Traditional Chinese Medicine: Erectile Dysfunction (ED) and alternatives to Viagra

I recently saw my first client with ED and spent time researching how Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approaches working with this condition.  Erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence occurs when a man has consistent and repeated problems sustaining an erection. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or keep an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse. It is also sometimes also referred to as impotence.   Several studies have looked at the prevalence of ED including one, the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, that reported that ED is increasingly prevalent with age. At age 40, approximately 40% of men are affected. The rate increases to nearly 70% in men aged 70 years.  Age was the variable most strongly associated with ED, although there are emotional and physiological reasons attributed including: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, endocrine diseases, lifestyle, diet, neurological and nerve disorders, medications, drug abuse, anxiety and depression. Additionally men may have difficulty obtaining or maintaining erections after various forms of cancer treatment. Surgery and radiation therapy to the pelvic area, hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, and various medications may all significantly impact a man’s ability to obtain or maintain an erection. Viagra is the leading medication prescribed for ED, although as with all medications,  it is not without its associated side effects:

  • HeadacheUntitled1
  • Flushing in the face, neck, or chest
  • Upset stomach, indigestion
  • Abnormal vision
  • Nasal congestion
  • Back pain
  • Muscular pain or tenderness
  • Nausea

If considering options than Viagra, such as those explored below, it would be advised see a TCM trained specialist.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) considers that the strength or weakness of men’s sexual function is associated with the energy of certain internal organs, including the kidneys, liver and heart. The Kidneys are one of the major organs to support the body’s sexual function by storing essence (Jing), controlling human reproduction, growth and development. Essence or Jing rules the production of sperm. The heart plays an important role in erection and arousal. Kidney essence is classified as yin, while qi is yang, yet they depend on each other to maintain a dynamic balance, if out of balance it can result in ED/impotence. Excessive sexual activities and frequent masturbation can deplete the kidney essence.

The Ming Men (located on the middle of the lower back) is an essential part of traditional Chinese physiology. Called the “Gate of Life,” it holds the Genuine Yin and Yang of the body from which all substances and functions develop. The term Ming Men refers to one of the body’s two kidneys, where the male’s “essence” is stored. In Kidney Deficiency cases, warming the Ming Men and Kidney Yang are necessary to balance the body.

index4Men’s sexual function disorders have been strongly associated fast paced life styles. This state of chronic stress restricts the flow of the qi through the Liver channel which travels through the pubic area and reproductive organs. When the Liver is affected by stress and the Liver channel is blocked then qi cannot flow smoothly leading to sexual dysfunction and disorders.

The process by which the penis becomes erect is complex, involving not only the nerves, muscles, blood vessels, and other tissues in the penis itself, but also includes factors such as emotion, lifestyle and general health. During arousal nerve impulses are sent to nerves in and around the penis, which cause an increase of blood flow into that organ, causing it to become firm and erect. If there is insufficient blood the penis is unable to achieve erection.

The Heart plays a crucial role in erection, orgasm and ejaculation. In TCM the ability to have an erection and ejaculation depend on the communication between the heart and kidneys. The Heart-Qi needs to descend to communicate with Kidney-Qi. Vice versa, Kidney-Water needs to ascend towards the Heart and contain Heart-Fire, the coordination between the descending of Heart-Fire and ascending of Kidney-Water ensures a normal sexual cycle in men. During the excitement phase of sexual response the Minister Fire within the Kidneys is aroused and flows up towards the Pericardium and Heart: for this reason the person becomes flushed in the face (the complexion is a manifestation of the Heart) and the heart rate increases during sexual excitation. With orgasm and ejaculation, there is a downward movement of Qi, which releases the accumulated Minister Fire downwards: in order for this to occur normally the downward movement of Heart-Qi is crucial. If there is deficiency of Minister Fire within the Kidneys it will result in decreased libido and ED or impotence in men. If Heart-Qi and Heart-Blood are deficient or not descending to communicate with the Kidneys, there may be ED, impotence or premature ejaculation.

tongue blood stasisThere are several other common patterns in ED including blood stasis and damp heat. In cases of Blood Stasis, the flow of energy (called Qi) and Blood is blocked or obstructed in the lower abdomen preventing needed blood flow to create and maintain an erection. This condition often presents with signs of a tight and tender to palpitation lower abdominal area. Treatment will focus on breaking the stagnation in the lower abdomen, returning the proper flow of Blood though the affected area.

Another reason for ED or impotency is the presence of damp heat. Whenindex5 damp heat accumulates it acts creases stagnation or impedes the free flow of Qi. There are many causes of damp heat including unresolved health issues, unresolved low-level pathogens, and or excessive alcohol intake. Signs that point to the presence of damp heat include itching, pain, and swollen prostate, sweating in the genitals, heaviness and aching in the lower limbs, greasy yellow coating on tongue. Treatment includes clearing heat and nourishing any underlying deficiencies.

In determining treatment for ED it is important to utilize the four basic techniques of assessment: questioning, smelling/listening, palpitation and inspection. Furthermore the constitution of the client is taken into account at the same time as TCM pattern differentiation. The following is a summary of pattern differentiation taken from Giovanni Maciocia and Shen-Nong.com, as well as, several other authors.

Primary Patterns:

Kidney Deficiency:

  • Weakness of Life-Gate Fire/Ming Men
  • Deficiency of Kidney Yang Deficiency
  • Deficiency of Kidney Yin Deficiency
  • Damage of the kidneys by fear

Damp Heat:

  • Downpour of Damp Heat into the Lower Burner
  • Damp Heat in Lower Burner
  • Damp Heat in Liver-Gallbladder Channel

Blood Deficiency/Stagnation:

  • Liver-Blood Deficiency
  • Heart and Gallbladder Qi Deficiency
  • Heart-Blood Deficiency
  • Damage of the heart and spleen
  • Blood Stasis

Qi:

  • Liver Qi Stagnation

Untitled2Weakness of Life-Gate Fire-The Gate of Life or Ming men is (located on the middle of the lower back) is an essential part of traditional Chinese physiology. Called the “Gate of Life,” it holds the Yin and Yang of the body from which all substances and functions develop. Along with the Yin-Yang theory, one of the most fundamental principles in Chinese medicine is that of the “Three Treasures.” The Three Treasures consist of jing (essence/potential energy), qi (energy/function), and shen (spirit or spirits). In terms of understanding the Ming Men the concepts of jing and qi are primary. Original Qi is stored in an energetic center called Ming Men. The relationship between the Kidney organ-system and Ming Men is defined by the relationship between the elements of Water and Fire, or Kidney and Heart as explained above. Strengthening Jing and the Life-Gate are often the first approach when working with ED/Impotency.

