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Make alternative healing become mainstream, discussion part 2

In the last post I posted an article written by a few wise medical authorities called "Alternative Healing is mainstream". To save our country in long term, or even in the short-term, I do hope President Obama will put some efforts on promoting alternative healing methods, while he's still fighting for healthcare of all public against the medical companies. Again, the huge medical expense can be reduced by just switching healing methods, especially the huge expense paying the medical professionals who take care of the chronic disease patients. A lot of studies already prove that traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, acupressure and Qi Gong can relieve those chronic pain. As Healthy Check being much more cost effective compared to the expensive medical care in America, President Obama should really find out a way to intergrate both Chinese and American medical system so that we can make medical insurance more affordable. Honestly, if more resources can be put on alternative healing research including Healthy Check and natural ways of healing from other countries, it's going to change the health of western world from the basis and save the medical budgets for at least 80%. We already the average life span of Asians are longer than Americans and Europeans. The longevity is not based on the cutting edge medical technology and equipments, it's based on the natural healing and health protection. Of course, we know Western medicine has their incomparable value, especially in the surgery areas. However, there's an old saying that said, "Prevention is always better than cure." And alternative healing is definitely great in terms of preventive medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine especially recommends, "Cure before the disease." It means not just to have a regular physical check, but cure yourself regularly with decoctions, diet, exercise, acupressure, Qi Gong etc. It's just a matter of whether Americans can believe these or not.

Health insurance policy for retired seniors now is ridiculous. It's like you either a very poor senior with no properties, no income and nothing to get healthcare, or you retire rich that you don't ever have to worry about your healthcare. For most people in the middle class, who own something but getting old, the health insurance is so ridiculously hard to afford. If this direction keeps going wrong like that and the medical companies keep making profits for investors without thinking what medicines are really for, someday, or even now, America will be so screwed.


Preparation of Chinese herbal medicines – medicinal wine

Last post I talked about preparation of decoction. Another form of medicine are called tonic tinctures, or medicinal wine ("Yao Jiu" in mandarin). Occasionally you'll see them on display in Chinese herb shops held in bottles or big jars full of herbs immersed in a dark liquid. The ancient practice of aging herbs in alcohol is the simplest and probably the oldest method known for making medicines. In the preparation, herbs are immersed in an alcohol solution allowing the herbal properties to be drawn out by the alcohol. The wine itself is believed to possess nourishing, blood-invigoration properties that enhance the therapeutic effects of the herbs inside.

Alcohol is the second most popular solvent to use in herbal preparation other than water. There are other solvents such as milk, vinegar and even infant's urine are commonly used (I know, don't "yuck" me), and vinegar is more common than the others, probably rank after alcohol.

When medicinal wine is prepared for internal consumption, sweet rice wine, fine brandy or vodka are the best choices. For external use to prepare liniments, ethanol or rectified turpentine is used.

Making medicinal wine isn't rocket science. Other than the quality of the ingredients, the most important thing is the environment condition. The best would be like most conditions found in commercial wine cellars, which is dark, cool, dry and neutral.

A medicinal wine is made by adding 1.5 to 2.5 ounces of fresh herbs to about a liter of alcohol. Honey can be added to improve taste, especially when vodka is used. For internal consumption, the alcohol used should be no more than 40% in the liquor.

Instruction of preparing a medicinal wine:

1. Uncap a bottle of alcohol and pour some off so there is enough room for the herbs; or use a jar if you like to have more produced;

2. Immerse the herbs into the alcohol and recap the bottle;

3. Store it in a dry, cool and dark place for at least 60 to 90 days.

4. Gently shake the bottle once a week.

When the aging process is done, leave the herbs in the bottle until the wine is all consumed. The longer the wine is aged, the more potent it will become. It's pretty usual a medicinal wine is aged for more than a year. Some herb shops sell these wines that are over 10 years old and these are very valuable wines because of the value of time.

