Friday, January 29, 2010

Pao Zhi Herbs

Bai Shao and Chao Bai Shao. For more pictures of pao zhi herbs, follow the #paozhi tag on twitter

Pao Zhi 炮制 refers to the preparation of Chinese medicinal herbs. All herbs are prepared in one way or another by the time they appear in your local Chinese herb pharmacy. Some are simply washed, cut in a particular way and dried. Others undergo a more intensive preparation process to reduce toxicity and enhance medicinal effect.

Ban Xia 半夏, for instance, is prepared with either lime (calcium oxide) or ginger juice for several days before it takes on the appearance we're used to seeing. Turning Sheng Di Huang 生地黄 into Shu Di Huang 熟地黄 involves steaming the cut pieces over wine for several hours until they become much darker and deeper black (if you have an I.D. test, don't fret over Sheng Di vs. Shu Di - Sheng Di usually always has a little bit of brown somewhere on it. Shu Di will be deep black all over).

Other herbs can be processed with liquid adjuvants. The most obvious example is Gan Cao 甘草 and 炙甘草 Zhi Gan Cao. Zhi Gan Cao, of course, is prepared with honey, making it much sweeter and a stronger qi tonic than regular Gan Cao (or Sheng Gan Cao 生甘草, as it's sometimes called, to distinguish it from its honeyfied cousin). Cu Chao Chai Hu 醋炒柴胡, or vinegar-fried bupleurum, is used to direct the action of the herb to the Liver channel (because vinegar is sour and sour is the flavor associated with the Wood phase) and according to Bensky enhances the ability of Chai Hu "to soothe the Liver, harmonize the blood, and stop pain." I would guess that it also warms the herb considerably (regular Chai Hu is cool to cold).

Fat Turtle Herb Company makes many of these herbs available for your use as practitioners. Below is a short summary of the major differences between the processed and unprocessed versions of some of these herbs. For more information in English take a look at Philippe Sionneau's pao zhi book, translated by the ubiquitous Bob Flaws. The end section of each herb monograph of the third edition of the Materia Medica by Bensky et al also has good information on different herb preparations. I haven't had a chance to look at it yet, but I would be surprised if Eric Brand and Nigel Wiseman's Concise Materia Medica didn't have some excellent info on pao zhi as well.

  • Bai Shao: Bitter and sour, slightly cold. Settles the Liver, downbears yang, nourishes the Liver, restrains yin.
  • Chao Bai Shao: Bitter, sour, astringent, neutral temperature. Soothes the Liver, harmonizes the Spleen, stops diarrhea.

  • Bai Zhu: Sweet, bitter, warm. Fortifies the Spleen, dries dampness, disinhibits urination, disperses swelling. Better at drying dampness.
  • Chao Bai Zhu: Sweet, bitter, warm. Fortifies the Spleen, supplements the qi. This is a better Spleen qi tonic.

  • Huang Qi: Sweet, slightly warm. Secures the exterior, stops perspiration, disinhibits urination, disperses swelling, outthrusts pus and toxins.
  • Mi Zhi Huang Qi: Sweet, slightly warm, slightly moistening. Supplements Lung qi, tends to moisten dampness, supplements vacuity.

There are many more pao zhi preparation available. Licensed acupuncturists and students at TCM colleges call 310-691-5226 or email to check if the herb you want is available.

Note: granule practitioners don't feel left out! We have many pao zhi preparations available in granule format as well.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wildcrafted Gan Cao and Dan Shen

Let's face it: plants don't naturally grow in rows. We put them there because it's easier to harvest and can maximize yield. A licorice plant sitting in a field among thousands of other licorice plants is like a lion in a zoo - it's still a lion, but does it behave like a lion would in the wild? Of course not. While it's much easier to observe animal behavior than it is to see what's going on with the chemical constituents of a plant, you can bet that a plant you pick from the wild is going to be much more robust than a plant you grow on a farm.

Wildcrafting is an intermediate step between farming and simply gathering. Standards vary from place to place, but essentially you put the plants in their natural environment and do as little to them as possible. No chemicals, no weeding, no grow lights, no animal traps. When they're ready, you harvest some and leave the rest to keep growing. Take a look at this ginseng company in Western Maryland for a good explanation of how they wildcraft their American ginseng.

Fat Turtle Herb Company currently carries wildcrafted Gan Cao and wildcrafted Dan Shen as our normal everyday inventory. No need to ask for the good stuff - it's in every order!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Story of Kam Wah Chung

We've posted about Kam Wah Chung before, but this video is much better. It's more detailed and is much better quality. Take a look and learn about Chinese medicine in 1850's Oregon!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Stress and pH

Today on the radio I heard an interview with Marcelle Pick, a nurse practitioner who has a new book out. She was talking about managing yeast overgrowth in the body. Yeast overgrowth can manifest in many different ways - skin rashes, gas, bloating, a general sense of unease. In TCM yeast corresponds to Dampness and is usually accompanied by Spleen Qi Deficiency.

She went through some excellent dietary advice, such as avoiding vinegar and sugars both added and naturally-occurring. Ms. Pick also noted that it's important to stick with a yeast-elimination diet for at least a few months to give it a chance to work.

At the very end of the interview she threw in this bonus - stress plays a huge role in yeast, because increased stress can lead to increased pH, which is a breeding ground for yeast. If you reduce your stress (by changing how you react to stressful situations), you can literally affect the chemistry of your body. How cool is that? No need for pills, or even herbs. Just take a deep breath, try some meditation, exercise - all these things are proven to reduce stress. You might enjoy one more than the other, so try them until you find something you can stick with. Then, enjoy the benefits of alchemical control over your internal body processes...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fat Turtle Herb Company: We're Just Like Google

Fat Turtle Herb Company is under cyberattack from China! Or is it?

