Kristi Stoddard L.Ac.
How does Chinese herbal medicine work?
Many are familiar with the use of herbs to treat common ailments. Some common Western herbal treatments include Echinacea to treat a cold, St. John's Wort for depression, or Gingko to improve the memory. While this kind of use of herbal medicine does have value, it is very different from how Chinese herbs are used. For one, Chinese herbs are most often used in formulas. That is, instead of giving one herb to treat a condition, perhaps 15 herbs will be combined in a formula.

Using herbs in combination allows them to work synergistically to address symptoms, while also harmonizing and balancing the entire body. When taking pharmaceutical medications it’s no fun to experience side effects; the same is true of herbal medicine. The more balanced a formula is, the less chance there is for further imbalance to occur, and the more effective it will be in treating your condition.

The second main tenet of Chinese herbal medicine is that each person is treated as unique and individual. For example, ten women with fertility difficulties would each receive a different herbal formula. Are her periods painful or not? How long are her menstrual cycles? Does she feel hot or cold? Does she get irritable, or weepy, or both premenstrually? Does she experience spotting? These are just a few of the factors that come into play when an herbal formula is designed for a patient. This degree of specificity is one of the reasons why Chinese herbal medicine is so powerful and effective.

 

Are Chinese herbs safe?
Washington State does not require practitioners to have training in herbal medicine in order to be licensed acupuncturists. Since herbs are not strictly regulated by the FDA, anyone can prescribe them, even if the acupuncturist has no education in herbal medicine. Kristi received her master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from a school in California, where extensive training in herbal medicine is mandatory for licensure. She is also a nationally Board certified Chinese herbalist. With the experience and expertise to recommend Chinese herbal formulas that address a patient's unique concerns, Kristi is always mindful of any possible interactions between herbs and pharmaceutical medications that the patient may be taking.

Some herbal products are of inferior quality, sometimes laden with heavy metals and other impurities. It is advisable to seek out herbs of the highest quality, and an experienced practitioner who has the knowledge to make the distinction. Kristi purchases herbs from reputable companies that do extensive third party testing for safety and quality, including testing of heavy metals, pesticides and other toxins. Herbal formulas can be taken in the form of a convenient pill, or a freeze-dried powder that dissolves into a tea when mixed at home with warm water.

 

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