Dr. Tian: Yes, this is Spleen Yang deficiency with Liver Qi stagnation. The TCM treatment with this formula is to raise the Spleen Qi and restore the Spleen function while soothing the liver to treat the Liver Qi stagnation. This formula is recommended for supporting colon function particularly with loose bowel movements and diarrhea.
Sherri: Do you recommend probiotics in addition to this formula as well?
Dr. Tian: Yes, because there is an imbalance with the bacteria with these conditions, I will often recommend probiotics in addition when needed.
Sherri: How long do you prescribe these formulas for?
Dr. Tian: These formulas are made to take long term. I will prescribe them to a patient for 2 months, 3 months or 6 months depending on the case. Once they are improving and feeling better, you can reduce the dosage for maintenance if needed. The formulas are designed to improve GI function. Once function is restored they will be able to feel good without having to take the herbs or maybe just need a couple pills per day for prevention and maintenance.
In Chinese Medicine it is important to treat with herbs and acupuncture. They work together in improving one’s health. Acupuncture will help open the meridians and activate the nerves for improved function as well as improving the digestion and absorption of the herbs. Acupuncture and Herbal treatment is a formula in and of itself in improving overall health.
Sherri: Dr. Tian thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and expertise with us. Congratulations on your formula line! We know many practitioners that are excited to use these formulas to patients with these very complex digestive health conditions.
Dr. Tian: It was my pleasure, thank you.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information contained in this piece is for licensed healthcare professionals only.
An Interview with Dr. Jipu “Dan” Wen by Jennifer Knapp
Hi Dr. Wen, thank you for taking the time to talk with me about our newest brand of professional herbal formulas, TCMCeuticals. I’m so excited about this new offering from TCMzone and would like to share some of your insights on this novel approach to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Let’s get started. – Jenifer Knapp
JK: Can you give our readers a little background on yourself before getting started?
DW: I have a bit of an interesting background, over the last several decades studying integrative medicine in the areas of liver disease and G.I. in China. Then coming to the U.S. and moving from medical research and integrative medicine to now heading TCMzone, LLC. to become a leading supplier of herbal products for licensed healthcare practitioners. After almost 20 years as an herbal products supplier in the U.S., our products are in top US healthcare hospitals and educational institutions serving different types of practitioners.
The last 18 years, our approach has been providing high quality classical formulas and compounding single herbs in a variety of dosage forms, fundamental products for day to day use by Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists. These practitioners can easily use our products with the support of our team and their knowledge of TCM. Our new line of TCMCeuticals represents a new concept of traditional herbal medicine, in that it’s a line completely formulated by practitioners based on classical formulas but also including their clinical experiences. These are not your classical TCM formulas, these are expert formulas, using TCM as a guide, but uniquely formulated for specific conditions seen in modern clinical settings. TCMCeuticals granules and capsules can be used alone or easily integrated with our existing TCMzone brands of classical formulas and compounding single herbs.
JK: What is your vision for TCMCeuticals down the line? What do you hope to see with this new brand?
DW: I am excited to see the launch of the brand new TCMCeuticals, this is a milestone for our business, I’m also very excited to see the initial results of this launch. We have received such positive feedback in only our first month and I feel strongly that the concept of TCMCeuticals, Safety, Efficacy and Quality is a strong foundation to support and grow this line. I’m hoping this condition-specific line will create broader usage among integrative medicine practitioners, representing an important movement for our company in supporting a vast number of practitioners, creating consistent clinical results, in the end helping the general public achieve better health. In addition to these first 6 formulas, we have plans for another 5 formulas launching later this year under TCMCeuticals brand. We’re looking forward to this line covering many conditions. My goal is for TCMzone to carry a broad selection of herbal products from classical Chinese formulas, Japanese Kampo formulas, compounding single herbs and clinically-driven formulas so practitioners and consumers have access to many different kinds of quality herbal products to reach optimal health.
