Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Power of Chinese Herbal Medicine

The effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine in the treatment of dermatological conditions is hard to deny.  I was just thinking about an elderly patient who was told by the medical community that she would inevitably need to have her lower leg amputated due to gangrene.  Being a very strong woman, and confident in natural treatment approaches she decided that she would only agree to having the gangrene area removed surgically but leave the remainder of the foot and leg to heal on its own.  At first, she was not allowed this option but the surgeon finally decided that he would be willing to honor her wishes.  She mentioned to me that they told her numerous times that she would not heal from the surgery due to the poor blood flow at the foot and that they really would need to amputate further up the leg where the circulation would be less impeded in order for her to heal.  She was adamant that she would only agree to having the gangrene tissue removed and the remainder of the foot to heal naturally.    

When first observing her legs, it was clear that the circulation into her lower extremities was impeded.  There was a purplish hue to the legs, mild edema, varicosities, and a cool sensation when palpating the feet.  We worked together using acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas internally for approximately 2 years.  Over this time period there was gradual improvement at the surgical site and of the lower extremities.  The edema decreased, the tissue of the legs became a pinker hue, and the feet became more perfused with blood giving them a warmer sensation.  There were some set backs during the course of the treatment but we worked through those issues as they arose by modifying the herbal formula.

More recently, a small lesion on the top of the foot would not completely close, while the remainder of the foot had healed from surgery.  There were recurrent infections occurring over the lesion site that were not allowing the tissue to heal.  When these infections occurred, I advised her to see her vascular team so that they could culture and prescribe an appropriate antibiotic.  Over time it appeared evident that the antibiotics were stopping the infections but they would reoccur some time later.  These recurrent infections were slowing the wound healing at this small lesion and left it lingering as an open ulcer.  We decided that she would continue with the antibiotics topically as they were prescribed but she would also begin a topical herbal compress.  The two treatments would complement one another very well.  Within a single week, she returned to the office to show me the lesion.  It had literally scabbed over and the tissue was showing signs of closing!  I was astonished at the speed at which her foot was healing and so were the nurses and doctors on her vascular team.  In fact, they still tell her that no one ever expected her foot to heal as it has from the surgery.  They were all quite sure that she would have had to have her foot amputated post-surgery.  I'm just glad that I was able to be a part of her healthcare and allow her to save her leg and foot and keep her mobility and independence.

Unfortunately, far too few people are aware of this treatment approach and never have an opportunity to explore this option.  I hope through this blog and my practice that this treatment approach gains more attention in the public eye.  The treatment of dermatological conditions with Chinese herbs requires specific training and education and without these skills it is much more difficult to effectively treat these stubborn conditions.  Over the years I've successfully treated a number of stasis eczema cases as well as ulcerations on the lower extremities.  Cases of ulcerations take time to heal and therefore require patience on the part of the patient.  Compliance with the treatment protocol often times leads to complete resolution of the ulcer.  These conditions typically require the use of both internal and external herbal treatments to achieve optimal results.  Wishing you good health. 

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