Whatever your opinion about the use of Chinese herbs to treat medical problems, and we must admit that we have little experience with these substances, this story grabbed our attention. A Chinese herbal center opened recently at the Cleveland Clinic. The clinic, which is part of the hospital's Center of Integrative Medicine, has one herbalist who sees patients on Thursdays. Patients must be referred by a doctor who will monitor them to ensure that there are no complications.The clinic is intended to fill a void for patients who are struggling with chronic care problems.
We applaud the Cleveland Clinic for being one of the first important medical facilities to work with these herbs. The problem for many of us who might try herbs on selected patients is that there is little scientific research outside of Asia on the use of these substances in medicine. This lack of information poses a problem for many physicians who might otherwise be interested in prescribing herbs for certain conditions. In an attempt to fill this void the National Institute of Health is currently funding research looking at the fundamental biological mechanisms of some herbal products.
At the Cleveland Clinic's herbal center new patients are given a one hour consultation that includes a battery of questions, a physical examination of the tongue and a traditional Chinese method for pulse taking. They are also asked to sign a waiver acknowledging that "herbal supplements are not a substitute for a medical diagnosis."
On one day at the clinic patients were seen who had problems ranging from chronic pain to anxiety, digestive issues and multiple sclerosis. Infertility, menstrual disorders and PMS are commonly treated with herbs. The jury is still out on the value of the Chinese herbs, but at the Cleveland Clinic the results are being critically evaluated. We should see some significant conclusions within a year or two, and we will all benefit from this information.