  • ED/Impotence
  • Seminal discharge, white/cold
  • Dizziness/vertigo
  • Tinnitus
  • Pale complexion,
  • Cold extremities
  • Listlessness of spirit
  • Weak aching lower back and legs
  • Frequent urination
  • Pale Tongue with white coating
  • Deep thready pulse

Formulas:

  • Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan (Five Ancestors Teapills)
  • Zan Yu Dan (Procreation Elixir)
  • Right-Restoring Pill combining with Procreation Elixir
  • Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan (Golden Lock Teapills) Kidney Yin and Yang deficiency with leakage of fluids creating instability at the Gate of Life.
  • Cong Rong Bu Shen Wan (Cistanches Tonify Kidney Pills)
  • Er Xian San (Two Immortals Teapills) regulates the chong and ren channels
  • Ge Jie Da Bu Wan (Gecko Tonic Teapills)

Deficiency of Kidney Yang symptoms: Yang is responsible for our physiological functions and energy. A deficiency of Kidney Yang is an internal condition results in cold and weakness, along with ED or impotence. A deficiency of Kidney Yang indicates a deficiency in the “Life Gate” or Ming Men. This coldness results in the lower libido, ED or Impotence. It is

  • ED/Impotence
  • frequent clear urination,
  • cold limbs,
  • dizziness,
  • tinnitus,
  • fatigue,
  • lower back weakness
  • Deep-Weak pulse
  • Pale tongue

Formulas:

  • You Gui San (Right side Replenishing teapills)
  • Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan (Five Ancestors Teapills)
  • Jin Gui Shen Qi San (Golden Book Teapills)
  • Ba Ji Yin Yang Teapills (Morinda Pills to Balance Yin and Yang)
  • Huan Shao Dan Wan (Return to Spring Teapills)
  • Ge Jie Dan Bu Wan (Gecko Tonic Teapills)

Deficiency of Yin Deficiency

  • ED/Impotence
  • Dizziness
  • Scanty urination
  • Night-sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Tinnitus
  • Floating-empty pulse
  • Red tongue w/o coating

Formulas:

  • Zuo Gui Wan (Return Left Pill)
  • Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan (Eight Flavor Rehmannia Teapills) with deficient heat
  • Liu Wei Di Huang San (Six Flavored Teapills)

Damage of the kidneys by fear-Fear can shock or injure the Kidney-Adrenals, along with leading to the disordered movement of qi.

  • ED/impotence
  • soft erection
  • timidity
  • tendency to doubt and suspicion
  • palpitations
  • susceptibility to fright
  • restless sleep
  • thin and slimy tongue coating, string-like
  • thready pulse.

Formula: Huan Shao Dan Wan (Return to Spring Teapills)

Downpour of Damp Heat into the Lower Burner

  • ED
  • Premature ejaculation
  • Sweatiness of the scrotum
  • Heavy aching lower limbs
  • Thirst
  • Bitter taste
  • Dark burning urine
  • Yellow slimy coating on Tongue
  • Pulse is Slippery and rapid

Formula: Long Dan Xie Gan Tang (Gentian Liver-Draining Decoction

Damp Heat in Lower Burner

  • ED/Impotence
  • Difficult-painful urination
  • Deep yellow urine
  • Itching of genitals
  • Urethral discharge
  • Sticky-yellow coating on tongue, with red spots on root
  • Slippery pulse

Formula: Long Dan Xie Gan Tang (Gentian Liver-Draining Decoction

Damp Heat in Liver-Gallbladder Channel

  • ED/Impotence,
  • Difficult-painful urination
  • Rash external genitalia
  • Irritability
  • Sticky-yellow coating on tongue, with red spots on root
  • Wiry pulse

Formula: Long Dan Xie Gan Tang (Gentian Liver-Draining Decoction

Liver-Blood Deficiency

  • ED/Impotence
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Depressed mood
  • Insomnia
  • Pale tongue
  • Choppy pulse.

Formula:

  • Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang Jia Wei (Peony and Licorice Teapills)
  • Si Wu Tang (Dang Gui Four)

Heart and Gallbladder Qi Deficiency

  • ED/Impotence
  • Premature ejaculation
  • Depressed mood
  • Timidity, sighing
  • Insomnia
  • Palpitations
  • Easily startled
  • Pale tongue
  • Weak pulse

Formula: Da Bu Yuan Jian

Heart-Blood Deficiency

  • ED/Impotence
  • Palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Depressed mood
  • Insomnia
  • Pale tongue
  • Choppy pulse

Formulas:

  • Gui Pi Tong (Ginseng and Longan Combination)
  • Si Wu Tang (Dang Gui Four)

 Damage of the heart and spleen

The Spleen is the source of Blood production along with ensuring its flow within the vessels. If the spleen is operating properly then it transports and transforms sufficient nutrients for plentiful heart blood. Vise versa, according to the five-element theory, the Heart is the mother of the Spleen. If there is deficiency of Heart Blood or Qi it impairs the function of the Spleen to transport and transform. This domino effect will impede the Spleens ability to transport sufficient nutrients to keep Blood flowing in the vessels (ability to achieve and maintain erection).

  • Inability to achieve and/or maintain erection
  • Lassitude
  • Palpitations
  • Poor memory
  • Restless sleep
  • Poor appetite/eating habits
  • Colorless facial complexion
  • Thin and slimy tongue coating, pale tongue,
  • Fine or choppy pulse.

Formula:

  • Gui Pi Tong (Ginseng and Longan Combination)
  • Spleen-Restoring Decoction

Blood Stasis-Surgery, cancer, radiation and chemotherapy can potentially result in creating stagnation of blood to the perineum, which can impede the flow of blood and qi.

  • Prickling pain in testes
  • Pain or distention in chest and hypochondria
  • Stabbing pain
  • Dark complexion
  • Dry skin
  • Purplish dark tongue
  • Thready, uneven pulse

Formulas:

  • Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang (Stasis in the Mansion of Blood Decoction)
  • Wen Jiang Tang Wan (Warm Cycle teapills)

Liver Qi Stagnation-Normal flow of liver qi ensures that all emotional processes are in harmony and blood is flowing sufficiently. If there is a stagnation of liver qi then this can result in the lack of nourishment to tendons including genitalia.

  • ED/impotence
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Discomfort of the chest and stomach
  • Distension and oppression of the hypochondriac region
  • Poor appetite/eating habits
  • Loose stool
  • Thin tongue coating
  • String-like pulse.

Formula:

  • Xiao Yao San (Bupleurum and Dang Gui Formula
  • Jai wei xiao yao san (Bupleurum and Peony Formula) clears deficient heat
  • Chai Hu Shu (Disperse Vital Energy in Liver), for liver qi stagnation and Liver Blood Stasis

Traditional Formulas used for ED/Impotence:

Ge Jie Da Bu Wan (Gecko Tonic Teapills), Qi, Yang, Blood and Jing deficiency

Symptoms:

  • Weakness or pain in low back knees
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Weakness, fatigue, exhaustion, listlessness
  • Weak voice, pale face
  • Spontaneous sweating
  • Occasional chills and feverishness
  • Dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss
  • Forgetfulness, poor memory,
  • Frequent urination, nighttime urination
  • Edema,
  • Chronic diarrhea w/undigested food, abdominal distention, poor appetite
  • Cold limbs, cold intolerance
  • Decreased sex drive, impotence
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, shallow breathing aggravated by exertion, shallow breathing aggravated by exertion, chronic persistent cough
  • Palpitation
  • Insomnia

Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan (Golden Lock Teapills), Kidney Yin and Yang Deficiency creating instability at the Gate of Life

Symptoms:

  • Chronic leakage of fluids, spermatorrhea, nocturnal emissions, premature ejaculation, impotence,
  • Urinary frequency, night urination, urinary dribbling or incontinence
  • Fatigue, weakness, listlessness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Weakness and rapid fatigue in muscles, sore and weak low back and limbs
  • Chronic watery diarrhea
  • Tinnitus

Wen Jiang Tang Wan (Warm Cycle teapills) * deficiency and cold in Chong and Ren channels causing blood stasis

Symptoms:

  • Five palms heat
  • Dry lips and mouth
  • Dry skin or hair
  • Fatigue, weak or cold limbs
  • Impotence
  • Pain in the testicles
  • Urinary incontinence

*primarily used for women in the category of warm the menses and dispel blood stasis, but can be used for spermatorrhea, erectile dysfunction, orchialgia, seminal insufficiency.