JK: Thank you Dr. Wen, this was very educational and we’re looking forward to another great new line at TCMzone!
With all the herbs and formulas we study, how do we choose specifically which herbs and formulas to begin with, so they are not sitting on the shelf for long periods of time before being sold?
As I mentioned in my previous blog, there are specific things you want to consider when building your herbal pharmacy. However, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed with ordering mass amounts of product to immediately fill your pharmacy. Start slow and work up to building it at your pace that will most benefit you financially.
I started with a couple formulas in mind that I know I would use quite frequently with the patient population I treat. I’ve treated infertility and internal medicine conditions within the scope of Chinese Medicine for approximately 13 years now. My first order of individual herbs were based on a couple of main formulas that I know I would use frequently. I ordered 8-15 herbs to begin concocting formulas for patients. The following is a list of the top 15 herbs I currently use in my practice.
- Dang Gui Huang Qi Sheng Di Huang
- Bai Shao Chuan Xiong Sheng Jiang
- Fu Ling Zhi Gan Cao Chai Hu
- Dang Shen Bai Zhu Ban Xia
- Xiang Fu Chen Pi Shan Yao
If you treat women’s health and infertility, this list may be similar or helpful to start with. If you specialize in pain, your list is going to look a little different. Formulas that can be created with this list of 15 herbs include the 2 building block formulas in Chinese Medicine, Si Jun Zi Tang and Si Wu Tang.
Si Jun Zi Tang
- Dang Shen/Ren Shen
- Bai Zhu
- Fu Ling
- Zhi Gan Cao
Si Wu Tang
- Dang Gui
- Bai Shao
- Chuan Xiong
- Shu Di Huang/Sheng Di Huang
Si Jun Zi Tang will boost the Qi, especially Spleen Qi. Si Wu Tang will supplement the Blood and regulate the Liver. Si Jun Zi Tang is a great formula to have on hand because it supports the Spleen Qi. Most of our health issues stem from our gut. You definitely want to have herbs that treat the Spleen and Stomach on hand because this is the root of imbalance in both Chinese and Western medicine. Si Wu Tang is great for menstrual irregularities. Irregular cycles are largely due to the disharmony between the Liver and Spleen.
Si Jun Zi Tang and Si Wu Tang combine to form Ba Zhen Tang that is used to treat both Qi and Blood insufficiency. I often use this formula for postpartum women. After a woman gives birth, she is depleted in qi, blood, and fluids. This formula assists with restoring a woman’s energy postpartum by nourishing the Qi and Blood. This formula is also appropriate for regulating the menstrual cycle of a patient that primarily presents with Spleen Qi and blood deficiency. A main symptom may be excessive spotting or irregular bleeding within the cycle. This symptom relates to Spleen not managing the blood.
With these 15 herbs, you can make 8 formulas with modifications according to the patient’s eastern medicine diagnosis. (Remaining 5 Listed below)
- Er Chen Tang Dry Dampness and Expel Phlegm
- Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang Tonify the Blood
- Dang Gui Bu Xue Tang Tonify the Qi and Blood
- Liu Jun Zi Tang Tonify the Qi
- Xiao Yao San Formulas that Regulate and Harmonize the Liver
You can also buy some of these formulas in granules, packets, or veggie capsules and start with 4-5 formulas. It would be cost effective to have these in granules and make them yourself. The one thing that you will have to invest in when mixing your own customized formulas is a scale, which is roughly $100-200 depending on the size you get. And by making the formula yourself, you can charge more for your expertise. Depending on the herbal company, you can get pharmacy supplies such as gram spoons and prescription bags to dispense the formulas free of charge.
Once you start making some money with the few formulas that you begin with, add other common herbs to your dispensary to expand.
**For more information, order Sherri Taylor’s first complimentary webinar on “Building Your Herbal Pharmacy”, https://tcmzone.com/archive/ and watch for her next live complimentary webinar with TCMzone coming soon!