Once the wine has aged well enough, a standard dose should be one ounce of wine at room temperature 3 times daily. (Morning, afternoon and evening) You may dilute the wine in 4oz of tepid water or just drink it straight up.

Tonics, on the other hand, are mostly for seniors. These tonic formulas were developed centuries ago and benefits proven by modern Chinese medicines. Tonics or tonic tinctures are usually not for healing, they're for consumption everyday to maintain good health, nourish the blood and promote longevity.

1. Tonics require uninterrupted use over a period of time to show the benefits, just like bodybuilding;

2. Herbal tonics should be taken after meals;

3. Herbal tonics should never be taken when you're starting a cold or a flu, it's going to make the cold and flu worse. (driving these sickness deeper into your body)

There are also herbal wine sold in retail store. You can find them in most Asian/Chinese supermarket, and Chinese herb/drug store. These are made by factory with a formula that work for years and get mass produced. Be cautious on the directions though, many medicinal wines are not suitable for particular people like ones that are pregnant or with certain diseases.

And yeah, there ARE snake wines prepared with live Cobra in Asian culture, especially Vietnamese. It is said that it can heal everything and can last for as long as 500 years. I found a scary picture (actually more than one from different sites) in a blog that talks about how Vietnamese herbalist prepare a snake wine. Visit here if you're interested and here to see more. I even found lizard wine, scorpion wine and many unbelievable medicinal wines in different Asian cultures in my research as well. But just remember, most medicinal wines are made of plants.

(sources: Chinese Herbal Medicine made easy by Thomas Richard Joiner, Streetwise Guide: Chinese Herbal Medicine by Wong Kang Ying and Martha Dahle)


Forms of Chinese herbal medicines

I sort of talked about herbs, foods, over the counter, tonic tinctures few days ago. Today I'll continue to talk more about these different forms as an introduction of the coming few detail posts about these forms of Chinese herbal medicines. Each form has its own advantages. Take the form that match our particular needs and use the form most appropriate to the urgency of the situation. Also consider the time of preparation required for cooking and curing the herbs.

1. Raw form - decoction - herbs made into tea

Usually because decocted raw herbal formulas are normally taken as it is. Most of the time it's going to challenge your tolerance of unpleasant taste. Mostly are bitter in taste, while there are also some exceptions. However, this form is more potent and that usually gives quicker cure than patent formulas.

2. Raw form - tonic tinctures - herbs made into medicinal wine

Like decoction, making herbs into alcohol solution (medicinal wine) produces a potion that is more potent and provides quicker cure. Although the preparation is quite easy and you can make a big bottle at one time for longer consumption. Most these wines takes 60-90 days to make. On the other hand, medicinal wine tastes better than decoction because normally it's sweetened by honey or crystallized rock sugar.

3. Patent form - over the counter -  in pill form, salves, syrup, herbal oils, tablets and ointments

Patent formulas are usually over the counter medicines or premixed packets, or in pill, syrup, tablets form. Taste doesn't seem to matter in this case. And it's the most convenient way to take herbal medicine. However, as I mentioned in that last article, the function of these medicines are quiet broad and not tailor-made for individuals.

One thing worth mentioning about the ingredients of herbal formulas is that we mentioned in the last article that there are some animal parts involved like tiger bone or deer antler in certain exotic prescriptions. However, since it raised both ethical and legal issues, now they've already found herb replacements for those animal ingredients. There are less animal getting killed or injured for that reason now - in fact there aren't many animals left for herbal medicinal use after all the widespread killings these years. Now a lot of these animals are protected from further killings. Of course, the "under the counter" trade in Chinese herb shop still happens.

Another thing I want to clarify is that just because a patent formula or a name of a prescription has the word "tiger" doesn't mean it contains tiger parts. Most of the time these names are not literal. For example, "tiger" just signifies power and strength to Chinese people, kind of like the meaning of dragon, which doesn't even exist.

(sources: Chinese Herbal Medicine made easy by Thomas Richard Joiner.)