Archive for the ‘Herbal treatments’ Category


Propelled by an increase in prescription narcotic overdoses, drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States, a Los Angeles Times analysis of government data has found. Fueling the surge are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol.

While most major causes of preventable death are declining, drugs are an exception. The death toll has doubled in the last decade, now claiming a life every 14 minutes. By contrast, traffic accidents have been dropping for decades because of huge investments in auto safety.

Public health experts have used the comparison to draw attention to the nation’s growing prescription drug problem, which they characterize as an epidemic. This is the first time that drugs have accounted for more fatalities than traffic accidents since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979.

Learn more by reading the article in the Los Angeles Times.


Guest post by Alexis Bonari

Researchers, physicians, and health enthusiasts across the world tout berries for their antioxidant powers.  Of all of them, goji berries are receiving increased spotlight as the fruit with the greatest amount of antioxidants on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale, which was developed by Tufts University in Boston to measure antioxidant levels in foods.

Does this make the goji berry our new fountain of youth?

What are antioxidants?

In our day to day activities, we are exposed to harmful molecules called free radicals.  We come into contact with them by normal body processes like digestion (when we burn sugar for energy), when the body breaks down certain medicines, through pollutants like cigarette smoke, and even through UV skin damage from spending too much time unprotected in the sun.

Antioxidants—such as vitamins C and E, minerals like selenium, flavonoids, and more—scavenge free radicals in your body and protect it from damage.  They actually slow the aging process of our bodies by minimizing damage done to your cells and DNA.  WebMD says that our best source of antioxidants is from fruits and vegetables and derivative products, like red wine and tea.

What are goji berries?

Goji berries, also called wolfberries, are bright orange-red berries that hail from Asia.  In China especially, these berries have been eaten with hopes of increasing longevity.  Nowadays, goji berries are sought after to treat ailments from fever to diabetes and prevent heart disease and cancer.

What are the benefits of goji berries?

Eaten raw, cooked, or dried, goji berries stand to give us the biggest antioxidant punch from within the fruit family.  Their antioxidants boost our immune systems and even help our chances against various diseases, small and severe: cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, age-related eye problems, Alzheimer’s, and other age-related circumstances.  More traditional uses of goji berries (which haven’t yet been backed by scientific research) include lethargy, aching joints, tinnitus, dizziness, cough, and sexual difficulties.

What are myths about goji berries?

Typically, when an ancient folk remedy surfaces to the 21st century, it is swarmed by commercialist sharks, wolfed down, and digested into an over-priced, cure-all remedy—a fountain of youth.  Green tea, pomegranate, and many alternative medicines unfortunately undergo the same process.  This is not to say these ancient remedies do not work—they do!  The consumer, however, must beware of modern industries that not only hawk these products and services with exaggerated claims, but at outrageous prices and in diluted formulas and experiences.

For example, a juice product may use the goji berry as its claim to fame, but a closer look at its list of ingredients will very often show that the entire product contains very little of its flagship ingredient.  According to a report on TVNZ, health officials began an inquiry for certain goji juice makers, who claimed in their advertisements that their goji juice drink could cure cancer.

Be wary of miracle drugs and products and scrutinize all labels.  If you want the benefits of goji berries, eat them from the grocery store, not from a bottle or pill.


Bio: Alexis Bonari is currently a resident blogger at College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching minority scholarship programs as well as beauty school grants. She also writes on health-related topics such as this one whenever she has a chance. In her free time she enjoys doing yoga, cooking with the freshest organic in-season fare, and practicing the art of coupon clipping.


Given what’s been happening in Japan, many people are asking how they can best protect themselves from the potential fallout from Japan’s failing nuclear reactors. What follows are suggestions taken from Hyla Cass, MD, a doctor in southern California.  Note that the content provided herein is for informational purposes only and has not been
approved by the U.S. FDA. This information is not intended to provide personal medical advice, which should be obtained from a medical professional. …

Even as government officials and health experts downplay the health risk to U.S. citizens, pharmacies up and down the West Coast of the United States have been stripped bare of their stock of potassium iodide tablets – a frontline treatment for radiation exposure. Anxious buyers turning to the internet are faced with a similar lack of available supplies. So, what do we do? It’s a growing, ever-changing scenario, and here are my current thoughts, certainly open to modification.