Supplementary herbs and formulas:

  • Wu Chi Pai Feng Wan (Black Chicken White Phoenix Pills)
  • Tonic wine: soak red deer antler, ginseng roots, lycii berry and schizandra in rise wine. Take 1 tsp 3 times a day, especially for winter.
  • Planetary Herbs: Damiana Male Potential
  • Ashwagandha
  • Shilajit
  • Damiana
  • Yohimbe
  • Ginseng

Moxibustion and Qi Gong: In cases of Kidney deficiency that require warming, moxibustion can also be performed at index6these acupuncture points. The moxibustion treatment involves the burning of a herb, Ai Ye-mugwort, to warm and circulate the energy in the local area, strengthening the Life Gate fire.

Qi Gong has specific movements to strengthen the Gate of Life (http://www.funwithqigong.com/2009/07/open-and-move-from-the-gate-of-life/)

References:

http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/exam/specialties_menimpotence.html

https://www.jcm.co.uk/liver-gallbladder-based-erectile-dysfunction-treatment-by-chinese-medicine-part-1.html

http://www.altmd.com/Articles/TCM-for-Erectile-Dysfunction

http://maciociaonline.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-treatment-of-male-problems-in.html

http://www.itmonline.org/5organs/kidney.htm

http://www.tcmtreatment.com/images/diseases/impotence.htm

http://www.theacupunctureclinic.co.nz/male-sexual-dysfunction-by-will-maclean/

Holiday Herbal Gifts: Liquors, Infusions and Bitters

IMG_2058One of my favorite activities is researching, experimenting and making alcohol infused liqueurs.  Alcohol has historically been used as medicine throughout the world.  The Romans infused herbs in wine as a regular medicinal therapy due to alcohol’s ability to extract the active compounds of any number of herbs.  The ‘Water of Life’ as alcohol came to be known was refined all over Europe (known as such due to it being safer to drink than disease-ridden water).  Alcohol was used as a way to preserve, extract and even direct the action of the herb in the body.  Alcohol is stimulating and warming, as such it increases blood circulation throughout the body.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine moderate alcohol consumption is said to calm the mind, is relaxing, dispels worry, invigorates blood, eliminates obstructions from the channels, harmonizes and warms the Stomach, and expels cold.  Alcohol infusions, or liqueurs are typically infused with fruit, herbs, spices, flowers and nuts. Liqueurs are usually not aged for long after the ingredients are mixed, but may have resting periods during their production to allow flavors to mix together. Although liqueurs are made with distilled spirits, I also use wine, vermouth, sake or sherry as my base.  One of my favorite infusions was with sherry, the result was rich, complex and warming.

Many of my recipes call for the use of a sweetener.  I tend to use honey, although depending on the type of images1honey it can add an additional flavor to your liqueurs so a simple syrup make with organic sugar can be substituted.  When using honey, I make it into a simple syrup following the recipe below. I tend to make my alcohol infusions slightly sweet to preserve the medicinal aspects of the infusion. When sweetening the herbal infusion it is better to start with less than wait a day or two, taste again and adjust.  If not you can easily end up adding too much sweetener, which of course you can’t undue.  Sugar based simple syrup:  In a saucepan combine 1 cup of sugar or honey with 1 cup water. Heat the mixture and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool.

I have been working with herbs for so long I have a fairly good idea of the flavors that they impart.  If you do not have this experience, I would start by following a recipe until you feel more comfortable experimenting.  Here is a partial list of the herbs that I use:

  • Allspice berries (Pimenta Dioica Merr.)
  • Angelica root and seeds (Angelica Archangelica L.)
  • Anise seeds (Pimpinela Anisum L.)
  • Burdock (arctium lappa)
  • Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
  • Cardamon seeds (Elettaria Cardamomum Maton)
  • Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum Cassia)
  • Cloves flower buds (Eugenia Carophylata Thunb.)images4
  • Codonopsis (Codonopsis pilosula, Dang Shen)
  • Coriander seeds (Coriandrum Sativum L.)
  • Damiana (Turnera diffusa)
  • Dang Gui (angelica sinensis)
  • Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
  • Fennel seeds and tops (Foeniculum Vulgare Mill.)
  • Gentian root (Gentiana Lutea L.)
  • Goji Berries (Lycium barbarum)
  • Hawthorn berries ((Crataegus oxyacantha)
  • He Shu Wu (Polygonum multiflorum)
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
  • Hyssop leaves (Hyssopus Officinalis L.)
  • Juniper berries (Juniperus Communis L.)
  • Lemon Balm leaves (Melissa Officinalis L.)
  • Logan Berries (Euphoria longan)
  • Peppermint leaves (MenthaxPiperata L.)
  • Rose petals
  • Schinsandra (Schisandra chinensis)
  • Star anise seeds (Illicium Verum Hook)
  • Tumeric root (Curcuma Longa L.)
  • Vanilla seeds (Vanilla Planifolia Andr.)

I often use whiskey or brandy as my base distilled spirit in that they tend to impart a warming energy and have a great base flavor.  If the herbs that I am using have a strong flavor, for example infusions with angelica, I would use vodka or grappa as my base.

Angelica Liqueur-Angelica has a long history of use in colds, lung congestion and digestion.

Step #1-2 Tbsp. fresh or dried angelica root (Angelica archangelica)
2 fl oz vodka

In a small glass jar combine the angelica root with 2 fl oz vodka. After two weeks filter through a coffee filter.

Step #2-

1 tsp. dried marjoram
2 green cardamoms
1/16 tsp. ground allspice
1/16 tsp. ground star anise
1/16 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/16 tsp. ground coriander
2 fl oz vodka
In a grinder combine the cardamom seeds, allspice, star anise, cinnamon stick and coriander seeds. Grind just until the herbs are reduced in size, but not a powder. Place in a glass jar or bottle and add 2 fl oz vodka. After one week filter through a coffee filter.

Step #3-

1/2 cup simple syrup
1 cup vodka
Combine with sugar syrup (adjusting to your sweetness level) and 1 cup vodka.

Step #4-Add small portions of the angelica root extract to the liqueur until you get a suitable flavor. Check the flavor after 2 months. If necessary add some more sugar syrup, vodka, or angelica extract.

Longevity Elixir

This infusion is based on tradition Chinese herbs that are taken for strengthening our immunity and overall health.

1 oz, He Shou Wu, (fo ti) dried

1 oz, Eleuthro

1 oz, Hawthorn Berries

1 oz, dried Reshi mushrooms, broken up

1 oz, Goji berries, chopped

1 cinnamon stick, broken

1/2 oz, Angelica Sinensis,(Dang Gui), chopped

5 red dates, pitted and chopped

1/2 of peel of tangerine, chopped

Simple syrup to taste

Combine all ingredients together with 1 liter of brandy.  Let sit for 1 month, strain add simple syrup if needed. Take a swig a day.

