When I see a patient for the first time, I try to give them some understanding of the process I use to determine precisely what is going on and which herbs are the most beneficial for their situation. To illustrate this process, I will give a short explanation of my approach to someone presenting with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It is my experience that Chinese herbs plus dietary and lifestyle changes will invariably improve this condition, and frequently lead to a complete cure.
GERD is commonly referred to as acid reflux with heartburn as one of the main symptoms. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the primary concern then is ‘upward counterflow of Stomach qi’. All of the patterns of this dysfunction are too complex and numerous to elaborate on here, but I do want people to understand that TCM is an extremely sophisticated and detailed way of uncovering these mechanisms.
So, once I have used all of the diagnostic tools of TCM to identify all of the patient’s particular underlying patterns, I then perform the acupoint diagnostic system developed here at MMVBS Associates. This method confirms and expands on the TCM diagnoses and thus allows me to establish which herbs are most appropriate for my patient.
For example – a person comes in with the symptoms of heartburn, runny nose, foggy-headedness, abdominal discomfort and slight anxiety. Their pulse has a slippery and bowstring quality and their tongue is pale, dusky, scalloped on the sides with a thick white coat. They also tell me of some work and family related stress in their lives and that most symptoms are worse when it is windy.
I determine that they have upward counterflow of stomach qi caused by stagnation of their liver qi and dampness due to spleen qi vacuity. (There are certainly more patterns involved in this case but unfortunately they are beyond the scope of this article.) At this point some of the TCM herbal categories that I need to examine are – harmonize the stomach; tonify the spleen; resolve dampness; and smooth the flow of liver qi. Furthermore, at MMVBS Associates we have amassed a substantial and comprehensive database of the western pharmacology of Chinese herbs with their respective uses for most diseases and conditions, as well as the signs and symptoms corresponding to each one. Therefore I would also consider the following categories of antiallergy, antibiotic, antifungal, antianxiety, anti-inflammatory, antiulcer and others to make my choice of herbs the most specific and therapeutic for this particular patient.