Sunday, December 12, 2010


The thinking about geriatrics in Chinese medicine has been dominated by Kidney deficiency for centuries. As Kidney-Jing declines as we age, the clinical approach to the treatment of the elderly has been based largely on tonifying the Kidneys.

However, modern diseases of the elderly that account for 90% of mortality (cancer, heart disease and stroke) are characterized by Fullness. Quite simply, we do not die of Kidney deficiency but of Phlegm, Blood stasis and Internal Wind.

The most common pathogenic factors (and those leading to serious diseases) are:
Blood stasis
Internal Wind

Apart from the major diseases of the elderly such as cancer, stroke and heart disease, very many symptoms and signs that occur in old age are caused by Phlegm and/or Blood stasis. The following is a partial list.

•Otosclerosis: Phlegm/Blood stasis
•Cataract: Phlegm
•Macular degeneration (vascular, lack of blood nourishment): Blood stasis
•Dry eyes: may be due to Blood stasis
•Alzheimer: Phlegm (the neurofibrillary tangles and plaques in the brain are a form of
•Parkinson: Wind
•Poor memory: is often due to Phlegm
•Brain muzziness: Phlegm
•Dizziness: Phlegm
•Epiretinal membrane: Phlegm
•Macules: Blood stasis
•Dry skin: in the elderly may be due to Blood stasis
•Itching: Phlegm/Wind
•Numbness: Phlegm/Wind
•Hair loss: may be due to Blood stasis

The following three Tables list the major diseases of the elderly with the pathology they are due to:

Many of the symptoms of the elderly are due to Phlegm:
Heart: mental confusion, feeling of oppression in the chest
Gall-Bladder: stones, nausea, inability to digest fats
Joints: bone deformities, pain, rigidity
Lungs: cough with mucus, feeling of oppression of the chest, asthma, breathlessness
Stomach: lack of appetite, digestive problems, hiatus hernia, acid reflux.
Skin: greasy skin, sweating, yellow moles.

This has already been discussed in a previous blog (April 2010). The major pathogenic factors of the elderly manifest on the tongue with the following signs:

Phlegm: swollen tongue body, sticky coating
Blood stasis: purple, stiff body
Internal Wind: stiff, moving deviated.

For example, if we see a tongue that is swollen, purple and stiff, it indicates all three pathogenic factors of Phlegm, Blood stasis and internal Wind. When I see a tongue like that in an elderly patient, I actively invigorate Blood and resolve Phlegm for prevention.

Purple (especially on sides) = Blood stasis
Stiff = internal Wind

Purple = Blood stasis
Swollen = Phlegm
Slightly Deviated = internal Wind


Pulse diagnosis in the elderly also reflects the fact that their clinical picture is dominated by Full conditions. In fact, in the elderly, the pulse is very often Full and Wiry and/or Slippery, not Weak.

Considering the above, I believe the most important treatment principles in the elderly are:
1) Invigorate Blood and eliminate stasis
2) Resolve Phlegm
3) Extinguish (internal) Wind

Some people think that eliminating pathogenic factors (with herbal medicine or acupuncture but especially with herbal medicine) may “weaken” the elderly. I have never found that to be true in practice: if an elderly person has Phlegm and Blood stasis, they will not be “weakened” by resolving Phlegm and invigorating Blood. Of course, one does need to adapt one’s doses to age so that dosages of herbs for the elderly should be lower than those for young people.

Invigorating Blood remedies: Red Stirring (Upper Burner), Stir Field of Elixir (Lower Burner), Harmonizing the Moon (Blood stasis in Uterus)
Resolving Phlegm remedies: Clear the Soul, Limpid Sea
Extinguishing Wind remedy: Clear Yang

Red Stirring = Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Stir Field of Elixir = Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang

Harmonizing the Moon = Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan

Clear the Soul = Wen Dan Tang

Limpid Sea = Er Chen Tang

Clear Yang = Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I would like to remind all European herbal practitioners of the looming dangers of the European Union (EU) “Directive” called “Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products” (THMPD) coming into force in April 2011. This “directive” (note the Soviet-style sound of this word) is the greatest threat to herbal medicine. The EU Directive (formulated and enforced by the unelected and unaccountable European Commission) sets new over-the-counter (OTC) standards adopted in April 2004 with requirement for full implementation by April 2011. In the UK this will replace S12(2) of 1968 Medicines Act for OTC products (see below).

The Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD) comes fully into force in April 2011. After this time, only herbal medicines that have been registered under the scheme will be available EU-wide. For a wide range of herbal products, especially those from non-European traditions such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, the requirements of the scheme are either impossible to meet or are prohibitively expensive. In many cases, both constraints apply so the result is that virtually no herbal medicines from these traditions have been registered. These products will effectively be banned after April 2011. The ban will also effect medicinal herbs in food supplements, which are used by many thousands of people across Europe to help maintain their health.

The Directive has the following aims:
- Aims to ensure correct identification of medicinal plants and adoption of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) by suppliers and manufacturers.
- Requires that OTC herbals demonstrate 30 years safe use for registration, 15 years of which within the EU.
- Monographing herbal safety and efficacy by the European Medicines Evaluation Agency Committee on Herbals.
- Permits limited medicinal claims on THMPD products

Problems with THMPD:
- Cost of licensing high.
- Cost of quality assurance also high.
- Quality control guidelines not workable for multi-herb complexes. This now has been recognised but now no applications for multi-herb complexes will be accepted until this is sorted out. The time for all this is running out as Section 12(2) products must be withdrawn from the market from April 2011 when the THMPD is fully implemented.

In the UK, herbal practitioners have been free to practise their art since the times of Henry VIII:
Be it ordained established and enacted by authority of this present parliament, that at all time from henceforth, it shall be lawful to every person being the King’s subject, having knowledge and experience of the nature of Herbs, Roots and Waters… to practise, use and minister in, and to any outward swelling or Disease, any Herbs, Ointments, Baths, Pulters and Emplaisters, according to their Cunning, Experience and Knowledge … without suit, vexation, trouble, penalty or loss of their goods.
The Herbalists’ Charter ordained by Henry VIII, 1543.

In 1968 the UK Medicines Act was enacted:
- Provides legal basis for the supply and sale of herbal medicines.
- Herbal medicines exempt from licensing.
- SI 2130 specifically allows powerful herbal medicines to be prescribed by herbalists.
- The term “herbalist” not defined.

The implementation of the EU THMPD would supercede this Act and would have particularly dire consequences from a medical, social, economic and political point of view as it would at a stroke abolish a freedom that has existed in England since 1543.

I therefore urge European herbal practitioners to support the organizations that are working very hard to oppose or at least mitigate the THMPD before April 2011.

European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association (EHPA):

Association for Natural Health (ANH):

European Benefyt Foundation:

Chapter 30 (partial)
Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men
does not try to force issues
or defeat enemies by force of arms.
For every force there is a counterforce.
Violence, even well intentioned,
always rebounds upon oneself.

Chapter 60 (partial)
Governing a large country
is like frying a small fish.
You spoil it with too much poking.
Center your country in the Dao
and evil will have no power.

Chapter 75
When taxes are too high,
people go hungry.
When the government is too intrusive,
people lose their spirit.
Act for the people's benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone.

Translation by S Mitchell