Beet, Hawthorn Berry and Rose Petal Liqueur

Rose petals have high tannin content so the infusion needs to sit for a while before it is palatable.

½ cup of rose water

1 ½ cups of filtered water
4 cups of rose petals from a highly scented rose  or 1 cup of dried rose petals

¼ cup of grated beets

¼ cup of hawthorn berries, slightly ground
1 liter of grappa or vodka
Simple syrup to taste
Place the rose petals, grated beets and hawthorn berries in a clean jar, add alcohol, close and keep in a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks. Strain and then add simple syrup to taste, you can always add more later, so less is probably better. Keep it for least 3-6 months before using.

Anise, Lemon Verbena and Rosemary  Liqueur

2 and 1/4 cups dry anise liqueur (raki, ouzo)

2 and 1/4 cups sweet anise liqueur (anisette, sambuca white)

3 sprigs thyme

3 sprigs rosemary

1 Tablespoon dried lemon verbena

6 sage leaves

6 mint leaves

1/4 of peel orange

Combine herbs, orange peel along with dry and sweet liqueurs together and age for 2 months. Strain and bottle.

Sage, Basil and Bay Liqueur

4 cups of grappa or vodka

6 bay leaves, crumbled

1 sprig of rosemary

10 mint leaves, chopped

1 Tablespoon chamomile flowers

10 basil leaves, chopped

15 fresh sage leaves, chopped or 1 Tablespoon dried

3 cloves

3 saffron filaments

Simple syrup to taste

Combine herbs and alcohol for 20 days. Strain, add sugar syrup to taste. Age for 4 weeks before consuming.

Highland Heather Bitters
“In Scotland bitters were traditionally drunk before meals, especially breakfast, ‘for the purpose of strengthening the stomach, and by that means invigorating the general health’.

1/2 oz gentian root chopped

2 Tablespoon heather flowers

1/2 oz coriander seed, crushed

¼ peel of tangerine

1 Tablespoon chamomile flowers

4 cloves (whole)

1/2 of cinnamon stick

1 Tablespoon glycerin

1 bottle whiskey

Combine all ingredients with whiskey, leave for ten days, then strain and bottle. In this case you do not want to add simple syrup because the bitter taste is what activates your digestive system to work efficiently.

Black Sambucus (Elderberry)

1-liter alcohol, your choice, I prefer brandy for this

4 cups of ripe elderberries or 2 cups of dried berries

2 tsp anise seed

1 tsp licorice root

1 strip of lemon peel

1 tsp glycerin (for smoothness)

Simple syrup to taste

Put the elderberries and alcohol in blender and blend until elderberries are chopped, add anise, licorice and lemon peel. Transfer to Mason jar and then sit for 30 days. Stain and add simple syrup and glycerin.

Damiana Liquor

Damiana leaves have been used as an aphrodisiac and to boost sexual potency by the native peoples of Mexico, including the Mayan Indians and is used for both male and female sexual stimulation, increased energy, asthma, depression, impotence and menstrual problems.

1 oz Damiana leaves

2 Tbsp Saw Palmetto berries

2 Tbsp Angelica Root

1/2 Tbsp Vanilla pods

3/4-1 cup Honey

1 liter Whiskey

Soak all ingredients for one week, and then strain through coffee filter and save. Re-soak herbs in 1 cup distilled water for another week, then strain. Heat water mixture too slightly warm and then add honey to the hot liquid. After honey until dissolved, take off heat and let cool. Now add this to the first whiskey liquid. Age the final liquid for at least a month

Read more: http://www.ancient-origins.net/human-origins-science/alcohol-me

l

Making Holiday Herbal Goodies: Soaks, Sprays, Scrubs and Masks

It is that time of year again when I teach a series of herbal gift-making workshops.  Since many of you following this blog are not local I thought I would share some of my favorite recipes, along with, some ideas for packaging. Feel free to experiment with any of these recipes, if you don’t have the exact ingredients or can think of something else that would enhance the action of the formulas.

cello bagSoaks:  The first set of recipes are for a variety of herbal soaks.  For packaging,  the ingredients in these recipes can be divided into large press n’ brew tea bags or  jars with an attached cotton muslin tea bag, which can then can be reused.  Mountain Rose Herbs has several of types of bags available.  I prefer the press n’ brew bags.  I divide the recipe into 4 bags, iron them shut and then combine these bags into transparent cello bags tied with ribbon and labeled with kraft paper tags.

Bright Eyes Herbal Tea Soakseye bags

4 Tablespoons Chamomile flowers

3 Tablespoons Chrysanthemum flowers

2 Tablespoons Peppermint Leaf

3 Tablespoons Sage Leaf

4 drops lavender oil

Measure everything into glass jar, shake and divide between three large press n’ tea bags.

Instructions:  Cover tea bags with boiling water, let cool until slightly warm then apply.

foot soaksDetoxing and Warming Foot Soak

1/4 cup dead sea salts

1/4 cup Epsom salts

2 Tablespoons dry mustard

2 Tablespoons dried ginger root

2 Tablespoon cinnamon stick, broken up

2 T. of Dong Quai root (angelica sinensis)

1/4 cup of Mugwort leaf

1 Teaspoon Cayenne power

4 Tablespoons of dried Dandelion Root

Put herbs into mason jar, cap and shake.  Package in jar with muslin bag or divide into 5 press n’ brew bags.

Instructions: Put herbs in large pot with 2 quarts of water. Bring to boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add to foot basin with enough cold water to allow feet to soak. Soak until cool.

Skin Soothing Milk Bath Soaks

¼ cup of goat milk powder

1 cup of powdered dry milk

½ cup of non-GMO corn starch

1 cup of oatmeal ground finelybath bags

¼ cup of dead sea salt

2 Tablespoons of rose petals

2 Tablespoons of lavender flowers

10 drops of rosemary essential oil

10 drops of carrot seed essential oil

10 drops of neroli essential oil

20 drops of rose hips extract

Combine oatmeal in blender and grind until powder, then combine the ingredients in blender and blend until essential oils are incorporated. Package in jar with muslin bag or divide into 8 press n’ brew bags.

Instructions: Put bag into bath and then fill with hot bath water, let cool until comfortable temp to enter bath.

bottleSprays:  The next set of recipes are facial and aftershave sprays.  I use bottles with spay atomizers from Specialty Bottle.  Their two ounce bottles are ideal for this use.  I also use kraft paper tags for labeling these as well.

Healing Facial Toner

1 Tablespoon comfrey leaf

1 Tablespoon chamomile flowers

1 Tablespoon Calendula petals

1 Tablespoon Rose petals

2 oz of witch hazelfacial spray

2 oz of vodka in jar

10 drops of carrot seed essential oil

5 drops of lavender essential oil

5 drops clary sage essential oil

5 drops of cedarwood essential oil

Combine herbs with witch hazel and vodka in jar, shake well and let sit in warm space for 1 week. Strain herbs and combine remaining essential oils, shake well and bottle.

Anti-aging Facial Spray

2 Tablespoon of aloe gel

1 Tablespoon of witch hazel

3 oz of cucumber hydrosol

6 drops of carrot essential oil

4 drops of clary sage essential oil

2 drops of geranium essential oil

3 drops of frankincense essential oil

Combine all ingredients together in jar, shake and then fill bottles.

imagesBay West Indies Aftershave Splash

This essential oil is distilled from the Bay Rum Tree (Pimenta racemosa). It is a common scent in men’s aftershave products.