Are we really at risk of exposure from radioactive fallout generated by a nuclear meltdown in Japan? I believe this is a question best left to qualified nuclear scientists and meteorologists. But after serving as a consultant to the Independent Safety Committee for the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant from 1990 to 2002, I know firsthand how important it is to be prepared for all possibilities when dealing with nuclear radiation.

One of the greatest dangers following a nuclear accident comes from exposure to gases containing radioactive isotopes of iodine. These highly carcinogenic isotopes are readily taken up by the thyroid gland, resulting in the development of thyroid cancer. Exposure to radioactive iodine calls for immediate treatment with another form of iodine, potassium iodide, to saturate the thyroid and block the absorption of radioactive iodine. This is especially critical for children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers, who are most at risk following a nuclear disaster. A lack of adequate supplies of potassium iodide tablets after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 resulted in thyroid cancer for thousands of untreated children.

Potassium Iodide (KI)
Potassium iodide tablets are commonly stockpiled near nuclear power plants to allow for rapid distribution in case of a radioactive accident. In the absence of tablets, potassium iodide may also be administered as a “saturated solution of potassium iodide” (SSKI) which in the U.S.P. generic formulation contains 1000 mg of KI per ml of solution. Two drops of U.S.P. SSKI solution is equivalent to one 130 mg KI tablet (100 mg iodide).

Recommended Doses
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the following doses of potassium iodide should be taken as a single dose within three hours of exposure, or up to 10 hours after exposure, although this is less effective.

  • Adults: 130 mg (see below as well for CDC addendum)
  • Adolescents: 12-18: WHO – adult dose; CDC – children’s dose; if adult size (150 pounds or over) they should take the full adult dose, regardless of their age.
  • Children: 3-12 years: 65 mg
  • Infants: 1 month to 3 years: 32. 25 mg (ie half tablet)
  • Newborns to 1 month: 1/4 capsule

Note: Dosages may be crushed and taken mixed with milk or water. For kids, chocolate milk or raspberry syrup disguise the unpleasant taste.

While potassium iodate can be taken by a majority of people without any problems, it should only be used in case of a nuclear emergency. Doses in excess of the single (one time only) daily dose listed above should be taken only upon recommendation by a physician or public health authority. Patients should ask their doctor if taking quinidine, captopril, or enalopril, amiodarone, or if they are sensitive to iodine, or suffer from dermatitis herpetiformis, thyrotoxicosis or kidney problems before taking potassium iodate (or any thyroid blocker).

It is best to take iodide prophylactically, prior to exposure. Every family should have a good supply in their homes. At this time we may recommend taking 10-40mg per day. A dose of 30-50mg is the range of dietary intake in Japan and relatively safe to take long term but under practitioner monitoring. Build up gradually: 10mg – 20mg – 30mg – 40mg.

Then, in case there is an official announcement of significantly increased radiation, adults should go to the dose mentioned above: 130mg/day and children to lower doses per body weight, generally 65 mg, age 3-12 years. You can use a loading dose of two drops daily of Lugol’s Iodine, a commonly available pharmaceutical form of potassium iodide, or SSKI, and increase to 130 mg if needed. See the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommendations. Adults over 40 should not take KI unless public health officials say that contamination with a very large dose of radioactive iodine is expected, since have the lowest risk of developing thyroid cancer or thyroid injury after such contamination. They also have a greater chance of having allergic reactions to KI. Everyone should check with their doctor, in any case.

Other supplements that may be protective are: vitamin D and vitamin K as they support appropriate apoptosis, which is programmed death of cells that accumulate various DNA errors (due to radiation and other causes), and vitamin D also supports DNA repair.

Avoid exposure to rain that may be laden with radiation if we are exposed. You’ll be informed by authorities if that is the case.

Other Radiation Dangers
Besides I-131, there are other toxic radio-isotopes, including cerium 137 and plutonium. Dr. Gabriel Cousens has provided some excellent advice in his book “Conscious Eating.” To protect yourself from cesium poisoning, consume plenty of high potassium foods, as potassium competitively inhibits cesium uptake. Foods high in potassium include avocados, sea vegetables, and leafy green vegetables, and are more effective than taking a potassium supplement.

