Archive for tag: gallbladder

How to Use Chinese Herbs

Think it's too difficult for you? I think you're wrong. File this post away under the "if I can do it, you can do it" series. Unfortunately, this practical how-to post is the result of someone actually needing to use raw Chinese herbs to feel better--and that someone is me.

Remember that whole "damp-heat in the gall bladder" thing from a couple of weeks ago? Yep, me too. Turns out, I still have that going on. Yes, I self-diagnosed and self-treated in near silence. Did I say I was good at this? I'm sorry. No. I'm a student. I know close to nothing. In my defense, upon an actual visit to the NUHS AOM clinic to exercise my student-access-to-free-care privilege, I learned that I nailed my diagnosis and was only one off in my acupoints selection plan.

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Ingredients for Treatment

I was indeed on my way towards getting back to normal, but not quite there yet. No. What I needed was a boost -- a big powerful boost in the health direction. I needed herbs from Dr. Cai. After showing my tongue and displaying my pulsating wrists to the masses of interns, I left the clinic with my trusty sack of Chinese herbs. At Dr. Cai's request, I also needed to add in a slice of fresh ginger and three red dates with each batch, which I happened to have on hand.

Many people would peer into this bag thinking, "What the heck do I do with this pile of roots, bark, mushrooms, berries, and other unidentifiables? Technically, there could be geckos and cicada shells in there...shudder. In fact I refuse to look up everything in the formula shown on my receipt just in case therearegeckos and cicada shells in there.... So, here it is--your pictorial step-by-step guide to using raw Chinese herbs in a decoction. This is the instruction sheet that goes home with the patient.

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Instructions for Cooking Chinese Herbal Formula

What this is trying to say is dump one batch of the herbs into a pot, soak it, bring it to a boil, then simmer to reduce the liquid to a drinkable amount. Now, you'll want to find the perfect balance between "disgusting taste" and "effective dose," and that isnoteasy. You know you want to concentrate the liquid for potency, but you also know that you're increasing the taste by the same stroke.

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Before Cooking and After Cooking

Most herbal decoctions do not taste good. Face it. Most of us are damp. We eat dairy and fried foods (mmmm...fried dairy), and we end up with damp-heat. Thus, we need bitter herbs much of the time. Who's the lucky fella who gets a simple Spleen Qi deficiency diagnosis that results in a sweet licorice and berries formula to take home? Not this guy!

So, I soak my bitter herbs, I boil my bitter herbs, I simmer my bitter herbs. I drink my powerful decoction, and I go to sleep to let my body do its thing. I wake up a little better, and I know I have five more nights of chugging down my "bedtime tea" before my tongue can register just how gross it really tastes.

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"Bedtime Tea"

I could avoid much of the "hard work" in this process by requesting my herbs in granule form (like a dusty powder that you stir in warm water to dissolve). But then I'd lose a little potency. I could avoid all the work and the taste by requesting a patent pill formula, but then I'd lose even more potency. No thanks, weak sauce. I need the most full-strength option known to man -- ancient Chinese man, specifically. I need to decoct my raw herbs!

Damp-Heat in the Gall Bladder and Liver Blood Stasis

Of course this just happened. It's springtime. Spring correlates with the Liver and its interior-exterior partner in crime -- the Gall Bladder. I'm unfortunately already prone to the ridiculously difficult to eradicate pathogen known in TCM as "Damp-Heat." My protective wei qi was still struggling to recover from the exotic array of assailants it managed to fend off in Central America last month. "Oh, Juli, did you get Dengue Fever again this year?" "Well, not that I know of..."

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The pathogenic stars had aligned. The signs and symptoms appeared over the course of 2-3 days. First, it was just a seemingly innocent wiry Liver pulse. OK, OK, it's springtime; I'm irritable and I know it. No big deal. A quick tongue check in the mirror confirmed that yes, of course, I'm teeming with damp heat in the lower jiao. What would I be without my characteristic tongue coat? (A healthier person, for one!)

I go about my day only to realize that by afternoon I'm starting to feel weird. Really weird. There's no valid excuse for the sudden and growing nausea, accompanied by an intermittent, unilateral shooting headache that jumped around as if someone was sprinkling headache pop rocks all over my temples, vertex, forehead, OWW! I usually don't get headaches, and I'm not usually nauseous. I wanted to vomit and get further down the road towards recovery. Then the blurry vision started in, and I noticed I'd been ignoring a hypochondrial pain all day. And, oh MAN, what is that strong bitter taste in the back of my mouth? Did I just crack a filling and let the poison ooze out? Gross. I'm getting dizzy and don't feel like lifting the phone to call the dentist.

2014-05-30_tongueAaaaaand it finally dawns on me. It's all over me, from head to toe. I have Damp-Heat in the Gall Bladder. As I run to the mirror for a tongue progress report, I get all the confirmation I could ever dream of. There's the Damp-Heat coating, yep, and now it's grown in size and had two long greasy arms on display down the sides of my tongue. But, oh no, what…?! You have to be kidding me. Are thosepurple spotsall over the sides of my tongue, too? I mentally scanned the other symptoms I'd noticed over the week, and realized it was true. I also had Liver Blood Stasis. Great. Hey, it's not like I had anything else planned for the next few days.

Why do I always get the stubborn pathogenic scenarios? At my first visit with a doctor of oriental medicine, she struggled a bit with my diagnosis. Was it yang deficiency? Or, was it yin deficiency? Maybe it's both. She said I had Spleen deficiency and Kidney deficiency. Don't forget the Liver Qi Stagnation! Seriously? I know this is a first-time appointment, but isn't that almost too thorough?

So, here's when TCM swoops in and saves my holiday weekend. After doing the dangerous deed of self-diagnosing (never recommended) on Thursday afternoon, I started in on an individualized acupuncture treatment plan. Then I repeated it the next day, too. What points did I use? Don't try this at home, but I did: LV3, GB43, GB41, GB40, GB34, SP9, LI4, and LI11. Is that right? Sure, in my limited opinion. Of course, there were more difficult-to-reach points that I should have added in, but hey, I'm needling myself here! And judging by the fact that I felt almost normal again by Friday afternoon, I'm calling it awesome. Sure, I also made some dietary changes to balance the Damp Heat and give my overloaded Liver and Gall Bladder a rest from the constant inundation of delicious fatty foods.

Yes, whole-fat dairy and meat is good for me, generally speaking, but when my Liver boss and Gall Bladder assistant are under siege, I have to abstain from the delights of my life. That's right -- no buttery popcorn this week. Instead, I emphasized the cooling foods like celery and watermelon, some beverages like green tea, and I focused on eating really light for a couple of days. That went surprisingly well, considering I had completely lost my appetite from the Damp-Heat in the Gall Bladder thing. Western natural medicine has noticeably compatible suggestions for altering your diet during the spring to help cleanse and support the Liver and Gall Bladder. They emphasize a diet of light, sprouty and shooty foods; must avoid those heavy, greasy foods for a while!

Gall Bladder Springtime Renewal

 

   

EAT
Pears
Parsnips
Seaweeds
Lemons
Limes

 

 

AVOID
Heavy Meats
Dairy
Eggs
Nuts
Seeds

 

   

By Saturday, the greasy coated arms of the Damp-Heat beast that lives on the back of my tongue had receded, as did almost all other symptoms. I beat you, Springtime. You got me good -- but this time I was prepared to fight back. Sorry, Spring -- maybe next year!