In martial arts, the student must become a good “uki.” This means you can get practiced on.
Similarly in medicine, a patient must become good at taking their Rx – be it herbs, food, lifestyle changes, or any other modalities – when it is prescribed and despite whatever pain and torment it may bring. This can sometimes be true with herbs. However, the bitterness of herbs and acquiring “herbal lips” able to withstand “Asian” palates is not the issue I see most.
No, the issue I see most is quite simple: the patient has to remember to come back in and get a check up. Herbalism is not like staking steroids or antibiotics. It is not a single course of treatment… it is a long term habit of treatments that leads to changes in body chemistry and behaviors. So it won’t do to get started on your herbs and not continue, most importantly not continue because you forgot you were on herbs.
What is important to learn as well is that your prescription will change and vary over time with you. Ideally, if you are advancing your Qi… it’ll become softer and more subtle. For example moving from Dan Zhi (modified/enhanced) Xiao Yao San to Xia Yao San (Rambling Powder) to Si Ni San (Cold fingers/toes powder) to simple mint tea. Also, when you are on herbs you should remember to write us occasionally and tell us how it is going, and send us pictures of your tongue! Odd, I know, but how else are we going to know from afar how you are doing?
Finally, you should inform us of changes in diet, nutritional supplements, and pharmaceuticals which may affect our prescription choices. If you can do these things, you’ll be a good “uki” of Herbalism, and healing will come and stay with you. Otherwise, you will not make progress with herbals, eastern or western or otherwise!
~Shifu, L.Ac., MSTOM