One recent Wednesday afternoon I met with Sally Robinson, LAC at her acupuncture clinic, White Pine Acupuncture, to talk about herbs. I was fortunate to meet Sally about 8 years ago to network within the healthcare community in Asheville and have both gone to her as a client and referred many patients to her. So when I wanted to know more about herbs she was the first person I thought to speak to. I arrived at her clinic on Charlotte Street and Sally welcomed me in with her usual warm soothing manner.
Just for a little more background Sally trained at a Five Branches School in Santa Cruz where knowledge of acupuncture and herbs are weighed equally. The Five Branches discipline differs from Traditional Chinese Medicine and teaches that patients get better faster when herbs and acupuncture are used in tandem. Sally is certified nationally and by the state of California in herbal medicine as well as acupuncture which is one of the few states that requires extensive knowledge of Chinese herbs. Sally is a generalist in that she treats all patients and conditions but has a special interest in women’s health. She sources her herbs from a local grower, Dana Nagle, with Big Spring Herbs in Asheville and K’an herbs out of Santa Cruz and uses a local distributor, Golden Needle.
Sally uses tablets, tinctures – she makes some of these herself, and essential oils in synergistic combinations to individualize formulas for the specific complaint and for each individual. She follows Chinese medicine specifications to dry, boil, bake, and soak the herbs in honey depending on the planned use.
We talked about some of the herb combinations she utilizes for common complaints. Xiao Yao San also known as free and easy wanderer is one of the most commonly used Chinese herbs that is very useful for both the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS. For prenatal support she uses red raspberry leaf and stinging nettles because of increased blood flow thought to better nourish a developing fetus. And for morning sickness Sally prefers fresh ginger (whose actions differ significantly from dried ginger) and spearmint. Ginger can also be used for detoxification as well as dandelion. Sally is very holistic in her approach so for insomnia she takes time to find out what stressors are occurring in her patients’ lives and may suggest mindfulness meditation or other stress reduction techniques along with Valerian and/or Biota seed. Proper nutrition and exercise are also encouraged along with forms of meditation to sustain the right balance in the body to prevent disease. I stumbled upon Red Reishi, an herbal mushroom, while hiking in May in Pisgah National Forest near Davidson Campground. Sally uses Red Reishi or Ling Zhi for its anti-cancer and immune enhancing properties. In Chinese medicine Reishi is an important adaptogenic herb that helps the body to maintain balance in order to prevent disease and to restore balance when one is sick.
Much of the preparations for libido are geared towards erectile dysfunction. In part because Yang energy is embodied by animals and Yin is represented within plants, deer antler combinations (Sally assured me that no animals are harmed to make the formulas) are used for ED. Cinnamon, basil, and ginger are useful for men and women because they are considered warming plants. Patients with the complaint of low libido are also advised to avoid iced drinks and to choose warm over cold foods.
I hope to meet with Dana Nagle, the owner of Big Spring Herbs, and will talk more about the process of growing some of these herbs. Also I spoke with a Western herbalist in the community and will fill people in with regards to what I learned about some of the special aspects of treating patients from this medicinal perspective.