Archive for March 2012

TCM is a New Medicine!

Yes, Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around for 3000-5000 years. Yes, it is the oldest continuously practiced medicine in current practice. Yes, other medicine like Aryuvedic and other native medicinal practices also have long historical records of practice.

But, the “new” medicine, the current buzz word in conventional medicine, is “Functional Medicine”. What is functional medicine?

  • It addresses the underlying cause of disease
  • It focuses on the patient instead of the disease
  • It addresses the whole person–body, mind, and spirit
  • Practitioners spend more time with their patients to gather information on a variety of levels
  • Practitioners create an individualized treatment plan for each patient

Hmmmm…that’s what TCM does. We have always done that. But conventional medicine has relatively recently identified this “new” way of practicing medicine!

It kind of reminds me of this quote:

2001 BC Here, eat this root.

1000 AD That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer.

1850 AD That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion.

1920 AD That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.

1945 AD That pill is ineffective. Here, take this penicillin.

1955 AD Oops… bugs mutated. Here, take this tetracycline.

1960-1999 AD 39 more “oops”… Here, take this more powerful antibiotic.

2000 AD The bugs have won! Here, eat this root.

I love it! 🙂


What you want to know about TCM if you are a pharmacist and/or take herbs

I recently did a talk for a class of pharmacy students at the University of British Columbia. I wasn’t sure what they might already know about Traditional Chinese Medicine and what their views on it would be. I was happy when they asked me lots of questions though and I thought you might have some of those same questions.

What is the training for becoming a TCM health provider?

Every province (and state) is different, but these are the regulations in BC:

There are 4 levels of registration for TCM in BC and each allows a different type of assessment and treatment. Both Registered Acupuncturist (R.Ac.) and Registered Chinese Herbalist (R.TCM.H.) require 3 years of training with a minimum of 1900 hours of study and training. A Registered TCM Practitioner (R.TCM.P.) can practice both herbs and acupuncture and they receive a minimum of 4 years with at least 2600 hours. A Registered Dr. of TCM (Dr.TCM) has the highest level of training of 5 years at 3250 hours.

In addition to the schooling, we also need to pass 2 examinations for each (written and practical), take safety courses for each, maintain requirements for good standing of the regulatory body, complete 50 hours of continuing education credits every 2 years,  and be insured for liability and malpractice for minimum amount required by the college.

Lotsa hoops to jump! But all of that should be reassuring to you that we’re well-trained and practiced in what we do! All of this happens through the CTCMA (College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Association). The role of the CTCMA is to protect the public  by making sure that we follow the rules. If you want to know if someone is a registrant (they should not be practicing in BC if they are not!), check out the listing here:

How many Chinese herbs are there?

There are more than 6000 herbs–including plants, minerals, and animal parts–with 600 used commonly.

Do you prescribe things like tiger bone, bear gallbladder, and rhinoceros horn?

NO! A big emphatic NO! Though they have been used traditionally in TCM in the past, they are illegal in Canada. Not only that, but they are not necessary to use. There are many substitutes that are effective and ethical to use.

What herb is best to treat…[fill in the blank, e.g. headaches]?

In TCM, the key is to obtain a TCM pattern diagnosis. Everyone is different, so 10 people with a headache might all have different herbs and treatments. Not only that, but Chinese herbs are almost always prescribed in combination, almost never as single herbs.

How do you make sure that herbs you prescribe are safe?

An herbal prescription is chosen with safety at top of mind. We consider the length of time that the herbs will be prescribed, the quantity of herbs prescribed, the methods of processing the herbs, whether there’s any risk of conflicting with any pharmaceuticals or other nutraceuticals, each individual’s health issues, and allergies and sensitivities.

Do the herbs come from China? Is the quality safe?

Some of my patients are concerned about the quality of the herbs I prescribe as they hear about quality issues with come products and foods that come from China and other countries. Some problems include that poor quality herbs can  low quality or incorrect herbs;  can be adulterated with pharmaceuticals; laden with heavy metals, pesticides, fungus, molds; and manufactured in substandard facilities.
But, not all herbs can be painted with this same brush! The herbs I use go through rigorous testing. They are extremely high quality herbs that much attain a Certificate of Analysis (COA). They must pass the strictest criteria of standards from U.S., Singapore, Japan, and E.U. Herbs go through a process of identification that includes selection by qualified professionals, microscopic inspection, chemical identification, and chemical “fingerprinting” (thin layer chromatography) to make sure that the right herb is chosen. Herbs are cleansed of dirt and other foreign particles, prepared with traditional methods, and extracted while making sure to maintain the integrity of the volatile essential oils. They are then concentrated with low temperature methods so as to not destroy   any of the components. Every batch is tested with microbiological assays to make sure there is no e.coli, salmonella, molds, yeast, or other contaminants. Gas Chromatography tests for safety, making sure there are no pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. High Performance Liquid Chromatography measures for key active ingredients while Inductively Coupled Plasma – Mass Spectrometer tests for heavy metals.

Phew! So, as you have learned, there is a lot that goes into the selection of each herbal formula that I create!

Any questions? Ask me!



Dog Day Morning, Afternoon, & Evening!

If you’ve read a few of my posts, you’ll probably see that I sometimes use my dogs as examples of good health. It’s not because they are healthier than the people I know–though they may be; it’s because they lead such simple lives, in contrast to most humans I know.

Well, about 6 weeks ago I was rushing around (as usual) trying to get more tasks completed in less time than possible when I noticed that my dogs were doing their usual…nothing. Laying on the couch looking sleepy, even though they had done virtually nothing all day. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t that be nice.” Wouldn’t it be nice to just sleep, laze around, stretch, get up to eat, maybe play a bit, take a short walk, go back to sleep, get up to eat, etc…

Don’t get me wrong, I actually love to be busy! But sometimes it can get overwhelming and you wish you could just stop, but at the same time there’s still lots to be done!

I realized that there’s something wrong if a person can’t take just one day to do nothing. Like a dog. Or a cat. So, I looked at my calendar, picked a day weeks in advance and slotted that as my first “Dog Day”. Leading up to that day, I completed the tasks that I knew were vital. I told those around me that I would be doing nothing that day. I planned out what I meant by “nothing”. For me that meant: NO work. I could read. Boy, was I looking forward to reading just for fun–again, no work readings. I could watch movies. I could go for a walk. I could take a nap. I could go to yoga (after all, my dogs do exercise and play). I could even cook. But I could not turn on my computer. I could not use my iPhone or iPad for any work at all.

Those who know me doubted I would be able to do it. Could I avoid working? Could I avoid turning on my computer?! Could I avoid all emails?! I questioned my ability to succeed at this and I even considered making Dog Day into a half day to ease myself into this idea. But as the day approached, I started to get super excited about the idea of a full day off. Like a real holiday!

On that first inaugral Dog Day I got up, ate, went to yoga, finished off a fiction novel I had started almost 8 months previous but never completed, watched a movie (Men Who Stare At Goats–great movie!), read another whole book (!), cooked a new meal with my husband (yummy Tofu and Banana Curry–so easy), and watched another movie (King’s Speech–long, but interesting).

It was EASY! And it was great!

Not only did I enjoy the day, but I also discovered that I have even more energy for my days of work. I am very fortunate to love what I do. But even still, it’s important to have days off–completely off–to rejuvenate.

So, I’ve already chosen my next Dog Day, planned out, of course, weeks in advance so I can prepare. My goal is to have a Dog Day every 4-6 weeks. If you have trouble shutting down the work mind, I challenge you to try scheduling a Dog Day as well (or Cat Day, if you prefer). Tell me all about it!

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