Monday, June 29, 2009

Herbs East and West: Mulberries

I've been having an interesting online conversation with someone who read my article about mulberries in Natural News, and felt that mulberries don't cure tinnitus, since he has tinnitus and he's eaten huge amount of mulberries...sometimes as much as a pound a day.

So I've been thinking about this, and it brings up the difference between the way Chinese herbs and Western herbs are used.

In the West, we think of a specific herb to treat a specific condition. For example: Headache? Try skullcap. Migraines? Give feverfew a whirl. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Why is this?

I believe the answer lies in the East. The way Eastern herbs are used is not symptom-specific. Instead, the root cause of whatever is going on is what the herbs are given for.

So, if someone does have tinnitus, we don't just say: Try eating some mulberries. Instead, we ask more questions about the onset, the pitch of the ringing (high or low.) Is it constant or does it come and go? We also ask about other things: how is the person's digestion? Emotions? Other symptoms? And we look at the tongue and take the pulse, all to truly get an idea of what is going on with the person.

Mulberries don't treat tinnitus, per se. Mulberries help tonify yin and build blood. Often tinnitus is caused by Yin and Blood deficiency, and if so, perhaps eating mulberries will help. However, sometimes tinnitus is caused by Liver congestion, sometimes a trauma to the ear, and there are other causes as well.

In Chinese Medicine, we try our best to get to the root cause of the person's total imbalance, and then we prescribe herbs (usually in formulas, less often singly, which is also a difference between Chinese and Western herbal medicine.)

I've studied herbal medicine in both traditions, and this is one of my favorite topics to think about and discuss.

There is also much more to learn. Please feel free to keep sending in (or writing in the comments) your thoughts, ideas and questions about this.

Thanks so much!

~ Melissa

Birch Center for Health

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