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Cleveland Clinic’s Chinese Herb Ward Has been Effective

Update Date: Apr 17, 2014 10:45 AM EDT
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Herbal remedies are grouped as eastern medications practiced mainly by Asian cultures. Even though herbal remedies might not have much scientific backing, many of them have been tied to easing certain health conditions. In January, the Cleveland Clinic opened a Chinese herbal-therapy ward to help patients dealing with health complications, such as chronic pain, fatigue, poor digestion and infertility. Months later, the clinic is still going strong and has helped many patients.

"Western medicine may not have all the answers," commented Cleveland Clinic's medical director, Daniel Neides reported by TIME.

The ward is headed by a certified herbalist who works under the supervision of several Western-trained doctors. Even though it is called a ward, the clinic spans just one room. The room is filled with bright pillows, candles, a tapestry and one cot for certain procedures, such as acupuncture. In order to receive herbal-therapy, patients must be referred by their physician, who will be in charge of overseeing their patient's health under herbal treatment for at least one year. Typically, the physicians will recommend herbal therapy to patients who have not benefited from Western medications. In order to prevent any potentially negative drug-herb interaction, the doctors and the herbalist have access to the patient's electronic medical records. No walk-ins are taken.

"We're incorporating ancient knowledge into patient care," said in-house herbalist Galina Roofener. "For something like acute pneumonia, Western antibiotics may be faster and more cost-effective. But if someone has antibiotic resistance, we can strengthen their immune system."

Herbal medications at the center have been formulated for easy consumption so that patients do not have any difficulties with taking their medications. More traditional Chinese medications tend to require patients to brew their own concoctions with raw herbs. The clinic stocks its herbal remedies from a Kaiser Pharmaceutical subsidiary from Taiwan and compounding pharmacies that produce Chinese herbs and specific herbal blends located in Massachusetts and California.

To become a certified herbalist, one must received three to four years of master's degree level education centered on Chinese medicine. One must also attain a series of certification exams in Oriental medicine, herbology and biomedicine.

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