1 cups of witch hazel extract

1 ounce of rum

zest from half organic orange

1/2 cinnamon stick

6 peppercorns

1 sprig of rosemary

1 tsp of corianderafter_shave

1 bay leaf

3-cloves

3-whole allspice

1 tsp teaspoon aloe vera gel

1 tsp of glycerin

15-25 drops of Bay West Indies Essential Oil, depending on preference

Combine all ingredients in 1 quart mason jar, cover and shake well.  Let sit for 2 weeks, shaking daily.  Strain and fill bottles.

jarsScrubs:  The internet is filled with recipes for scrubs but I wanted to offer up a few of my favorites.  In terms of packaging I use a 4 ounce jar with swing-top lid, which is convenient when using in a shower.  There are many places to download printable labels, but this is one site I often use http://putitinajar.com/crafts/printables/  I use full sheet shipping labels and then print out my labels.  There are numerous examples of labels available at craft supply stores for this purpose if you don’t want to trouble yourself with downloading and printing.

Seaweed Detox Salt Scrub

2 tablespoons comfrey root

2 tablespoons Calendula flower

1 ½ cup of sesame oil

scrubs¼ cup of bladderwack seaweed powder

½ cup of kelp powder

2 cups of dead sea salt

½ cup of Rhassoul clay

¼ cup of castor oil

10 drops of rosemary essential oil

10 drops of lavender essential oil

Combine the comfrey and calendula herbs with the sesame oil, heat on low for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, let cool and strain out herbs.  Combine remaining ingredients, mixing well.  Add more clay if necessary to make it the consistency of peanut butter.

Chocolicious Body Scrub

1/4 cup of Epsom salt

1/4 cup of Dead Sea Salt

2 Tablespoons of cocoa powder

½ tsp of cinnamon

1 Teaspoon of vanilla

3 Tablespoon of melted coconut oil

Combine all ingredients together mixing well, then fill jars.

facial masksMocha Facial Scrub

1 cup sugar

2 Tablespoon of cocoa powder

2 Tablespoon of finely ground coffee

1/3 cup of oatmeal powder*

5-7 Tablespoons of sesame oil

2 Tablespoon of Aloe Vera Gel

1 teaspoon of Vit. E oil

Combine all ingredients together mixing well, then fill jars.  * put oatmeal in blend and grind finely

blue jarMasks:  Ever since I was a young girl I loved using facial masks.  Over the years I have enjoyed exploring the full range of masks from fresh fruits to honey to clay.  Here are two of my favorites. For packaging I use hexagon shaped jars, along with kraft paper tags.

Goat Milk and Clay Pore Refining Masque

1/2 cup of French Clay

4 Tablespoon of slippery elm powder

4 Tablespoon of dried goat’s milk powder

2 Tablespoon of comfrey root powder

2 Tablespoon of rose powder

1 Tablespoon of sandalwood powder

20 drops of carrot seed essential oil

10 drops of clary sage essential oil

10 drops of lavender essential oil

5 drops of cedarwood essential oil

Combine all in blender and blend until well mixed.  Fill jars

Instructions: Moisten 1 Tablespoon of the masque with milk, yogurt or water. Apply to face and leave on until dry, rinse and pat dry.

Rose, Frankincense and Sandalwood Facial Mask

2 Tablespoons Rose powder

2 Teaspoons Sandalwood powder

2 Tablespoons Frankincense powder

1/2 cup of sugarfacial mask

3 Tablespoons cosmetic white clay

½ cup of sesame seed oil

5 drops of black pepper essential oil

6 drops of coriander essential oil

2 Teaspoons of Vit E.

Mix all ingredients together in bowl and mix well.  Mixture should be thick adding more clay if necessary. Fill jars.

Happy Holidays

Resources for herbs and Tea Bags:

https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/

http://www.oregonswildharvest.com/owh/browse/bulk_herbs,_teas_and_spices

For bottles:

http://www.specialtybottle.com/

For cello bags and other packaging:

http://www.papermart.com/HOME

Happy Holidays to you and yours

 

 

 

Consumer Beware: The Rampant Under Dosing of Herbal Products

The world of herbal supplements is often confusing and making heads or infusiontails out of dosages, etc. takes time, research and a bit of math. Many folks buy herbs from their local health food stores, through the Internet or from alternative care providers. More often than not, they follow the instructions that appear on the bottle. I have analyzed many formulas that clients have brought to me and I am always struck by the fact that what they are taking is far below the recommended daily therapeutic dosage. As an herbalist, I contend that if folks are not seeing the intended effects it is either due to under dosing or not addressing the root cause of their condition. For the purposes of this article I am going to concentrate on the issue of under dosing and although I know that this topic is potentially controversial, it nonetheless needs to be examined.

I believe that under dosing is rampant due to the following: the true cost of taking herbs therapeutically, herbal profit margins and the risk adverse nature of supplement manufactures. To illustrate my point we will look at several forms of existing herbal products in relationship to recommended daily therapeutic dosages.

Let’s start by picking an herb. An average recommended dose of Vitex (Chaste Tree) berry is 3-6 grams a day of dried ground herb, as stated in several prominent books on herbalism. For this analysis I will use this as my baseline for establishing a daily therapeutic dose. When we look at using tinctures several leading tincturesbrands provide Vitex tinctured at a 1:5 ratio (a standard ratio that many manufactures use, I believe based on profit margins). This measurement is an herb to liquid ratio, meaning that 5 milliliters of liquid equals one gram of herb. If you want to take the therapeutic dose of 3 grams of Vitex a day, you would need to take 1 teaspoon of tincture, three times a day (1 tsp is approximately 5 milliliters). When we look at the cost of this dose, a standard 1-ounce tincture bottle would last two days (1 oz equals 6 teaspoons). At an average cost of $10 a day this would cost $40 a week. If you take the upper range of the recommended dose – 6 grams, you would need to double the amount of tincture equaling an ounce of tincture a day at $10 a day this would be approximately $70 per week.

Most tincture bottles provide recommendations based on a drop dosage. In the case of Vitex a review of several manufacturers suggest an average of 30 drops (30 drops equals approximately 1 ml although this depends on the viscosity) three times a day. There are several ways to look at this, but the simplest is to remember that 5 milliliters of a 1:5 ratio equals one gram of Vitex. If this amount is taken 3 times a day you would be taking 3 milliliters of Vitex or less than 1 gram of herb which is far below the low range of the 3-6 grams a day. Some herbalists would make the case that tinctures are a more concentrated form of herbal preparation due to their bio-availability of chemical constituents thereby lower dosages are appropriate. This might indeed be true and depends on your frame of reference. Either way it behooves us to take the time to do the research and math to figure out the actual dosage that you are taking or recommending.

When we look at the comparison of therapeutic dosage in relationship to herbal capsules under dosing becomes even more apparent. For examplecapsules many leading manufactures supply Vitex at 400 mg per capsule (400 mg equals .4 gram) with a recommend daily dose of 2 to 3 capsules a day. In doing the math this translates to consuming .8 gram of Vitex at 2 capsules a day and 1.2 gram of Vitex at 3 capsules a day, far below the recommended daily therapeutic dose. In fact to get to 3 grams you would have to consume 8 capsules a day and at 6 grams a day you would have to consume 16 capsules a day.