This blog is the second part in a series on starting your herbal pharmacy. In this section I will cover some helpful tips to get started with your herbal pharmacy and the benefits associated as a licensed healthcare practitioner. – By Sherri Taylor
Why Should I Have An Herbal Pharmacy?
Herbal Medicine is a great way to treat your patients comprehensively. In China, herbal medicine is the primary form of treatment, and acupuncture, cupping, gua sha, tui na, etc. are secondary solutions. Herbal medicine is a natural form of internal and external medicine, and more and more people are turning to natural methods for their healthcare. people are tired of the western pharmaceuticals that often have more side effects than benefits. Drugs such as antibiotics, are over prescribed in situations that might not be appropriate. As a result, the natural flora in the gut gets disrupted and weakens the immune system leading to other potential health problems. Herbal medicine can help balance the body during times of illness and with recovery. Herbs can be used alone or with other western medications depending on the person’s condition and meds. They can also serve as a preventative medicine during times such as cold or allergy season.
Here are some thoughts on getting started:
- As Chinese medicine practitioners, we have much to offer to the public in terms of quality healthcare. We have all the tools available to treat people in the many modalities of Eastern medicine while getting to the root of their problem by diagnosing and treating. And if you have herbal medicine as one of your tools, not only can you offer comprehensive solutions to your patients but you are improving your revenue stream with what you sell in concert with your treatment expertise.
- To begin stocking your pharmacy, you only need to select a few basic formulas and maybe a few single herbs. The herb and formula selection should be based on your unique patient population and the conditions that you see. For example, think of the environment in which you live. Do you live in the hot, dry desert where you might see lots of yin deficiency, and heat conditions? Or do you live near the coast where it is cold and damp? Also, consider the season. Is it cold and flu season? Perhaps have some Yin Qiao on hand for flu season and traveling. If it’s allergy season maybe have some Yu Ping Feng San or Cang Er Zi San. If you see a lot of women for fertility and regulating the cycle, you may want to have some Xiao Yao San, Si Wu Tang, Tao Hong Si Wu Tang, and Liu Wei Di Huang Wan.
- Some single herbs that come in handy and that are versatile are Gan Cao, Fu Ling, Bai Zhu, Bai Shao, Gui Zhi, Dang Shen, Xiang Fu, Chai Hu, Huang Qi, Dan Shen and Dang Gui to name a few. This gives you some general ideas when stocking your pharmacy, but over time you will have to diagnose in Eastern medicine what your patterns are, making sure that those formulas and herbs are a good fit for the patterns that you are treating. As your confidence builds with pattern identification and diagnosing, then you can start to expand more. As your skills improve, your herbal pharmacy will grow, and so will your income and business.
- If you are not a person that wants to stock your shelves right away and wants to wait to improve your diagnostic skills before having too much inventory, then an online herbal pharmacy may be the way for you to go. TCMzone has that available to practitioners and will drop ship formulas direct to your patient’s house (see herbal dispensary).
- There are many forms of herbs to choose from: Pills, tinctures, packet granules or bottled granules, in which you can mix the appropriate amount of each herb into the patient’s formula. Personally, I enjoy making my own formulas because it is my art and my passion. I started with the granules and still have the granule bottles, formula packets of granules, some single herb granule packets, and veggie capsules in my pharmacy, but mostly I make my own customized formulas. You have to choose what you are comfortable prescribing and what your patients are going to comply with. A formula in capsules or packets may be easy to start with when building your pharmacy and your skills.
If you want to be a primary natural medicine provider that people go to for their healthcare, then improve your herbal skills as a practitioner in Chinese Medicine. Herbs are extremely affordable as a strategy to improve a person’s overall health while being easy on their pocketbook. Over time, herbal medicine can be used as a preventative medicine keeping your patients well, while leading to fewer doctor and urgent care visits as well as fewer expensive prescription medications. Natural medicine is not meant to replace Western medicine but it will become an integral part of our healthcare system in providing the best that medicine has to offer.
