March 9, 2000

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - If you want an opinion on the use of traditional oriental herbal remedies to treat what ails you, just ask Lloyd Wright, Licensed Acupuncturist, trained herbalist and Dean of RainStar University's College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. With the introduction of raw herbs to RainStar University's on-campus medicinary on March 2, Dean Wright and RainStar University are making a combined effort to educate future Traditional Oriental Medicine practitioners and herb users about the benefits and misconceptions of herb use.

While the rise in the use of herbs to combat illness is a signal that Americans are opening their minds to the benefits of Traditional Oriental Medicine, Dean Wright asserts that confusing marketing practices and the misconception that herbs can't hurt you can make for some potentially dangerous situations. "The FDA classifies Chinese herbs in the same way that dietary supplements are classified," says Wright. "This has allowed vitamin and dietary supplement companies to market them as such, often fooling the public into the notion that herbs are not what they are - medicines that should be respected and prescribed by a trained herbalist."

Wright points out that even doctors are not exempt from this warning, as one of the most famous cases of irresponsibly prescribed herbs illustrates. In the early 1990s a group of doctors in Belgium, none of whom were trained in Traditional Oriental Medicine, prescribed weight loss patients to take the herb, Stephania Tetrandra, in a powdered form for up to two years causing 105 cases of kidney damage and 18 cases of cancer. According to Dean Wright, the doctors were negligent in prescribing herbs that they knew nothing about. "Any trained herbalist knows that you never prescribe Stephania Tetrandra in a powdered form and you never prescribe it for more than one month maximum, usually only one to two weeks," says Wright. "My training has allowed me to use this herb to help several patients without any harmful side affects. This is an unfortunate example of how herbs in the hands of the untrained can threaten lives and do great harm to Traditional Oriental Medicine's acceptance in western countries."

While sometimes dangerous in the hands of novices as witnessed in the Belgium case, Chinese herbs can be very effective treatments when a trained herbalist is consulted. With a full health assessment, the herbalist will be able to protect against herb-drug interaction or side-effects that may occur when using certain herbs when health conditions exist. "Korean Red Ginseng use by a person with high blood pressure can result in raised blood pressure and maybe even a stroke. Gingko, when taken in conjunction with prescribed blood thinners or even aspirin can also be dangerous," says Wright. "A trained herbalist knows these things. The herbs are not dangerous on their own. They only have the potential to be dangerous in the hands of the untrained or self-prescribers."

In addition to finding a trained herbalist, Wright also recommends finding a reputable medicinary to purchase your herbs. Wright states that the best medicinaries will stock raw herbs and measure dosages according to an herbalist's prescription. Upon his appointment as Dean of the College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at RainStar University, Wright ordered that RainStar's therapy center be stocked with raw herbs. "Using raw herbs, I can prescribe a specific recipe of herbs in specific combinations and ratios to suit an individual's needs," says Wright. "When raw herbs aren't available, tablet forms are acceptable in some cases, but people should be very careful that the tablets are made by a reputable manufacturer." Dean Wright's caution refers to a 1998 California Health Department study conducted by Richard Ko, Pharm.D., Ph.D. and Alice Au, Ph.D., that found dangerous levels of heavy metals, drugs and other chemicals in 260 imported traditional Chinese patent medicines. According to Wright, there are many American manufacturers who provide safe, reputable product lines, but when available, raw herbs are always best.

RainStar University provides state-of-the-art education, training and service in the art, science and business of holistic healthcare to its students and clients through constant and never-ending improvement in order to bring the holistic healthcare professional to the level of mainstream acceptance.