To protect yourself from plutonium poisoning, eat lots of dulse and consume iron from plant sources, namely sea algaes such as spirulina and chlorella, which provide more iron than red meat. Miso soup has also been shown to have a protective effect. See also Michio Kushi’s well-referenced book, “The Cancer Prevention Diet.” The mineral, zeolite, is being investigated for taking most radioactive materials out of the body.

Additionally, foods and supplements high in antioxidants, will also help the body cope with these higher toxic levels as radioactive materials cause antioxidant depletion and ill health.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has admitted it is ‘quite possible’ that fallout from the Japanese reactors could reach America, though levels expected to be so low as to be almost undetectable. Given the unprecedented circumstances of the current crisis, though, it would be prudent to keep some potassium iodide on hand as a precautionary measure.

Stay tuned to news sources for ongoing information, as this story is clearly developing by the minute.

For both those directly affected and those of us who feel the stress of this tragedy, check out some simple trauma-releasing methods, such as EMDREFT, or download free EFT audio “Tapping for Japan.”

If I am able to find sources of tablets, I’ll put a note here in comments, and list them on my website, as well. Otherwise, I’d recommend using SSKI which I’ll likely be getting for my patients in the absence of tablets or capsules.

Our prayers are with the people of Japan, those who have lost their lives and those who have survived, and are dealing with trauma, grief and unspeakable loss.



In 1978, California became the first U.S. state to license qualified acupuncture practitioners as primary care providers. As of 2004, California has licensed more than 9,000 acupuncturists. Now the figure is estimated to exceed 15,000. California constitutes nearly half of the licensed acupuncturists in the U.S.

However, acupuncture is yet to be covered by healthcare insurances in the United States. Some insurance plans accepted acupuncture, while others would deny it.

Efforts to require healthcare insurance to cover acupuncture started in 2007. In Feb. 2008, the California Acupuncture Bill, AB54, was passed in the California State Assembly.

According to the California State Assembly analysis of the bill, AB54 “requires every health plan contract and health insurance policy sold on a group basis that provides coverage for hospital, medical, or surgical expenses to provide coverage for expenses incurred as a result of treatment by acupuncturists.”

To read more on this, click here…


For those who suffer from a diagnosis of Hepatitis C, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine has a wealth of treatment options to improve quality of life.  Jason Luban, one of our practitioners here at Lamorinda Healing Arts, is certified to treat Hepatitis C with Chinese medicine, and has been doing so for years.  (For a list of certified practitioners in your area, click here.) His main teacher in this regard is Misha Cohen, an extraordinary doctor of Chinese medicine who is and has always been on the forefront of research into Hepatitis C.

In the video below, from the Caring Ambassadors Program, Dr. Cohen talks about what one can expect from a practitioner of Chinese medicine.

How Can Chinese Medicine Help Me? – A patient consultation with Dr. Misha Cohen from Caring Ambassadors Program on Vimeo.


As people recover from whatever their chief complaint was when they first came in to the office, I am inevitably asked, “Hey, I”ve also had this {x} condition.  Can you do anything for that?”  Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have a surprisingly large breadth and depth, being the primary care modality for the Chinese people for thousands of years.  As such, there’s usually some solution for just about any issue. 

One issue I’ve been asked about repeatedly and have not had a lot of resources to deal with is sleep apnea (along with snoring).  Up ’til now.

A study last year in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine split two groups: one was trained to do breathing exercises daily, while the other did throat exercises, including swallowing and chewing motions, placing the tip of the tongue against the front of the palate and sliding it back, and pronouncing certain vowels quickly and repeatedly. After three months, those who did the throat exercises snored less, slept better and reduced the severity of their condition by 39 percent. They also reduced neck circumference, a known risk factor for apnea. The control group who did the breathing exercises showed almost no improvement. 

To learn more about this study, check out this link.


By Lilly Rogers, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine

Insomnia is more than tossing and turning. It’s more serious than an inability to fall asleep early and has more debilitating effects than are commonly recognized. An estimated 32 million people suffer from insomnia in the U.S. Oriental medicine, with its focus on healing whole syndromes rather than individual symptoms, is widely used as an insomnia remedy and has shown great success treating those who experience insomnia.

