About Chinese Herbal Medicine and Kampo

The beauty of Chinese herbs – individualised health support that works in harmony with the body

Chinese herbs work in harmony with the body. Rarely are individual herbs prescribed. A Chinese formulae is like a musical piece -a melody with top notes and bass notes – and rhythm and pace. The body’s own natural healing processes are supported by the music that is played. It isn’t one sharp note, hammered away, to destroy a pathogen, which in the process may hurt or stress the body. It isn’t the same treatment for every person with a disease or illness – people are different – they have different strengths and weaknesses. Women are different from men. Treatment is individualised.

People use Chinese herbs for such a wide range of illnesses – acute and chronic conditions. For example, the Kampo formulae I work with are widely used in Japan for respiratory conditions, skin conditions, gynaecological complaints, post viral fatigue, infertility, gall stones and inflamed gall bladder, gastric complaints, cystitis and urinary complaints, frozen shoulder, arthritis, panic attacks. digestive complaints, and depletion/illness recovery (see Kampo: A Clinical Guide to Theory and Practice by Otsuka Keisetsu).

The beauty of Chinese herbs is that the patient responds positively to a harmonious formula that benefits -any side effects are minimised by the synergistic actions of the constituent ingredients of a formula, which do not stress the body but support it to heal. The herbs help the body to do what needs to be done. In acute illness this might mean eliminating toxins that have accumulated as the body has fought the illness and become overwhelmed. In a chronic condition this might mean nourishing herbs that are known to build strength, energy and support immunity.

Different traditions and approaches – Kampo and TCM

Chinese herbs have been used for several millenia and there are three basic systems used today: the Chinese system (TCM or Traditional Chinese medicine), the Japanese system (also called Kampo – which literally means the way of the Chinese), and the Korean system. My training is in Kampo. Kampo offers a very safe and clear diagnostic method. In essence it is a classical approach. Most Kampo formula have been used for hundreds if not thousands of years since the time of the Shan Han Lun, a classic text written about eighteen hundred years ago after an epidemic swept through China killing many people – including many family members of it’s author Zhang Zhong Jing.

Isolationist policies in Japan that continued for 300 years in the Tokugawa Era meant that Chinese medicine in Japan is different from what is practiced in mainland China today – but there are similarities and a common understanding. One of the main differences is that Kampo formulae are generally not modified. Its a case of finding the formula to match with the patients’ condition, rather than creating a completely new and individualised formula for each patient or new illness. Illnesses may be different – but our bodies have not changed in the past 2000 years and we still respond the same way to pathogens to fight and eliminate them. In using formulae that are ‘tried and tested’ over eighteen hundred years with knowledge gained about their use, this can bring reassurance and a sense of safety. What you are taking is nothing new. What is new are the techniques to produce high quality herbal formula in a convenient form – through freeze drying processes. The herbs I use are not raw herbs but come in powder form.

One of Japan’s most famous practioners is Dr Keisetsu Otsuka. His photograph is shown below. What is interesting ais he was initially skeptical to the point of being antagositic towards Kampo – with the Japanese government officially abolishing Kampo and adopting Western medicine instead. After the second world war, Dr Otsuka and other Western trained physicians began to embrace Kampo, appreciating its therapeutic value – and their perseverance and dedication meant Kampo was prevented from oblivion. Its herbal formula are now officially recognised by the Japanese ministry of health and they are widely used in Japan today.

I completed my Kampo medicine training through an apprenticeship course with Gretchen de Soriano, who trained herself at the renowned Kitasato Instistute in Tokyo. This gave me a wonderful and invaluable opportunity to see many different patients in the student clinic and really understand how the herbs worked in practice.

Supporting you with Chinese herbs

I believe Chinese herbs can help many people and they are best used alongside Western medicine in a best of both worlds approach. The opportunities for learning through East and West coming together are immense and I am fortunate to have access to integrated approaches through my professional organisation, the ATCM (Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine) where I am involved with the Expert Group on Covid 19. In China, most people with Covid 19 (80-90% of cases) are treated with both Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Exciting data is beginning to emerge that suggests this integrated approach is achieving great results.

Normally I offer herbal medicine within an acupuncture and or craniosacral therapy treatment if wished for but during the Covid 19 pandemic this is not possible. Therefore, I am able to diagnose patients through online platforms – and after I have taken a medical history, considered your signs and symptoms and thought about your case I will select a prescription to be dispensed through an ATCM accredited herbal medicine pharmacy. The costs for this service and further details are described here

I look forward to meeting you and doing my best to help