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Using the Six Tastes of Herbs to Determine a Formula - Page 1

The Western herbal and medical traditions have placed a heavy emphasis on understanding the physiological actions of drugs and herbs and their effect on the body. While this information is useful, it leaves the herbalist with many gaps in our knowledge. Most herbalists are not chemists nor are they well trained in the nomenclature and ways of the medical sciences. Their herbal ways and diagnostic tools are valid but come from a different type of science and art of healing.

If we are not fully trained in Western medicine and we try to utilize the Western paradigm for evaluating a person's condition, then we will be guessing, for the most part, about their hormone levels, blood chemistry, and other micro-technology type information which is used in the modern medical scene. Tests may be done but can be very expensive and many times lab results show "no abnormalities" yet the client doesn't feel well. Often times when I look at a client's test results which they may bring to the session, I cannot read them due to the abbreviations and terms that I am not familiar with.

There are other problems that we can run into, also. If a person is diagnosed with a condition from the Western doctor, the same medication is given regardless of the different constitutional proclivities of the individual. For example, a person who has ulcers and is thin, dry, elderly, and constitutionally cold will need a different formula and protocol than someone who has ulcers but has a red, flushed face and is large, hot, and toxic. Basing an herbal formula on the "condition only " is short sighted and does not address the deeper causes.

Here are some items that need to be considered when determining the use of a certain herb:

  1. Proper ID of plant; Parts used; Herbal Properties - i.e. Carminative, nervine etc.
  2. Preparation method that is most effective for the client and taking into consideration what form they are willing to take.
  3. Dosage / depending on the persons age, condition
  4. Toxicity ( if any) and side effects
  5. Taste and thermal quality of plant ( six tastes and hot/cold qualities)

Things to consider about a client:
  1. Compare the strength of the disease with the strength of the client
  2. Consider the cause
  3. See what pattern is presenting itself ( for example; using of Doshas - vata, pitta, kapha in Ayurveda paradigm; pattern/ syndrome qualities in TCM)
  4. See if the waste material of the body are out of balance (sweat, urine feces)
  5. Look at the climate both internally and externally
  6. Look at "time" in all its aspects: time of the year; season of a person's life; time of day;
  7. stage of digestion.
  8. Observation of the clients mental/emotional state, which is most important

When people go to a health food store they usually ask, "do you have an herb for arthritis." The practitioner needs to go beyond herb/ symptom base. The statement about "arthritis" has many avenues that need to be explored before an herb is given. With this in mind, we have to look at the totality of the symptoms and physically observable signs ( such as behavior, posture, gait, voice, skin, complexion, voice, body structure, etc.). Then we must put it all together and consider all of it as a "pattern." This procedure will maximize our ability to eliminate herbs that may result in side effects and of choosing herbs most likely to be appropriate for the total person. The person and the symptoms are not exclusive of one another. The person and their "condition" are all intertwined. We cannot "fight" a disease but we can help to bring a greater balance to the whole so that inner "terrain" is no longer accommodating to the imbalance.

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