Insomnia may present itself in different ways. For some, the inability to fall asleep is the most noticeable insomnia symptom while others are unable to reach a deep level of sleep and are startled awake by every noise. Any insomnia symptom would frustrate most sleepers, but night after night for months or years, the most serious issues of insomnia accumulate – the daytime effects. These can include physical tiredness, difficulty concentrating and feeling depressed, irritable or lethargic. Oriental medicine is a great insomnia remedy . It focuses on patients’ individual insomnia symptom and builds a whole-healing plan from each symptom. It also has been widely successful in treating depression, stress and physical pain.

While these are standard symptoms of a poor night’s sleep, they are magnified by chronic conditions and can have severe negative setbacks in a person’s life. True insomnia is defined as poor sleep followed by daytime fatigue. Because sleep needs, such as number of hours, varies for different people, the real issue of insomnia is quality of feeling during the day.

Insomnia may have a number of causes, including stress, depression or anxiety; irregular work schedules; medications, drug or alcohol abuse; major life changes; chronic pain, hyperthyroidism or arthritis. Acupuncture and herbs for insomnia have high success rates with each insomnia symptom and can therefore treat insomnia at its root.
A study published recently in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine, reports that patients who received acupressure and transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation (TEAS) experienced a significant improvement in their insomnia symptom, including problems of fatigue, sleep quality and depression. The results from this study suggest that acupressure or TEAS might have an important role in managing patients with fatigue, poor sleep quality and depression.

Oriental medicine relates insomnia to the heart. Of course, an insomnia remedy would include a complete diagnosis and treatment system that would focus on each individual, and the many syndromes that are differentiated within the context of insomnia would be explored. Other organ systems and syndromes may be involved, and until the body is brought back into balance through Oriental medicine treatment such as herbs for insomnia and acupuncture, each insomnia symptom will continue.

One contributor to insomnia, stress, weakens the function of the Liver, which in turn affects the health of your nerves. According to the 5 Element Theory, the relationship between the Liver and nerves flows both ways, causing the function of the Liver to be weakened from the accumulation of things that “get on your nerves.” Stress-related insomnia is often accompanied by another nerve-induced problem: restless leg syndrome. This can make bedtime even more of a battle for sleep. When your Liver is unbalanced and being asked to deliver energy it does not have, uncomfortable symptoms are your body’s way of signaling the need to get things back into harmony, the need for an insomnia remedy .

Acupuncture has a calming effect on the nervous system. It clears obstructions in the muscle and nerve channels, facilitates the flow of oxygen-enriched energy and relaxes the system. Common noted benefits of acupuncture include deeper breathing, improved digestive abilities, better sleeping patterns, decrease in various pains and a general sense of well being, which are all excellent treatments for insomnia. General acupuncture protocol for the treatment of chronic insomnia includes 10 initial treatments at two to three treatments per week, followed by a two to four week observational period and possibly one treatment per week.

Acupuncture and herbs as an insomnia remedy can greatly improve sleeping patterns, but in order to successfully and completely resolve sleep disturbance one must address all the contributing factors. Oriental medicine helps do this by treating the whole person and focusing on bringing the entire body into balance. Other suggested actions include:

Learn to relax physically

Techniques such as yoga, meditation, biofeedback and progressive relaxation, as well as acupuncture and massage, can help your body become more restful.

Have a regular bedtime

If you are not asleep after an hour, get up, go to another room and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Don’t try to force yourself to sleep.

Reduce food and drinks that increase sleep problems

Heavy meals before bedtime, late afternoon or evening consumption of alcohol, chocolate, tea, coffee and caffeinated soda should be avoided. Consider adding herbs for insomnia to your diet as well.

Keep in shape

Regular exercise helps with stress and reduces fatigue, both of which can exacerbate insomnia. Systems such as Tai Chi or Qigong are gentler exercises that balance staying fit with staying relaxed.

Treat physical problems

If physical pain or discomfort is a factor in the inability to fall asleep, don’t put up with it. Acupuncture has proven successful in treating pain associated with arthritis and many other physical conditions.