Last night I got this email:

from: Robert Meng
date: Thu, Jan 14, 2010 at 9:24 PM
subject: Urgently-fatturtleherbs Domain names Announcement

(If you are not the person who is in charge of this, please forward to the right person/ department, this is urgent, thank you.)

Dear CEO,

We are the department of registration service in China. we have something need to confirm with you. We formally received an application on Jan.14, 2010, One company which is called " Tatief Trading Co.,LTD. " is applying to register "fatturtleherbs" as brand name and domain names as below :

After our initial checking, we found the brand name and these domain names being applied are as same as your company's, so we need to confirm with your company. If the aforesaid company is your business partner or your subsidiary company, please DO NOT reply us, we will approve the application automatically. If you have no any relationship with this company, please contact us within 7 workdays. If out of the deadline, we will approve the application submitted by " Tatief Trading Co.,LTD ." unconditionally.

Best Regards,

Robert Meng
Senior consultant

A range of thoughts and emotions went through me, in roughly this order:
1. Okay, is this spam?
2. Wait, it looks pretty real. Shit!
3. What's the difference between a copyright and a trademark?
4. Damn the Chinese!
5. Man, we're so big that someone wants to cybersquat on some associated domain names. Oh yeah....

I looked up Tatief Trading Co. Nothing. I looked up FoWa, the company where the email originated from - it seems to be a domain-registration company based in Shanghai. I noticed that the email from Robert Meng came from a .com address, whereas FoWa has a .org address. So I sent an email to the general inquiries desk at FoWa, rather than replying to Robert (what if, by replying, I install some sort of weird virus or tracking software on my computer?). Of course I told them that we are NOT affiliated in any way with the aforementioned company.

After about a half hour, I calmed down. Who cares if someone takes those domain names in Taiwan and China? We're not planning on opening up operations overseas. Pharmacy is a very local business - patients need herbs, now. And I'm not about to pay to reserve "fatturtleherbs.whatever" for every single country, because there are a zillion of them.

So, in closing, remember that is the only legitimate web address for Fat Turtle Herb Company. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eating GMO Corn Proven To Be Hazardous To Your Health

A new study published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences showed that three different varieties of genetically modified corn from Monsanto are toxic to the liver and kidneys.

The difference between their study and the ones conducted by Monsanto? Monsanto manipulated the results of their experiment by using statistical analyses that would favor the safety of their product, as opposed to utilizing all tools available to them to fully analyze the data to determine whether or not there were signs of toxicity.

Another difference? Any sign of toxicity should have elicited a need to continue collecting data past the 90 days Monsanto had designated for the length of their study, since 90 days is no where near long enough to determine long-term effects and chronic illness. The authors of this recently published paper, on the other hand, are extending their experiment for up to two years in light of their results.

Makes me wanna smash things.

The thing that gets me is that these products have been deemed safe for human consumption based on the powerful truth that is science. However, the research itself is up for sale, whereby some laboratories have been paid to produce specific data and, conversely, paid to stop experiments when the data conflicts with what the agropharma companies want to see. It makes me angry.

Anyway, I'm done with my ranting. Just don't eat any GMO foods if you can help it, ok?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Small Changes Lead to Big Changes in Preventing Diabetes

Tim and Paul Daly, identical twins. One has diabetes, one does not.

Here's an inspirational story about beating diabetes. Tim and Paul Daly are identical twins who were inseparable up through young adulthood - they even joined the Army together. Later they took different paths, and while Tim kept playing basketball every week with friends on Tuesday night, his brother didn't do any exercise at all.

In 1996 Paul was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. His identical twin Tim was pre-diabetic. Then...

Tim volunteered to take part in a huge national research study aimed at determining exactly what it takes to prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

Like him, all of the 3,234 volunteers in the study were at high risk of developing the disease. The volunteers were broken down into three groups.

Tim was randomly assigned to the "lifestyle intervention" group. He received intensive counseling from a dietitian and motivational coach who helped him develop a plan to eat less and exercise more.

A second group of participants took a diabetes medicine called Metformin twice a day. These volunteers received information about diet and exercise, but they didn't get motivational counseling. A third group received placebo pills instead of Metformin.

Researchers wanted to know which intervention would work best to prevent diabetes and all of the complications that can develop as a result: loss of vision, kidney failure, amputations and a substantial increase in risk of heart disease and stroke.

As it turns out, the study found lifestyle changes to be twice as affective as the medicine.

Twice as effective!! Keep that in mind when you read the possible side effects of Metformin:

Metformin may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe, do not go away, go away and come back, or do not begin for some time after you begin taking metformin:
  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • stomach pain
  • gas
  • constipation
  • unpleasant metallic taste in mouth
  • heartburn
  • headache
  • sneezing
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • flushing of the skin
  • nail changes
  • muscle pain

Some side effects can be serious. The following symptoms are uncommon, but if you experience any of them or those listed in the IMPORTANT WARNING section, call your doctor immediately:
  • chest pain
  • rash

Some female laboratory animals given high doses of metformin developed non-cancerous polyps (abnormal growths of tissue) in the uterus (womb). It is not known if metformin increases the risk of polyps in humans. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking this medication.

Metformin may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

Just more evidence that exercise is good for nearly everything. The audio version of this story, available for free on the NPR website, has more detail than the printed version.

Preventing Diabetes: Small Changes Have Big Payoff by Allison Aubrey
Diabetes Prevention Program Study Repository
Medline Plus: Metformin