Having practiced Chinese Medicine for 13 years, I always had the goal to participate in an advanced training program in China. In May 2016, I was able to realize this goal when I embarked on a trip to China organized by TCMzone and Shanghai TCM University for advanced herbal training with seasoned practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Since my practice consists primarily of prescribing customized herbal formulas for patients with various conditions, this was the perfect training for me.
The trip began in Beijing where we did some sight-seeing, and I was able to immerse myself in the culture and history of China, touring the Great Wall; the Forbidden City known as the imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty (see picture with TCMzone’s Jennifer Knapp, she has a great article too); Tiananmen Square at the center square of Beijing known as “Gate of Heavenly Peace”; The Temple of Heaven known as the Taoist temple; and so much more.
After our short stay in Beijing we traveled to Shanghai on the bullet train where I could see first hand the countryside of China. Once we arrived in Shanghai, it was mostly all business at the Longhua hospital doing inpatient and outpatient rounds with the doctors in the hospital. In the morning, we would see approximately 30 cases in the outpatient clinic with an interpreter describing the case, the diagnosis and the herbal prescription. People would line up outside the door to see the physician. Each patient would have a copy of their chart that they would bring to the doctor to review. On occasion a patient would walk in on another in the middle of their consult and they would be asked to leave. There clearly is not any HIPPA compliance being enforced in this hospital environment. The outpatient acupuncture clinic within the hospital was just as busy. There were a many different acupuncture clinics all with a small amount of space that consisted of a divider to make 2-3 different rooms on each side with a curtain and approximately 4 chairs out in the open so they could see approximately 10-12 patients at once. Some rooms were even smaller than this. There would be about 2 doctors along with some interns to assist with treatment. There were many cases of Bells Palsy in China, so this was a condition that we witnessed being treated often. Treatments would include acupuncture, electrical stimulation, cupping, facial cupping for the Bell’s Palsy and Moxibustion.
The inpatient experience later in the day was a much more in depth study, examining 3-4 patients in much greater detail, see picture on the right shows I was checking a patient’s pulse. The team discussed the patient’s history, symptoms, and a detailed plan of short term and long-term treatment including herbal medicine and lifestyle recommendations. In Cardiology, we would see patients hooked up to an IV drip of Dan Shen instead of a western medication for their heart. Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang was also a popular formula given to some of the Cardiac patients. In Traumatology, pain patients had an area where they had steam beds made for an herbal steam for their pain. The patient would lie in this metal bed with a grate plate for the steam to come through the body. The bottom of the bed would have a concoction of herbs. The left over dregs of the herbal concoctions were wrapped in towels to put locally. One patient had the dregs wrapped in a towel on her neck to help treat her neck pain. Another form of external pain management were herbal patches placed on the patient’s skin that were used for electrical stimulation with a TDP lamp every other day for 20 minutes for approximately 10 sessions. In addition to taking the herbs topically, patients would also have a prescribed herbal tea to take internally.
In the basement of the hospital is where they kept all the herbal supply that included the raw herbs, machines to decoct the raw herbs into liquid to make packets of tea, along with granules that are dispensed in the hospital pharmacies. There were bags and bags of raw herbs stacked in the supply room. Definitely a different look than what we might find in storage room of a western medicine hospital.
Afternoons also included lectures given by MD’s and professors on various topics such as cardiology, gastroenterology, immunology, and much more. Herbal prescriptions were presented for specific energetic patterns along with modifications of a formula depending on the case.
During my time in China, I had another equally valuable personal experience. I had been taking Western medications for a flu like virus, and as an asthmatic, I had been advised by my pulmonologist to continue taking steroid inhalers while abroad due to the high pollution levels in China. Initially, I was hesitant to keep taking them for the prescribed time, but as an asthmatic, you fear not being able to breathe. After about a week in China, I developed an increased appetite, dizziness, weight loss, anxiety and nausea. As the days progressed, my symptoms worsened resulting in jitteriness and shakiness in my hands.