Nutritional Counseling and Lifestyle Changes

Nutrition can contribute to the cause and cure of insomnia. Excess protein and the over reliance on stimulants and quick-energy foods contribute to fatigue by weighing on the liver, kidneys and intestines. Quick fix foods increase the depletion of the body-mind energy reserves. Tailoring a diet that includes foods such as whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits to the individual replenishes energy and diffuses built-up stress.

Chinese Herbal Medicine and Supplements
Chinese herbs and herbal medications are also useful in combating insomnia. An Oriental medicine practitioner can recommend an insomnia remedy to best suit individual insomnia symptoms. Herbs for insomnia such as longan fruit, golden thread, sour jujube seed, fossil bone or mimosa bark may be prescribed.

Insomnia should not dictate when or for how long you sleep. It can be frustrating and scary when any disease or disorder takes away control. Oriental medicine will lead you back to a place of balance and calm, giving you the power to lay insomnia to rest.


An excellent article by Andrew Ellis at Spring Wind herbs in Berkeley on some truisms, as well as many misconceptions, about pesticides and sulfur in Chinese herbs.  While this article was intended for practitioners, I think it has some valuable information for everyone interested in Chinese herbal medicine who may be concerned about their source.  

Click here to read the article (a pdf/Adobe Acrobat file).


A common question I get from patients relates to whether or not it’s ok to take Chinese herbal medicine alongside western/modern medical pharmaceuticals.  While I do not prescribe as many herbal medicines as many of my contemporaries, and while most herbs do not interact in dangerous ways with most pharmaceuticals, there are exceptions.  It’s best to be well informed about herb-drug interactions, and no one I know of is more qualified to comment on this than my friend and colleague John Chen, a trained doctor of Chinese medicine as well as a doctor of western pharmacology.  His response to this concern appears below (excerpted with Dr. Chen’s permission)…

Concurrent Use of Herbal Medicines and Pharmaceuticals – Pharmacokinetic Interactions

by Dr. John Chen, Ph.D., Pharm.D., O.M.D., L.Ac.

The practice of medicine is now at a crossroad: countless patients are being treated simultaneously with both Western and Oriental medicine. It is quite common for a patient to seek herbal treatment while taking several prescription medications. According to JAMA, in 1997, an estimated 15 million adults in the United States (representing 18.4% of all prescription pharmaceutical users) took prescription drugs concurrently with herbal remedies and/or vitamins.

As the general public grows increasingly more open to the use of herbs and supplements, both patients and the health professionals who care for them are becoming more alert to the potential for occasional adverse herb-drug interactions. Safety has become a major topic of discussion. Even though herbal remedies are classified as dietary supplements, it must be noted that if used incorrectly, herbs, like any substance, may adversely affect patients. The safest route of access to herbal therapy is through a well-qualified herbalist.

Although Chinese herbal medicine has been prescribed safely by professionals in the West for many years now, and a great deal of research has been amassed in China, there is still a lack of formal studies that are published in the West to document the safety and efficacy of combining herbs with prescription drugs. Some questions posed by Western healthcare professionals or patients are difficult to answer quickly with documented specifics. However, with some general insights into pharmacology, one can foresee possible interactions and take appropriate precautions to prevent incompatible combinations.

The concept of ‘interaction’ refers to the possibility that, when two (or more) substances are given concurrently, one substance may interact with another, and/or alter its bioavailability or clinical action.
The net result may be an increase or a decrease in the effectiveness of one or both substances. It is important to note that interactions may yield positive effects (achieving better therapeutic effects at lower dosage) or negative results (creating unwanted side effects or adverse reactions). Most of the possible interactions may be classified in two major categories: pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic.

Pharmacokinetic Interactions

‘Pharmacokinetic interactions’ refer to the fluctuation in bioavailability of herb/drug molecules in the body as a result of changes in absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination.

Absorption is the term that describes the process of the physical passage of herbs or drugs from the outside to the inside of the body. The majority of all absorption occurs in the intestines, where herbs or drugs must pass through the intestinal wall to enter the bloodstream. Several mechanisms may interfere with the absorption of drugs through the intestines.

