I have always felt that the mark of a true master is someone who understands what they are doing well enough to deviate from the norm and do something better in and unconventional way. Classic herbal medicine is full of ways to prescribe and use herbs based on tried and true methods. Sometimes those methods do not make sense in our modern age. Take for example the classic "tang" or herbal soup. This is the long process of cooking herbal materials to create a herbal soup for the patient to drink over the course of the day. Usually these recipes take one to two hours of cooking time with multiple steps, and usually stink up the house. In a world where I have a hard time getting patients to cook breakfast in the morning, this type of situation is just not going to work.
I feel the true herbalist should not be bound by the process, but understand why it was done that way, and find better ways that work. As a result I often find myself looking for tools that will do the job and yet be easy for my patients. For instance; many herbal formulas for stomach issues are based on ginger or hawthorn berry. Both of these herbs can be found in a candy form. Candy ginger is not as strong as a properly prepared formula, however patients can get greater relief because they can carry the medicine with them and they like to use it. The candies are also far cheaper than getting ginger or hawthorn berry in pill form. Another product of our modern age are the extreme candies. I believe the the herbalists of history would have loved to have these products. The super strong mints, and super sour candies, pack far more punch than any decoction I could get a patient to cook up in their kitchen.
Another interesting situation is a herb called yi yi ren (pronounced yee ren) It is the coix ("koy") seed and is used for draining "damp" out of the body. It is very useful with patients with cancer. The problem is that you have to soak the seeds over night and then cook them for two hours before they are edible. Cancer patients don't have the time or energy to do this. A Herbal Cancer specialist I trained under decided to have a local bakery grind the seeds into flour and bake it into cookies. He now markets these cookies and has many years of documented success using these with patients. This all follows the advice of the great poet and philosopher Matsuo Basho who said, "Seek not to follow in the footsteps of men of old; seek what they sought."
— David Bock
This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"
David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine
Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066