I have done similar analysis of Traditional Chinese Medicine, medicinal mushrooms and standardized herbal supplement formulas only to find that the dosages on the bottle fall far below therapeutic recommendations. So what is the answer?

  1. Invest in a comprehensive book on herbs that lists therapeutic dosages in grams for example Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra.
  2. Determine the therapeutic dose for a given herb.
  3. Read the information in the box (Supplement Facts panel). What is the recommended serving size? What is the suggested dosage?
  4. Do the math. Compare the supplements recommended daily dose to the therapeutic dose.
  5. Look for fluid extracts which are tinctured at 1:1 or 1:2 ratio or other concentrated forms of herbal preparations.

 

Wildcrafting: Developing a bioregional approach to herbalism

Much has been written about the importance of developing a bioregional approach to herbalism particularly in relationship to sustainability.  As anSlide01 herbalist having an understanding of your bioregion allows you to more fully engage with your surroundings and to have an intimate knowledge of its micro environments and plant populations.  Many of the “popular” herbs that we rely on are grown all over the world.   Their energy footprint including transportation costs, etc., as well as, the sometimes unethical practices of harvesting can be mitigated by utilizing herbs “outside your door”.  I believe our challenge as herbalist’s is to discover, utilize and teach others about what grows locally, so we can become more self-reliant and less dependent upon mail order herbs.  This article is an outline of the process that I have used and teach in my bioregional wildcrafting classes.

Slide04Defining a bioregion:  This is a helpful process in trying to understand the various ecosystems that encompass a specific area and to being able to identify various plant populations that grow within in them.  In my case I live in Central Oregon (Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties) which comprises a variety of ecosystems.  Using the following link: http://www.plantmaps.com/interactive-oregon-ecoregions-l4-map.php  which is specific to Oregon I have identified the various ecosystems that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has defined that make up the area that I live.  I assume that these interactive maps are available for all parts of North America.

Plant Identification:  This by far is the most challenging part of the process and I have spent endlessSlide09 hours scouring photo’s and plant descriptions to determine a plants identity. We are fortunate that we live in an era where there are so many resources available to us including on-line plant databases, plant identification apps and books.  Searching for plant lists is another helpful tool.  These lists are often available through native plant societies, university databases, herb schools and various other sites.

Here are a few links for plants specific to Oregon:

http://science.halleyhosting.com/nature/bloomtime/lists/or/or.html

http://www.oregonflora.org/atlas.php

http://www.botanicalstudies.net/botany/plantlists.php

Slide06Before you start this process it is vitally important to identify poisonous plants that grow in your area.  Typically I will review plant lists and determine if the plant that is listed has a history of use (see traditional use section below). Having a plant list in hand is a great first step, but you still have to be able to positively identify plants that you find.  Having a basic understanding of botany is particularly helpful in reading through plant descriptions or having the ability to identify plant families at least narrows down the Slide17possibilities.  Having a working knowledge of plant families can be quite helpful in at least narrowing down your search. A great book is Thomas Elpel’s “Botany in a Day: the Patterns Method of Plant Identification” and his website:   http://www.wildflowers-and-weeds.com/Plant_Families/Plant_Families_Index.html

In looking for a plant identification book I prefer one that is indexed by the color of the flowers the number and type of leaf pattern.  A rule of thumb is to identify the plant from three different sources before making the final confirmation as to its identification.   There are some excellent websites featuring photos of plants in the Pacific Northwest, Mark Turner’s book and internet site is extremely helpful:  http://www.pnwflowers.com.

Finally Hitchcock and Cronquist book “Flora of the Pacific Northwest” is an invaluable resource for species identification.  Once you have identified the plant then researching its medicinal value is the next step in the process.

Traditional Uses:  There are numerous books written about the medicinal value of medicinal herbs although they tend toroot digging feature more common or popular herbs.  In my bioregion which is mostly scrub and sagebrush these are not helpful.  Identifying Native American use of plants has been the most helpful path as I have found.  For my area I have identified the following Native American tribes who have used plants specific to my bioregion.

  • Cowlitz-South central Washington
  • Klamath-Southern Central Oregon
  • Okanagon-Colville reservation in Washington and British Columbia border.
  • Warm Springs-North central Oregon
  • Paiute-Great Basin region, Warm Springs reservation*
  • Shuswap-Southern interior plateau of British Columbia
  • Skagit- Upper, Northern Cascade Range, Washington
  • Snohomish-Northeastern side of Puget Sound, Washington
  • Thompson-Southwestern British Columbia
  • Umatilla-along the Umatilla and Columbia Rivers in Oregon
  • Washo-Near Lake Tahoe on the Calif.-Nevada border.

*Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Indian Reservation comprised of Warm Springs, Paiute and Wasco tribes.

Armored with this information I have done searches and read some of the original ethnographies that are available through inter-library loan.  Additionally I have almost wore out my copy of Daniel Moreman’s amazing book “Native American Medicinal Plants“.   Two other invaluable books in researching traditional uses are Steven Foster and Christopher Hobbs, “Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs” and  “American Medicinal Plants” by Millspaugh.  It is important to recognize that the information we have available is by no means exhaustive and only a reflection of the information that was collected through a colonial framework.

index

Rosa woodsii

Materia Medica:  Once you have identified the plant’s traditional and/or contemporary uses it is helpful to start to categorize its medicinal properties so that you can incorporate into your materia medica and medicine making, noting which parts of the plant are used.  For example, if a plant is within a certain family such as Rosaceae you already know that it is probably astringent due to the tannins. For example Woods’ Rose (Rosa woodsii) was used by the Paiute tribes as a decoction of the root for diarrhea, a poultice of various parts of the plant as a burn medicine, a decoction of the inner bark of the shrub for colds, a poultice of the mashed fungus galls for open boils, and an infusion of the leaves were taken as a spring tonic.  The Thompson tribe used the hips to help women in labor to hasten delivery and a decoction of the roots were taken by women after childbirth to tonify the uterus.  They also made a decoction of branches of rose, chokecherry and willow for diarrhea and vomiting.  Pioneer women used the hips of wild rose in jelly, pudding and syrups.  Knowing these uses helps you to incorporate it into your arsenal for addressing any number of conditions where you might have used other astringent herbs.

lomatium dissectum

Lomatium dissectum

Another example is Fernleaf Biscuitroot (Lomatium dissectum) which was used by the numerous tribes including the Paiute, Northern Paiute, Thompson and Okanagan-Colville tribes.  It was used as a dermatological aid for sores, for pulmonary issues including tuberculosis, as an analgesic for pain and arthritis, a decoction of the roots was taken for colds and numerous other uses. In looking at contemporary information on this plant, it has been found to have antimicrobial and antiviral potential.   It is fairly easy to see how one could incorporate the roots into oil for salves, cooked roots into cough medicine and roots soaked in alcohol as a liniment.

