A Chinese Medicine Practitioner's Perspective on Western Herbs
Contributed by Rachael Myles
Rylen and I recently ventured north to Seattle for a couple of days of R&R (get it?). We took the train, which gave us lots of time to catch up on life and a little work. During the return trip, we had a conversation about herbs, as this is an area that has been near and dear to Rylen for almost three decades.
It was impossible not to get caught up in Rylen’s overall enthusiasm for the subject of herbs. I have captured a few snippets from our conversation below.
Rachael: How and when did you start studying herbs?
Rylen: In my early twenties I was interested in metaphysics and healing. I was first introduced to herbs through a teacher and my studies of the occult and magical properties and uses of gemstones, astrology and herbs. While my deep interest in Aleister Crowley, Tarot, and Astrology dimmed somewhat over the years, my fascination with herbs continued to grow and develop as I studied and became a practitioner of wholistic health.
Rachael: What is it about herbs that gets you so excited?
Rylen: The use of herbs for healing are universal and are found across traditional cultures for a multitude of uses; spiritual, medicinal, nutritional, healing, and so forth. Their use transcends boundaries across all areas. They’ve demonstrated incredible staying power.
Rachael: How do you incorporate Western Herbs into your Chinese Medicine practice?
Rylen: Two ways. One, when I use Western herbs I always consider their Chinese energetics as well as the known Western uses. This level of differentiation helps me to more accurately match the herb to the individual. The second way is exploring creating Chinese-like formulas with Western herbs. It never ceases to amaze me how elegant and powerful Chinese formulations are. The level of attention given to writing a Chinese herbal formulation is far more sophisticated than that of Western formulations. It takes into account the synergy of herbs, secondary symptoms and mitigating potential side-effects. It is always exciting to see the array of issues herbs bound together in a formula can address in a human body.
On the other hand, using locally sourced Western herbs can be equally as effective, and in some ways, using a single herb can have a more traceable level of reaction and “accountability.” If a person is taking one herb, you can see a direct correlation to their response to that one herb. If it makes them feel better, then you know this one herb helped. If it doesn’t work or they have a negative reaction then you know exactly which herb is responsible.
This is much harder to assess when using complex Chinese herbal formulas. I always approach healing the body by using the simplest things first, a single herb is a simpler approach – if it works great, if not then I am more apt to use formulations. Because of this I regularly use Western herbs in my practice, alongside Chinese formulas. It’s been a very effective tool.
Rachael: What do you say to people who naysay the use of herbs and supplements in holistic health?
Rylen: I say they are brainwashed by negative and bias press, Herbs in particular have been used historically by every culture known. Properly prescribed pharmaceuticals are killing 100,000’s of people a year. Herbs are hands down safer. The body digests and assimilates herbs as it does food. It has to do with experience. I have been practicing Chinese Medicine through Amma Therapy for almost thirty years. Herbs have been a big part of my practice. I have seen their efficacy in working with patients from the lens of wholistic health. I would definitely recommend herbs before supplements. Herbs are full of biochemical phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins, volatile essential oils and more, they are beneficial for the entire healing spectrum from serious illness to general wellbeing.
Supplements are a little different in that many are manmade and fractionated from their whole source. This can potentially lead to greater chances of side effects and toxicity.
It would be misleading and untrue to claim that herbs and supplements are completely safe and yet powerfully effective. Of course there is the potential for toxicity and side effects from both, which is why training is important. But the damage and serious side effects from both don’t come anywhere close to that of most pharmaceuticals.
Rachael: What do you hope students will get out of taking Western Herbs?
Rylen: I think for those who practice Chinese Medicine (Amma Therapy, Acupuncture) will be able to get a lot of practical information on how to apply Western herbs to their practices specifically as I teach these herbs with that in mind. For those who love and/or practice herb lore in general it is another way to learn about herbs.
PS from Rachael: I actually remember taking the Western herbs class from Rylen ten years ago back in Boise. After taking the class, I felt incredibly more confident about how and when to use a number of herbs both in my practice, for my self and my family. Ten years later and I can still make a slippery elm bolus that is so much more effective than an over the counter option!
To learn more register for Rylen’s six-week class (Tuesdays) starting August 29th!
WESTERN HERBS USED IN A CHINESE MEDICINE PRACTICE
With: Rylen Feeney Diplomate of Chinese Herbs (NCCAOM)
Dates: 08.29.17, 09.05.17, 09.19.17, 09.26.17, 10.03.17, 10.10.17
Times: 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Cost: $300.00 (discounts available!)
Eligible for 15 CEU hours