We asked Paul Kempitsky, owner of Peekay's, why he decided to create his own line of herbal remedies after years of practice...
The traditional way to administer herbs in Chinese medicine is to write a customized herbal prescription for each patient after asking them questions, observing their tongue and palpating their pulse in order to understand their condition.
This herbal prescription is then compounded by an herbal pharmacy (like the ones you’ve seen in Chinatown where clerks are carefully weighing and combining all kinds of twigs, leaves, barks and roots) and is often consumed as a thick brewed tea also known as a decoction. The formulas we prescribe are often based on the tried and true classic formulations of ancient Chinese medicine with some modifications to suit the needs of each patient.
Original unmodified Chinese classic formulas are also available for patients in small bottles of spherical “tea pills” and they can be taken for very specific conditions when directed by an herbalist.
And just to mention, on the western side of the spectrum, most European & American approaches to herbal medicine rely on fewer combinations, are constructed without the powerful guidance of complex herbal energetics or systematic correspondences and are often administered at clinically irrelevant dosages, having lukewarm, if any, benefits for many of the consumers who try them.
Whilst Chinese herbal medicine is a formidable system that has survived for thousands of years because of its effectiveness, there are a few drawbacks when trying to offer effective and accessible options to the modern patient..
One is that not everyone has access to a Chinese Medicine practitioner who can carefully and accurately diagnose them and either write a custom prescription or recommend a basic classic formula. The modern health seeker shouldn’t have to know how to read Chinese characters or understand Chinese medicine in order to take advantage of effective herbal remedies.
Two is that although classic formulas are important for understanding herb combining strategies and for treating clear cut conditions, nowadays patients have considerably more noxious factors promoting and perpetuating their ailments. When we consider the complexity of the modern patient, we can offer so much more because classic ideas can be modified and improved by adding or subtracting ingredients based on our modern scientific knowledge of molecular biology, anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology. Now, there’s even more to herbal medicine than just the plants and ideas that are indigenous to Asia and we should be able to take advantage of all the options.
Three is that few people have the time and inclination to collect and brew a decoction that can take several hours and stink out their house. Custom raw herbs from a pharmacy are also relatively expensive, which can be a significant burden when taking herbs for chronic conditions. And, importantly, not all Chinese herbal (or any herbal products for that matter) are created, collected and processed equally. Most consumers have no idea if their local Chinese herbal pharmacy has the inclination or resources to test for heavy metal and pesticide contamination, confirm species identification, and follow good manufacturing practice standards when compounding and producing their herbal products.
Four, as an extension of number two, is that there are powerful herbal options available not just from China, but from all over the world, however Chinese herbal pharmacies and their over the counter products rarely offer any of these. But, with an understanding of systematic correspondences and the philosophy of individual herb energetics, we can use the knowledge of Chinese medicine to greatly enhance the usefulness of other herbs from all over the world.
Lastly, after having thousands of patients come through my clinic, and when I offer them some sort of natural healing agent, be it herb or vitamin, one of the common initial responses I get is “I’ve already tried that and it didn’t work”. But when I advise that same patient to take a specific high quality product at the appropriate clinical dosage, the most common feed back I get at their subsequent consultations is that they can’t believe how much better they feel and how the herbs worked this time!!
In my practice I’ve seen that even though herbs are generally not as powerful as prescription medication, we can still achieve dramatic and wonderful results with our patients when we become skilled at extracting all the potential positive synergies shared between different ingredients within a formulation. So for instance, instead of using high doses of just one isolated ingredient, we can use relatively lower (and safer) doses of several ingredients which work together synergistically by piggy backing on top of each other’s benefits. This kind of approach lets us avoid any unwanted side effects from using massive doses of single ingredients and it also helps us provide longer term benefits as our bodies are less likely to become familiar with and unresponsive to an entourage of ingredients rather than just one ingredient.
Having access to practical, safe, potent and properly dosed herbal formulas can be an exceptionally powerful revolution for any household. People often worry about the safety of herbs, but there are very few cases of injury from properly consumed herbal products. The few isolated cases are usually the result of people taking massive doses of herbs that are not intended for that kind of use. Comparatively, over 200,000 patients die each year from taking the correct prescription medication for their condition whilst under the proper supervision of a medical doctor. That’s a huge disparity between safety levels. I’m a huge fan of modern western medicine, but I’ve observed that people can save themselves a lot of unnecessary side effects and toxicities if they had more natural options available for many common symptoms and conditions.
Paul Kempisty, MSTOM. L.Ac., is a New York State licensed Acupuncturist and a Board certified Herbalist.