Astragalus purshii

Astragalus purshii

Research pays off, for example some plants have a documented use of being used internally yet they have emetic potential such as Wooly-pod Milk Vetch (Astragalus purshii).  Astragalus purshii  was  primarily used externally as a wash, although the Kawailsu tribe did use it internally for menstrual pains.  As a dermatological aid a decoction of the whole plant was used as a wash for the head, hair and body.  It was also used in the sweat lodge as a disinfectant, and was poured over hunting equipment, when the hunter was having “bad luck”. Since it does mention that it could be an emetic I would recommend only using this plant externally.  It is important to be stewards of the land therefore ensuring continued abundance of the plants that we harvest.  There are several websites that outline the steps to take to ensure we are properly caretakers of our bioregion.  Explore, learn and share your knowledge.

Ethical Wildcrafting and Stewardship:

  1.  Follow the abundance
  2. Avoid and protect unusual, threatened and endangered plants
  3. Gather in small, thoughtful numbers
  4. 
Browse, don’t graze
  5. 
Know where (and where not) to harvest
  6. Be okay with an empty basket
  7. Err on the side of less
  8. Promote abundance
, spread seeds, try to take parts of roots, not the entire plant
  9. Harvest to the plant’s needs
  10. 
Bring the right tools
  11. Assess for environmental toxins
  12. Share your gratitude-giving thanks

https://www.unitedplantsavers.org/images/pdf/2012_nursery_directory.pdf

http://7song.com/files/Wildcrafting%20Herbalist.pdf

 

 

Teasel, Wild Rose and Parsnipflower Buckwheat

It is that time of year to get out in the woods and start identifying medicinal herbs, shrubs, trees that grow in Central Oregon (Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties).   This year I will be doing my first official plant walk through COCC into the Ochoco’s National Forest and am excited to be sharing this info with others who have an interest in plant medicine.

This past weekend I attended a wildflower walk with our local land conservancy non-profit.  They were showcasing a large-scale project bringing back the historical flow of the Whychus river.  As much as I enjoyed the hike and appreciated the project they were undertaking, I was struck by the language the leaders of the plant walk used when talking about plants that they considered “bad” in relationship to their conservation efforts.  I certainly understand the importance of ecological balance based on historical misuse of land and how some plant species adapt and out-compete other plant populations, yet when one of the attendees asked about whether a particular plant was a “good” plant or a “bad” plant (mullein) it doubled my efforts to try to expose more people to the value that plants contribute to the health of our planet and ourselves.  I realize this is an uphill battle, but the slash and burn terminology and disregard of the value of plants in the name of conservation, is an issue near and dear to my heart.

Below are a few of the plants and their medicinal values we found on the hike.

IMG_3978

Hercules eriogonum

As usual there are many different common names for this particular plant.  The folks on the plant walk referred to it as Northern Desert Buckwheat, Peterson’s Field Guild-Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs,  refers to it as Umbrella plant, Moerman-Native American Medicinal Plants refers to it as Parsnipflower Buckwheat, yet all indicate its Latin name to be Hercules eriogonum from the buckwheat family.  An important lesson in the use of Latin names to make sure everyone is referring to the same plant.  Native American historical use by the Okanagan-Colville tribes indicated that the roots and stems were taken for colds.  They also used it topically as a poultice (smashing the leaves) for cuts and sores, or as a decoction (cooking) of roots and stems in a wash for infected cuts.  The Thompson tribe used it as pain medicine, the leaves were used as disinfectant, an infusion was used for ceremonial purposes for purifying the sweat house, a steam bath of the for rheumatism, infusion and decoction of the plant used in lung disease.  Key attributes:  analgesic, antirheumatic, disinfectant, dermatological, gastrointestinal aid, and pulmonary aid. *sources:  Steedman, E. V. 1928.  The Ethnobotany of the Thompson Indians of British Columbia, Smithsonian Institution.  Turner, Nancy J. et al. 1990. Thompson Ethnobotany:  Knowledge and Usage of Plants .  Victoria: Royal British Columbia Museum.

IMG_3985

Fullers Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum

Fullers Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum Originally from Europe and northern Africa, common teasel was first introduced to North America in the 1700’s and has since spread from coast to coast and is considered a noxious weed.  The genus name is derived from the word for thirst and refers to the cup-like formation made where sessile leaves merge at the stem and capture rain water.   There has been some evidence that this water provides a natural insect barrier to sap sucking aphids.  As is the case of many plants they have been used for dyeing fabric.  A blue dye obtained from the dried plant is substitute for indigo and yellow is obtained when the plant is mixed with alum.  The plant contains theine (caffeine), tannin, gallotannic acid, boheic acid, volatile oil, aqueous extract, protein wax, resin, ash and theophylline.  There is little evidence of its use by Native Americans with the exception of the Iroquois who used it as a dermatological aid, infusing the leaves in a tea as a wash for acne.  They considered the roots were poisonous.

In the past, people believed that the rainwater that collected in the bowl-like depression of teasel leaves was helpful in providing relief from irritation and swelling in the eyes.  In ancient Greece, Dioscorides thought the root of teasel possessed purifying attributes and suggested the use of a decoction prepared by simmering the roots of teasel in wine for treating warts as well as fistulas effectively. In addition to Dioscorides, several other herbalists of the ancient times also advocated the use of the roots of this herb to treat jaundice and as a diuretic to augment the flow of urine.

There has been more recent exploration of the value of Dipsacus follunum root tincture (low dose) by herbalist Matthew Wood in treating chronic inflammation of the muscles, one of the major symptoms caused by spirochetes associated from Lyme Disease.  In fact the  Journal of the American Herbalist Guild, volume 11/number 2/Autumn 2013 published a special issue on Herbal Treatment of Lyme Disease, including information on the use of teasel.  An overview of the use of teasel in the treatment of Lyme can be read at the following web site:  http://www.flaatthjelp.net/to-sma-flattbitt/teasel/

According to the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine who conducted wrote an abstract on two types of Dipsacus utilizing first a systematic literature review consulting historic and modern texts and second a semi-structured interview was conducted with three herbal practitioners skilled in teasel use. The results were analyzed using thematic analysis, a qualitative method, and the results or themes composed separately. Both forms of literature were then compared and contrasted to ascertain Dipsacus spp’s therapeutic properties.  Analysis of the interview and literature data appears to show that teasel still holds a place within the British herbalist’s dispensary and is suitable for treating chronic skin disorders and musculoskeletal inflammation and damage. With our over-reliance on importing herbs from all corners of the Earth, this nuisance plant may once again fulfill a role within our modern dispensary.

index

Rosa woodsii, Woods’s Rose

A shrub, Woods’s Rose, was also pointed out during the walk.  Wild roses are a bit hard to identify so my best attempt was Rosa woodsii.  Roses has been used historical by cultures throughout the world with all of parts of the shrub finding their way into our materia medica.  In fact it is far beyond the scope of this post to elicit all the wonderful attributes of roses on our health and psychic. In the America’s many tribes used a variety of wild rose species.  In this bioregion the Paiute tribes used a decoction of the root for diarrhea, a poultice of various parts of the plant as a burn medicine, a decoction of the inner bark of the shrub for colds, a poultice of the  mashed fungus galls for open boils, and an infusion of the leaves were taken as a spring tonic.  The Thompson tribe used the hips to help women in labor to hasten delivery and a decoction of the roots were taken by women after childbirth to tonify the uterus.  They also made a decoction of branches of rose, chokecherry and willow for diarrhea and vomiting.  Pioneer women used the hips of wild rose in jelly, pudding and syrups.  Kiva Rose has an outstanding write-up of the multiple ways that you can utilize rose in medicine and food. http://medicinewomansroots.blogspot.com/2007/05/sweet-medicine-healing-with-wild-heart.html

Herbal  Goddess Medicinals provides this information as a way to continue to educate ourselves about the medicinal use of plant.  Never use any plant unless you are 100% of its identification and  always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Pao Zhi- Ancient Techniques applied to Western Herbs

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Honey Stir Fried Licorice Root

Pao Zhi is an ancient Chinese technique of altering the tastes, energies and directions of medicinal substances by processing. This transformational alchemical approach to preparation can increase herbs therapeutic effectiveness and applicability for individualized treatment. Albeit a simplistic view, I view it is akin to cooking, in which the very nature of food, is transformed for assimilation.

