A Custom Blend

One of the most gratifying aspects of my practice is the use of herbs to treat patients with a variety of ailments, from colds and flus, to high blood pressure, to gastrointestinal bacterial infections. The use of herbs in health care requires a skillful blending of knowledge and experience, incorporating traditional knowledge and scientific understanding. An accurately targeted herbal therapy is a wonder to behold, resulting in the elimination of symptoms combined with a restoration of well-being that is impossible to achieve with pharmaceuticals.

People typically come to me for herbal and nutritional solutions for one of two reasons: Either they can no longer handle the side effects of the medications they have been prescribed, or the pharmaceutical approach has simply failed to address their illness. However, more often than not, people will come to me with a problem and say, "fix this." They don't really care how the job gets done, whether I use chiropractic, or acupuncture, or herbal therapy; they're just tired of being sick and want to get better.

Of course, I cannot actually come out and say that a certain herb will reduce a patient's blood pressure, or eliminate the bad bacteria in their gut, because the FDA would come down on me like a ton of bricks -- despite the fact that the FDA regularly clears death-dealing drugs based on shoddy research performed by unnamed sources and given legitimacy by hiring big names to sign off as the study's "authors." And also ignoring the fact that legitimate research has demonstrated that the herb I recommend does lower blood pressure, or the herbal antibiotic I employ is effective in both in vivo and in vitro studies.

No, the FDA would have a coniption fit if I actually said that an herb is effective against a disease. So, of course, I don't say that. Nonetheless, I have used herbs for years to {cough} support the body's cardiovascular functions, or {ahem} support immune system health.

But as my knowledge and experience with herbal therapies has matured, so has my frustration with standard herbal blends. Not that the quality is suspect -- my herbal suppliers are among the most reputable manufacturers around. Nor are the herbal formulas themselves insufficient. But, in alternative medicine, one size rarely fits all. And while Bi Yan Pian might take care of support the immune system health for 70% of the people with colds and flus in my office, I also want a treatment means of supporting the immune system function for that other 30%.

That sort of goal may be impossible to reach, but it doesn't mean that I can't get closer to it. So, beginning about 6 weeks ago, I altered my inventory significantly, and added the ability to create custom-blended herbal formulae in the Center's dispensary. Virtually all of the chinese herbal remedies that I provide my patients are now developed specifically for that individual patient.

I'm finding that the custom-blended herbs are not only helping me to reach that difficult 30%, but the blends seem to be more efficacious for the other 70% whom I have begun migrating to the new herbs as their previous supplement bottles empty. At least, that's what the patients tell me.

From my point of view, I like the freedom of finally being able to create precisely the formula that I think the patient needs, rather than trying to shoehorn each patient into a predetermined category.

Economy plays a role as well. Alcohol-based herbal extracts have a high potency; thus, I can do more with less, and that means less cost to the patient.

After almost two months, the transition to custom Chinese herbs is nearly complete. The next step will be to convert my Western herbal dispensary to a primarily custom-blend format. That will be a little trickier, as dosage amounts and potencies can vary so much. But I'm hoping to acheive the same results, and rather than push 4 bottles of pills at an already-bewildered patient at their first visit, I will be able to hand them a bottle and say, "Here. Take this."

Apropos of that joke, it does seem that the more advanced my practice of alternative medicine becomes, the more I return to its historical roots. There was much wisdom of those many generations of doctors who preceded me, who examined those leaves and roots and analyzed their effects and consequences. Today, much of that wisdom has been denigrated under the boot-heel of the pharmaceutical imperative.

There was a reason that the doctors of old compounded their own remedies, ensuring that each patient got exactly what he or she needed. It was a way of making their form of medicine -- and now, mine -- as effective as possible.

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician specializing in the treatment of people with chronic disorders. He can be reached at alj@docaltmed.com or by calling 860-567-5727.