Yesterday I taught the Vitalist Chinese Medicine class at the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism, as I have for the third year in a row. I just have to say how much I Love teaching about qi, the vital life force energy that encompasses all of life; transcending time and space; and taking herbs that help you propel your life forward. I mean how cool is it that I get to talk like that. And have people take me seriously! Even after I have them stick out their tongues at each other!
I love that so many people, including herbalists, are getting excited about Chinese medicine. I have heard more and more Western herbalists dappling with the concepts of Chinese medicine. And I think that’s awesome. I also find it concerning, because although there is a vague grasp of the theories, there is a deficit in understanding how to correctly diagnose the patterns that are causing the imbalances within the body. Giving or recommending an herb without the correct diagnosis can at best, kinda work, and at worst, exacerbate a condition instead of improving it.
I have clients come to me all the time telling me that they were given an herb or formula that either didn’t work or made their symptoms worse. It is usually because of two reasons:
- The client wasn’t compliant with the timing and doses given OR
- It was the wrong herb or formula based on their constitution and the root of the problem.
Chinese medicine shines in the ability to accurately diagnose patterns and get to the root of the disease. A lot Western herbal practitioners did not learn diagnostic skills, and therefore treat symptoms instead of addressing the cause of the disease. I noticed I lacked the ability to diagnose these patterns until I went to Chinese medicine school and spent years learning the nuances of the medicine.
Many Western herbal teachers are now teaching how to properly diagnose patterns that manifest in the body, but the information is slow to catch up with many herbalists. Most herbs are completely safe so not having the correct herb for someone usually does no harm. What it does do is perpetuate the thought that herbs don’t work. And we know that is not true! If you are an herbalist that works clinically, I urge you to please find a teacher that will guide you in the art and science of pattern diagnosis. If you want to find a reputable herb school or a registered herbalist to work with, check out The American Herbalists Guild directory (you’ll find me there!).
You can also check out the first season of my podcast, The Herb Walk with Jessica Baker, where I interview some of my favorite herbalists!
For the love of plants,
when energy flows, wellness grows