Dr. Wen accompanied me to the ER in the Longhua hospital to be evaluated. The ER doctor asked me some questions with Dr. Wen translating for me. After he completed his examination, he advised me to stop taking all my western medications. He sent my herbal prescription electronically to the pharmacy. The herbal prescription was a modified version of Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang.
Going to the hospital pharmacy was an experience in itself. There are three different floors for the pharmacy with each dispensing a different type of herbal prescription and medication. One is for granules, a second is for sealed bags of liquid tea, a third for pill forms of an herbal formula, and lastly, a separate wing for the western medicine dispensary. Each patient receives a number to pick up prescriptions at the many windows they have on each floor to dispense herbal prescriptions. After receiving my prescription of granules and stopping my western medications, I felt better each day.
My valuable lesson in China was, “Always question if you really need a western drug for long periods of time.” I learned first hand that long-term use of western medications can have consequences for your health. The Chinese primarily use herbs, occasionally prescribe western medicine for short periods of time, and then return to an herbal regimen as long as needed.
The experience I had in China was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I will always be grateful to have been able to experience the Chinese healthcare system as a patient. It was unfortunate that I had to struggle with my health on that wonderful trip but what better way to experience their healthcare system than going through their system as a patient. And I should mention that my ER visit, and herbal prescription cost a total of $130 US dollars. Now that is affordable health care!
This blog is part one in a series on starting your herbal pharmacy. I will cover the important areas of consideration when starting to build your herbal pharmacy as a licensed healthcare practitioner.
As a new practitioner it can be daunting to start an acupuncture practice in addition to building an herbal pharmacy. You may consider some of the following questions when thinking about the kind of pharmacy you want to have in your practice.
- What brand of herbs should I use and what are the differences between the companies?
- What is my patient population and the conditions that I will be treating most?
- What are patients most likely to comply with (pills, granules, raw herbs for tea)?
- What are my options for prescribing herbs to patients if I can’t afford to keep the stock on the shelf?
- How are the herbs processed and packaged?
- What equipment will I need starting an herbal pharmacy?
One of the first things to determine are is what brand(s) of herbs you should use and the differences between companies to determine who you will use to stock your pharmacy. Doing a little research will give you peace of mind when deciding which companies are a trusted source to use for your patients. What exactly are the things you need to look for when doing your research? You want to make sure you are getting a good quality product that is free of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other toxicities. Consider how the company sources the herb, tests it, processes it, and packages it for use by the consumer. What is their authentication protocol? What type of testing is essential to ensure the product is safe and of excellent quality? Quality control testing usually includes some of the following equipment: High Performance Thin layer Chromatography (HPTLC), Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS), High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Microscopy. HPTLC detects contamination, incorrect parts of the plant, and correct identity. GC-MS combines the feature of gas without decomposition of the substances to analyze the form. HPLC separates ions and molecules to quantify components and gives a chemical fingerprint to each herb. Microscopy is another form of examination under the microscope to look for pattern of herbs any contamination. Another thing that you want to make sure of is that the company complies with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Chinese medicine manufacturers in mainland China are all under China’s pharmaceutical GMP to ensure that products are produced and controlled according to CFDA. Manufacturers in the US need to be in compliance with current GMP (cGMP) under the FDA requirement. If you want to know detailed information about a specific herb or formula manufactured by the company, ask for a Certificate of Analysis (COA).
Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to China with TCMzone and do an advanced herbal training at the Longhua hospital in Shanghai, China. During that trip, I also visited their manufacturer, Tianjiang Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd (I was pictured in the photo here, first on the left, when we visited Tianjiang QC lab). I felt comforted in knowing how they sourced their herbs, examined, tested, processed and packaged their herbs. Getting an education and tour of the facility was an amazing experience to me. I was so impressed with their state of the art technology and felt comforted knowing that I was supplying my patients with one of the best quality products Chinese Medicine has to offer. Tianjiang Pharmaceutical is known to be the world’s largest manufacturer of premium Chinese granule herbs. It is the main supplier for the doctors and hospitals throughout China.
