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Herbal Meds: When CE Equals Caveat Emptor
From early Imperial times until the Communist era, the teaching of herbal medicine in China took the form of a master teaching an apprentice.
About 2,000 years ago, Chinese herbalists turned away from blaming anthropomorphized agents (i.e., demons) for disease and instead began attributing sickness to yin-yang imbalance. 1 Primitive, folkloric medical practices of tongue and pulse diagnosis served as mainstay diagnostic tools.
With these methods, herbalists determined which potentially effective but possibly injurious plant products to give patients based on the color of the tongue and feel of the pulse. Few asked questions about the pharmacologic actions, adverse effects or interactions of the herb mixtures. Even the exact nature of the ingredients remained a tightly held “family secret.”
This sounds quaint and exotic until one realizes that much of this is continuing in veterinary medicine today in North America. Continuing education courses in Chinese herbal prescribing are more popular than ever.
While online courses and Internet chats have modernized delivery of the message, certain pitfalls persist, such as apprentices worshipping the master, espousing blind faith in his or her secret formulae.
Mystique and metaphors, however, do not substitute for true investigation into the mechanisms of action, safety and effectiveness that are necessary elements for practicing veterinary medicine safely and judiciously.
Veterinarians seeking to...
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