Monday, May 4, 2009

Health - Becareful When Using Herbs

The various Asian TV media have been educating the masses on Chinese herbs alternatives to improve immunity recently. 

While it's commendable that what they suggested are useful, I'd like to advice against over-using herbal concoctions.

When SARS was on the rampage years ago, there was a frenzy for a herb, 板蓝根, to be made into herbal drinks. 


Many people overdosed on it and gastric problem ensued.  For this case, the herb 板蓝根 has very "cooling" properties and herbs of such nature break down the gastric lining giving "cold" induced gastric problems.  Things would get very tricky to treat from there.

Over-dosing on herbal concoctions will result on 2 issues:


  • Harming the body, or,
  • Causing the body to develop a resistance

Eventhough the right Chinese herbal formulas do help illnesses better than mainstream Western medicine, we must know that our body will develop resistance to a herb, or a formula if one takes it frequently.  A frequency of 2 times a week is considered alot to take for a healthy individual.  And this rule applies to simple herbal drinks like the chrysanthemum tea.

Once the body developed resistance, the herbal properties will stop working in the system, and a more potent herb would be needed to solve the problem if the ailment surfaces.  It's the same as people developing resistance to caffeine from their daily cuppa, and needed more than their usual cup of poison to get that kick or feel alert.

In the traditional Chinese medical curriculum for herbal prescriptions, one of the first things the student has to understand and learn is, 是药三分毒.  It means all medicine has 30% of toxicity, and no one should take a herb lightly.  Because once a common herb starts to stop working and a more potent one has to replace it, the body would be weakened along the way to absorb the stronger properties, a taboo in the TCM perspective.

This taboo applies in the Western herbal school of thought too.  A very common example would be goldenseal.

Goldenseal is a common anti-bacteria, yeast and fungi agent.  However, experienced practitioners will advice their patients against wilful self-medication, as goldenseal is known to be resistance in the body if exceeded the recommended dosage.  In fact, all herbs no matter where they hail from, should be treated equally seriously like the mainstream Western medicines.

What should an healthy individual do if already resistant to a herbal/formula?

The way to overcome it is to cut off all body "identifications" to it for as long as 6 months, to "erase" the "imprint" the herb/formula left in the body.  Much like stopping a Vitamin E supplement routine for a week every 2 months for the body to use off the reserve, it helps the body to "forget" ever knowing it for sometime so the system can welcome it again later.

For an already ill individual, they should stop self-medicating and seek a professional practitioner to treat the illness.  And inform them of your self-medication history so they'll not prescribe the same formula again.

In the period of weaning the body off a herbal/formula "imprint", it's important to exercise more, have a more balanced diet (according to different body constitutions) and taking more nutritious food to build up the body's resistance against infections.  Many people self-medicate because most of them are prone to getting certain chronic ailments, hence the "precautionary" move to pre-empt it from coming on.

This is very wrong as a body shouldn't get to "see" any medical herb (or mainstream Western medicine) if it isn't ill.  A herb isn't food, don't fix anything that's not broken.

Now, will taking (for example) barley water often cause resistance to the body as well?

Normally, a diet grain will not cause the body to develop any resistance.  However, having said that, constantly taking a single common food do deprive the body of identifying the wide food variety available.  Opening ourselves to a wide variety of food stimulate the body to absorb different food bio-dynamic properties, and this is all good and no harm.

The human body shouldn't be restricted to just a single food/common food group or it'd be difficult for one to gain a truly healthy state.

In this swine flu period, I wish you good health.