The absorption of herbs may be adversely affected if herbs are administered with drugs that may promote binding in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Drugs such as cholestyramine (Questran), colestipol (Colestid) and sucralfate (Carafate) may bind to certain herbs, forming an insoluble complex that decreases absorption of both substances. Because of the large size of the insoluble complex, few or no molecules of either substance pass through the intestinal wall.

Herb absorption may be adversely affected in the presence of drugs that change the pH of the stomach. Antacids, cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), nizatidine (Axid), ranitidine (Zantac), and omeprazole (Prilosec) may neutralize, decrease, or inhibit the secretion of stomach acids. With this subsequent decrease in stomach acidity, herbs may not be broken down properly in the stomach, leading to poor absorption in the intestines. To minimize this interaction, herbs are best taken separately from these drugs by approximately two hours.

Drugs that affect gastrointestinal motility may also affect the absorption of herbs. GI motility is the rate at which the intestines contract to push food products from the stomach to the rectum. Slower GI motility means that the herbs stay in the intestines for a longer period of time, thereby increasing the potential absorption. Conversely, more rapid GI motility means that the herbs stay in the intestines for a shorter time, which may decrease absorption. Drugs such as haloperidol (Haldol) decrease GI motility and may increase herb absorption; while drugs such as metoclopramide (Reglan) increase GI motility and possibly decrease herb absorption.

Therefore, it may be necessary to decrease the dosage of herbs when the patient is taking a drug that decreases GI motility and increases overall absorption. Likewise, it is probably helpful to increase the dosage of herbs when the patient is taking a drug that increases GI motility and thus decreases overall absorption.

After absorption, herbs or drugs must be delivered to the targeted area in order to exert their influence. ‘Distribution’ refers to the processes by which herbs or drugs (once absorbed) are carried and released to different parts of the body. Currently, it appears that the majority of herbs and drugs do not have any clinically-significant interactions affecting distribution, and thus can safely be taken together. The exception seems to be if a drug has a narrow range-of-safety index and is highly protein-bound, in which case interaction with other substances might occur during the distribution phase. Examples of drugs that have both a narrow range-of-safety index and a high protein-bound ratio include warfarin (Coumadin) and phenytoin (Dilantin).

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to predict whether an individual herb will interact with either one of these drugs because there are no known tests or experiments documenting such interactions.

Once metabolized by the liver, most herbs and drugs become inactive derivatives. The rate at which the liver metabolizes a substance determines the length of time it stays active in the body. If the liver were induced to speed up its metabolic rate, herbs and drugs would be deactivated at a more rapid pace, and the overall effectiveness of ingested substances would be lower. On the other hand, if the liver were made to slow its metabolism, herbs and drugs would be deactivated at a slower pace and the overall impact of the substances would be greater.

In general, drugs that induce greater liver metabolism do not exert an immediate effect. The metabolism rate of the liver changes slowly, over several weeks. Therefore, the effect of accelerated liver metabolism is not seen until weeks after the initiation of drug therapy. Some examples of pharmaceuticals that speed hepatic metabolism are: phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), phenobarbitals and rifampin (Rifadin). Therefore, herbs given in the presence of one of these products may be deactivated more rapidly, and their overall effectiveness lowered. Under these circumstances, a higher dose of herbs may be required to achieve the desired effect.

In great contrast, drugs that inhibit liver metabolism have an immediate onset of action. The rate of liver metabolism may be greatly impaired within a few days. Pharmaceuticals that slow or inhibit liver metabolism include: cimetidine (Tagamet), erythromycin, ethanol, fluconazole (Diflucan), itraconazole (Sporanox) and ketoconazole (Nizoral), among others. When a patient takes these drugs concurrently with herbs, there is a higher risk of herbal components accumulating in the body, as the ability of the liver to neutralize them is compromised. If the herbs are metabolized more slowly, their overall effectiveness may be prolonged. In this case, one may need to lower the dosage of herbs to avoid unwanted side effects.

Depending on the half-life in the body of drugs that influence liver metabolism, it may be necessary to increase or decrease the dosages of herbs for weeks or even months after discontinuation of the pharmaceutical substance, along with consistent monitoring.

