For those who have only been treated by Western-trained doctors, a trip to the Chinese Herbal Therapy Clinic at Cleveland Clinic's Center for Integrative Medicine can be a welcome addition to health care.
Chinese herbal therapy is a complement to Western medicine, not a replacement for it, especially when it comes to medical emergencies and serious illnesses, says Dr. Daniel Neides, the institute's medical director.
But it boasts an impressive success rate in treating chronic pain, migraines, premenstrual syndrome, endometriosis, menopausal symptoms, infertility, gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, and, yes, colds and flu.
Located at the hospital's Wellness Institute in Lyndhurst, an herbalist records a detailed history of the patient's ailment, then takes a pulse in both wrists and examines the tongue. "We do not use Western medical diagnoses," says licensed Chinese herbalist Galina V. Roofener. "We do make our own diagnoses."
Neides explains the rate and rhythm of the pulse reveals whether the patient's metabolism is fast or slow, a clue to how the body will respond to various treatments. The tongue's appearance can indicate nutrient deficiencies, a yeast overgrowth, even immune status and blood flow. They also signal the presence of heat and cold, an important concept in Chinese herbal therapy.
"If the patient has a red tongue and a fast pulse, these are signs of heat," Roofener says. "If the patient has a pale tongue and a slow pulse, these are signs of cold or blood deficiency."
The herbalist then prescribes an herbal formula — a major part of the traditional Chinese medicine practiced for more than 2,000 years — based on that information alone.
"We [as Western physicians] are very specific as far as, 'Here's the diagnosis and here's the targeted treatment for that specific organ system,' " Neides says. "With traditional Chinese medicine, they really do look at how the entire body is impacted by a symptom or a disease. It's really more of a holistic approach."