What about western herbs? I have used some of the very same processes described below with Western traditional herbs including honey stir-fried elecampane root to direct its energy to digestion, dry stir fried solomon seal with a salt solution to direct its energy towards the kidneys, cooking nettles with black bean juice to enhance its ability to nourish blood, and dry stir frying rice with angelica to reinforce it action on the spleen.

An individual herb can be used in different ways depending on what part of the plant is used; where as, with the process of pao zhi one can transform the energy, flavor and action of the same part of the plant. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the preparation of herbs is an integral aspect of the therapeutic strategy. Pao Zhi is a vast subject and this article is only the tip of the iceberg. I have included some references at the end of the article for further exploration.

There are a multitude of reasons why herbs are subjected to processing including the removal of debris, reduction of toxicity, reduction of odors and flavors, to reinforce or modify energetic properties, prolong storage and most importantly, to increase assimilation. This image represents a visual overview of Pao Zhi techniques and the types of products that are produced. The following is a partial list of methods of Pao Zhi preparation and pinyin names, which are reflected in the naming of Chinese Herbs:

  • Sheng: uncooked without heat or cooking.
  • Shu: prepared with heat or cooking
  • Shui Zhi (w/ water): multiple rinsing and washing, moistening and soaking
  • Shui Fei, using water in the process of pulverizing. Used to eliminate salts, toxicity, refine minerals, and soften for cutting.
  • Huo Zhi (w/ fire): Stir-frying, calcination, roasting, baking and blast frying. Stir-frying might be done with or without the addition of various substances including honey, vinegar, rise, wheat brand, etc. that alter the energetic action of the herb.
  • Sometimes a combination all or any of the above including steaming, boiling, distilling and dipped into water after calcinated.
  • Fermentation and sprouting or germination is also used as a method of transforming herbs.
  • Many of the herbs that are toxic such as Fu Zi (aconitum carmichaeli) or Ban Xia (Rhizoma Pinelliae ternatae) involve successive transformational processes to make them safe for use.  This is a video that shows the traditional preparation of Fu Zi.

One of the most common methods of transformation is through the use of stir-frying with either one or several substances to change the energy/action of the herb. The following examples illustrates how Pao Zhi can effect flavor, actions and corresponding organs:

  • Stir-frying with rice, with its sweet flavor and neutral energy helps to eliminate dampness andSlide10 supplements the spleen and qi. Directions: a pan is preheated and rice is added and stir-fried until it starts to smell, the herbs are added, and cooked until both are brown, then the herbs are separated out. An example of this is with Dang Shen (Codonopsis).
  • Honey has a sweet flavor and cool energy but when heated it becomes warming. Directions: combine a small amount of honey and dilute with water until fairly runny. This is tossed with the herbs until they are coated. The herbs are stir-fried in a dry pan over low heat until the honey is no longer sticky. This process alters the herbs actions to reinforce the supplementation of the spleen and qi by increasing their moistening and tonification properties. Examples: Dang Shen (codonopsis), Gan Cao (licorice) and Huang Qi (astragalus).
  • Salt has a cold energy and enhances downward action directing the energetic actions of theSlide09 herbs to the kidneys, supplements yin, addresses empty fire blazing, promotes softening of nodules and stimulates diuretic action. Directions: Mix salt and water for a 2% solution or 2 grams of salt in 100 millilitres of solution. Toss the herbs with the salt solution until well coated and then stir-fried over low heat until dry. An example of this process is with Zhi Mu (Anemarrhenae) and Huang Bai (Phellodendrum), for use in yin deficiency with empty fire blazing.
  • Vinegar (rice) has a warm energy. It also has a sour and bitter flavor directing its action towards the liver. Directions: take 15 parts vinegar to 100 parts water then soak the herb thoroughly, followed up by stir-frying it over a low fire until a golden color.   Examples are Chai Hu (Bupleurum) and Qing Pi (citrus peel).
  • Wine is acidic and sweet flavored. It is also heating and helps to increase circulation or quickening of the blood in the network vessels. Directions: using 20-50 parts of wine to 100 parts of herb, the herb is tossed with the wine, and then stir-fried over low heat until yellow. Examples are Dang Gui (angelica sinensis) and Chuan Xiong (ligusticum wallachii)

An excellent example of this is to look at the different methods for preparing Di Huang (Rehmannia glutinosa, Chinese foxglove) to obtain different energies, tastes and actions.

  • Xian Di Huang, (raw fresh root) is sweet and bitter with a cold energy. It clears heat, cools the blood engenders fluids and stops thirst.
  • Di Huang Zhi, (raw fresh juice) is sweet and slightly bitter with a cold energy. It clears heat and stops bleeding.
  • Sheng Di Huang, (dry uncooked) is sweet and slightly bitter with a cool energy. It enriches yin and clears heat.
  • Chao Shen Di Huang, (dry stir-fried till scorched) is sweet and slightly bitter. It has a cool to neutral energy.   It enriches yin and nourishes the blood.
  • Sheng Di Huang Tan, (dry stir-fried till carbonized) is sweet, bitter and slightly astringent. It has a cool to neutral energy.
  • Shu Di Huang**(steaming in rice wine). It is sweet and slightly warming. It supplements yin, supplements the blood, supplements the essence, and supplements the kidneys.
  • Chao Shu Di Huang, (steaming in rice wine and stir-fried till scorched). It is sweet flavored and warm energy. It nourishes the blood, nourishes the constructive qi, and enriches yin.
  • Shu Di Huang Tan, (steaming in rice wind and stir-fried till carbonized). It is sweet flavored and slightly astringent. It is warm energetically. It supplements the blood and stops bleeding.
  • ** David Wolf and Mountain Rose Herbs prepared rehmannia is manufactured, by boiling the root in a mixture of yellow wine and black bean infusion until the liquids have been boiled away and the roots are black. The roots are then dried in the sun.

Slide15You can see that by using different processes one can change the energy of the herb from cold to warm and the flavor from sweet to astringent. By understanding the needs of the individual client, one can further amend prepared Shu Di Huang by using ginger juice (dampness), cardamom (or chen pi (citrus peel) for spleen vacuity and qi stagnation when stir frying.

The following link is a study on the chemical comparisons of dried rehmannia root and prepared rehmannia root (steamed). The report’s results show characteristic changes in the content of major monosaccharides and oligosaccharides as the dried root is converted in the steaming process of the prepared root, indicating a possible special role for fructose, stachyose and rehmaionoside in the differing therapeutic effects of dried and prepared rehmannia. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211383512001499

Further Reference:

  • Sionneau, Philippe. An Introduction to the use of Processed Chinese Medicinals. Blue Poppy Press, 1995.

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