While the liver neutralizes incoming drugs and herbs, the kidneys are responsible for eliminating the substances and their metabolites from the body. If the kidneys are damaged, then the rate of elimination is slowed, leading to an accumulation of active substances in the body. Important examples of drugs that damage the kidneys include amphotericin B, methotrexate, tobramycin and gentamicin. As a safety precaution, when prescribing herbs for a patient who is currently taking or has recently taken one of these drugs, it may be wise to lower the dose of herbs to avoid unnecessary and unwanted side effects.

Summary of Pharmacokinetic Interactions
The pharmacokinetic interactions listed above include both theoretical and actual interactions. Though such interactions are possible, the extent and severity of each interaction will vary depending on the specific circumstances, such as the dosages of all substances, the inherent sensitivity of each patient, individual body weight, and metabolic rate.

Summary: Concurrent Use of Herbal Medicines and Pharmaceuticals
Historically, herbs and drugs have been presumed to be very different treatment modalities that have rarely, if ever, been used together. The line that separates the use of herbs and drugs, however, has blurred in recent decades as the lay public gains increased accessibility to multiple treatment modalities. It is not uncommon for one patient to seek care from several health professionals for an ailment. As a result, a patient may easily be taking multiple drugs, herbs, supplements, and vitamins concurrently. It becomes difficult to predict whether the combination of all these substances will lead to unwanted side effects and/or interactions. It is imprudent to assume that there will be no interactions. On the other hand, it is just as unwise to abandon treatment simply for fear of possible interactions. The solution to this situation is in the understanding of pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic herb-drug interactions. By understanding these mechanisms, one can recognize potential interactions and take proper actions to prevent their occurrence.


About the Author

John K. Chen, L.Ac., Pharm.D., O.M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. John Chen is a recognized authority in both western pharmacology and Chinese Herbal Medicine. He teaches at the USC School of Pharmacy, Emperor’s College, Yo San University of TCM, OCOM, Five Branches, AOMA and ACTCM. Dr. Chen’s most recent published work is Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology (2003, AOM Press) and Chinese Herbal Formulas and Applications (2008, AOM Press) for which he was lead author.


As you might see in my bio, I have been using the theories of neurolinguistic programming in several areas on my practice. One such area is in creating well-formed outcomes. A well-formed outcome asks what the patient will be doing and experiencing when their presenting issue is resolved, and is always stated in the positive. (Rather than “I want to have no more pain,” which focuses on the pain at the subconscious and conscious levels, a well-formed outcome may be, “I will know I am feeling better when I can touch my toes and lift over 20 lbs. comfortably.” A well-formed outcomes informs the mind of an intention in such a way that the unconscious wants to move toward rather than away from something.

When someone is having a difficult time coming up with a well-formed outcome, has some unclear goals, or wants to use hypnosis in a future session, I may have them do a writing assignment to get a well-formed outcome before the next appointment. What follows is one such assignment based on the work of Dave Elman, a well-known hypnotherapist.

What follows is the ‘homework assignment’ I’d like you to do between now and our next meeting. It’s a free-write, and you should set aside 30 minutes to do it in a quiet place with no interruptions.

Start by writing about the outcome you wish to have, and state it in the positive (i.e., “I want to be calm, confident, and clear-headed when….” rather than “I don’t want to be anxious when I….”) Be as specific as possible (i.e., “By June 1, I will feel…, and I will be….”)

Write about how you intend to get there (“…by studying x amount, meditation, etc…”).

Next, write about how you would know you have achieved it. How would it/you look, feel, move…all the physical aspects of the positive end result, as well as the emotional and perhaps spiritual experience. What is your motivation; what benefit will it give you to experience/achieve your desired outcome? You will also want to express the context of your success, quantify it. Where, when, with whom do you want it?

Try to write about your desired outcome for the full 30 minutes. When you are done, read through it and reduce the whole thing–the desired outcome, the way it looks, feels, etc., everything you wrote–reduce it down to a single, simple phrase, as concise as possible to represent it all. It could be as simple as ‘confident, competent’ or a full sentence.

Finally, once you have a concise statement or words representing your desired outcome, create or imagine a simple symbol that represents it all. Draw that picture and visualize it in your mind’s eye. We’ll use that simple, concise statement and its attendant symbol the next time you come in.

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