Because Tianjiang is TCMzone’s herbal manufacturer, they carry pharmaceutical grade herbs. The herbs are harvested by good agricultural practices (GAP) by growers in areas where they traditionally grow in China and undergo quality assurance methods such as HPLC and GC-MS to certify safety and efficacy of the finished product. They assess the appearance, moisture, solubility, microbiological, fungal, bacterial and heavy metals of the herbal specimen. TCMzone also complies with cGMP standards and provides a COA for each batch of product they carry. I have been using TCMzone herbs for over 7 years now, and I find TCMzone’s pharmaceutical grade herbs are a trusted source to use in my herbal dispensary.
Often, I get asked the question: What made you get into this field of medicine? The answer might surprise you, but it’s actually pretty simple. It was in my self- interest to look for alternatives to my own physical health.
My journey to Chinese Medicine began in my late 20’s. At the time, I was working in Cardiac Rehab as an Exercise Physiologist in a hospital setting. I had been working there for about 4 years since graduating with my Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education with a specialty in Exercise Science and a minor in Health. Like many late 20’s graduates, I was pondering my next step in my life and thinking about going back to school for an advanced degree, but in what field? Nursing? Physician assistant? Cardiologist? Not surprisingly, the answer came to me through my own physical health.
During this time, I became chronically ill with bronchitis, sinusitis, and reactive hypoglycemia. My doctors prescribed multiple rounds of antibiotics, to the point that when I stopped the drugs, my symptoms returned within 5 days and my recovery was stunted. After about a year of this, I needed sinus surgery for a deviated septum, blocked sinuses and a chronic cough, that had been persistent for the entire year. On and off of antibiotics, I was also prescribed inhalers such as flovent and serevent, which left me feeling slightly nauseous and dizzy most of the time.
I was getting tired of feeling tired and out of it so I decided to view my heart rhythm on the EKG monitor by placing some electrodes on myself. The EKG read that I was in a sinus tachycardia at rest of 110 bpm (beats per minute). Normally, my resting heart rate is about 60-65 bpm. It was clear that these powerful western medicines that were treating my symptoms were also making me more ill at the same time. My doctors were treating my medical symptoms and not my whole self. It was time to look for other solutions.
The first natural medicine practitioner prescribed herbal medicine as well as dietary recommendations that addressed my allergies along with my various medical conditions. In place of the powerful drugs, she prescribed herbal remedies for my sinuses and dietary changes such as eliminating sugar, white flour, pasta, yeast, and dairy from my diet. I ended up moving forward with sinus surgery since there was structural damage such as blocked sinuses and a deviated septum that needed treatment, but I had also discovered that I could treat my broader symptoms with the age-old reliance on herbal medicine and dietary adjustments.
Improving my diet and augmenting it with herbal medicines, I noticed immediate improvements in my overall health, and decided that the path of natural medicine was indeed the path for both my personal and professional future. I became passionate about helping people who were struggling with the same vicious cycle of stronger and stronger drugs that I had experienced. I wanted to learn more about how to treat the body naturally so that recovery would not be a temporary band-aid for 5-7 days but a permanent improvement.
If it worked for me, I knew that other people could get to the root of their problems and resolve the repetitive cycle of illness that plagues many of us. I learned that plants and natural cures can heal, and my field of advanced study would become natural medicine and its many uses — namely a graduate program in Oriental Medicine.
In my first interview at a graduate school I learned that Oriental Medicine is rooted in Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine, but I also found that studying hundreds of years of natural and alternative cures was much more challenging than I had ever anticipated. Most importantly, I learned that to become an Oriental Medicine practitioner you have to be an herbalist first because the first line of treatment in Oriental Medicine is herbal medicine, then acupuncture, cupping and other modalities. Herbal medicine has always been my love and passion and I continue to learn things about the medicine every day through my study and clinical experience.