Steeped in the Chinese medical tradition as I am, I have become more and more in awe over the years, as to just how elegantly it treats illness and serves to restore whole-system health. Within a Chinese herbal formula will be a multi-layered medicine that is capable of addressing a wide range of seemingly contradictory actions. For instance, a woman suffering with gynaecological issues, such as menstrual cycle pain, irregularities and PMS or who has PCOS, endometriosis or fertility challenges, will likely have a complex pathology that includes varying degrees of Blood Deficiency, Blood Stagnation, Internal Damp or Internal Cold in the uterus. Her Liver and Spleen organ systems (which includes a lot more than just the organ in question itself) may show signs of stagnation or deficiency leading to disruption in the production and distribution of both Blood and Qi (pronounced Chee and simply put, describes Vital Force). Furthermore, there will be knock-on effects from all this overtime, impacting other organ systems and her endocrine balance as the congestion and stagnation generates an element of Internal Heat. If this begins to travel along the Liver channel (otherwise known as a meridian), it will carry this Heat to the eyes (creating sore, dry eyes, styes or conjunctivitis) or to the head, leading to headaches or migraines. Or this same Heat may transfer instead to the digestive organs leading to acid reflux, stomach ulcers or IBS for instance. Heat in the Liver will cause irritability, low mood, PMS, intolerance or mild depression. Equally, this Heat may disrupt the circadian rhythm and lead to poor sleep quality or insomnia. Alternatively, the issue may progress more towards Spleen or Stomach pathology, resulting in a diminished appetite, nausea or loose stools, most particularly leading up to menstruation. Should Heat begin to travel along Stomach channel, acne or skin eruptions may occur.
However, following an in-depth consultation that takes a whole-system view, a well-constructed Chinese herbal formula is designed to address the multifaceted nature of illness. For instance, if we consider our woman described above, her formula and treatment strategy will need to contain some herbal medicinals that help to build Blood volume and velocity while other herbs are attending to breaking down accumulations of Blood Stasis (stagnation) that is contributing to her menstrual pain, fibroids, cysts, PCOS or endometriosis. In addition, she will need medicinals that discharge Internal Damp and escort it out of the body via the urine and stool in order to reduce the burden of this Damp on the internal organs, enabling those organs to work more efficiently. She may have a Cold uterus that needs strongly warming herbs that have a specific affinity with the organ channels that enter the uterus in order to thaw out the Internal Cold that afflicts so many women, compromising their fertility (hence why hot water bottles can provide temporary relief from menstrual cramps). Meanwhile, we must not neglect the Internal Heat that has developed from the stagnation so more herbs will be needed, that envoy specifically to the Liver, in order to cool and harmonise the Liver. She will quickly feel the effects of this in terms of stablising her mood, reducing acne or spots and de-escalating headaches or acid reflux. Furthermore, if she has an irregular cycle, she may need one formula that works with the dynamics of her follicular phase (Day 1-14 of a typical menstrual cycle) and oestrogen production, switching to a second formula for her luteal phase (typically Day 15-28) to promote her progesterone, thereby addressing the causes of her cycle irregularity. In essence, the architecture of a Chinese herbal formula can be constructed to both nourish Blood and move Blood, to both cool certain organs or areas of inflammation whilst warming and stoking other organs of aspects of our physiology. It can work on the physical dimension of a person’s health, and at the same time, support the emotional consequence of these pathologies, as each organ system gives rise to its own emotional patterns. And it can address multiple organs and physiological processes simultaneously. So, whether the patient is grappling with digestive problems, mental health challenges, pain and orthopaedic conditions, or autoimmune diseases to name but a few, these complex pathologies can be tackled with an intelligently nuanced medicine that is designed to work with each patient’s unique symptom presentation. In this way, we enable the medicine to fit the person, not the person to fit the medicine.
Consultations and treatment with Freya Sherlock can be booked online at www.freyasherlock.com or by phone on 086-1273148.