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THE FUNDAMENTALS OF VIBRANT HEALTH, life-promoting paths, longevity and harmonizing mind, body and spirit have been documented by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) over the span of 3000 years. All that is present in the world is cyclic in nature with corresponding dualities that aim to unify and create equilibrium. Eastern Botanicals aims to create products with an optimal balance of herbs to create optimal balance in the body.
Dr. Michelle Tien Dao is the president of Eastern Botanicals and holds a Masters of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (MAOM) from the top-ranked American College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Houston. Her expertise has long been inherited over generations starting with her great grandfather, Dr. Kiet, a CaoDai monk and herbalist in Vietnam. With the vast knowledge accumulated over the years, the current lineup of Eastern Botanical formulations target blood sugar balance, menopause, liver health, mood balance and sexual stamina, amongst others.
The team at Eastern Botanicals use the most stringent standards to identify herbal species and test for heavy metals, pesticides, aflatoxins, aristrolochic acid, yeast, mold, and other microbes. The manufacturing team is certified for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) by the Natural Products Association. Eastern Botanicals will be exhibiting at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim running March 6-8, 2015. The formulations pictured above will soon be available for purchase directly through their webshop, stay tuned!
Below we speak to President, Michelle Tien Dao:
Forth Culture: What inspired you to forge your way into Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Michelle Tien Dao: Herbal Medicine is a long tradition in my family. One of my earliest memories is the first time I saw my father stick an acupuncture needle into a patient. I thought the patient would yell and react in pain, but the patient was instead calm and relaxed. The patient even thanked him after the treatment with a big smile and gave him a basket of fruits as a gift.
So from a very young age, my impression of Traditional Chinese Medicine has always been positive and quite personally dear to my heart. Everyone in my family would drink herbal tea and take my father’s herbs when the weather turned cold. Illnesses didn’t come often, and when they did, they never stayed around too long. The herbs have kept us healthy and well for generations now. So, you see, following the path of TCM isn’t only my passion but it is my heritage.
FC: For those who aren’t familiar, what are the central tenets to TCM?
MTD: It is considered to be the oldest medicinal practice in the world, dating back more than 3,000 years. The philosophy behind TCM is the principle of Yin and Yang and the 5 elements theory. The idea is that the health and vitality of any living thing depends on balance. When things get out of balance, stress and disease occurs. The external world (i.e. weather, external pathogens, stressful situations, etc.) can cause an imbalance in our internal world, our body and mind. TCM is a system, a mode of treatments and lifestyle that can moderate and harmonize the body and mind to bring them back to a state of balance and wellness. TCM is comprised primarily of herbal medicine, acupuncture, tuina (a type of massage therapy using acupressure points), tai chi and Qi Gong (energy-regulating exercises with a foundation in martial arts).
FC: Can you tell us a little bit more about these various modalities and their benefits?
MTD: Everything in the body according to TCM has to do with Qi (vital energy/life force), Blood (material part of the body), Yin and Yang. All of the modalities of TCM are there to harmonize and balance Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang.
Acupuncture was founded by ancient martial arts & meditation masters thousands of years ago. These masters developed a system of 365 classic acupuncture points, which can be used by an acupuncturist to harmonize the flow of energy in the body and promote healthy bodily functions. Acupuncture needles are thin and often painless and can activate the acupuncture points to create therapeutic effects.
Herbs have the same function as acupuncture but tend to have longer, more sustained therapeutic effects. They work directly on the internal organs and perform exceptionally well in restoring balance related to chronic illnesses. Often herbs show better results with much more complicated health conditions compared to acupuncture alone.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong are exercise techniques that can regulate energy flow throughout the body. These techniques promote physical balance, strength and vitality due to their unique focus on breathing coupled with movements and postures. It is normally encouraged that tai chi and Qi Gong be performed early in the morning and in open and natural environments to maximize their benefits.
FC: How would you explain the concepts of Jing, Shen and Qi and the balance of Yin and Yang?
MTD: In TCM the 3 treasures are known as Jing, Shen and Qi. Jing is the vital essence that you possess at birth when your mother transfers her life essence to you. It is the material substance that embodies the physical aspect of you. Shen is your spirit, your mind, and even your heart in some instances. It is your intuition, your feelings, and your thoughts. Qi is the universal energy that flows through you, it is what gives you life and what exists inside and outside of you and everything else in between – it encompasses all of existence.
Yin and Yang is the concept of duality. Everything that exists around us abides by this rule. There can be no night without day, no darkness without light, no masculine without feminine. Too much of either one can be harmful and so the need for balance of Yin and Yang is vital to everyone’s happiness, health and abundance. Only when they are balanced can you achieve harmony and peace.
FC: In TCM, the mind and body are intimately connected and each organ is associated with a range of emotions, tell us about this.
MTD: When the Liver gets overused and is under stress, it can cause anger. When the Spleen is affected, it can cause pensiveness and worry. When one is doing something he/she loves, the Heart is filled with joy. However, when one is sad, he/she will find that it gets hard to breath because the Lungs are directly impacted. Sometimes, one may even literally pee his pants when he feels fearful because the Kidneys are connected to the body’s urinary functions! The ancient Chinese have kept records and studied the mind and body phenomenon for thousands of years. They noted the correlations and used this as a way to diagnose diseases and formulate treatment plans.
FC: What are some profound results you’ve seen personally or with patients through the practice of TCM?
MTD: I have seen miracles through the practice of TCM. I have seen people walk normally after an acupuncture treatment who initially came in with the assistance of a cane and a pain level of 9 out of 10. With herbs, I have seen liver enzymes go from dangerous levels to normal levels in a period of a few months.
One particular case however really left an impression with me:
Brenda Bowman from Texas became a patient of ours in 1996. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 42. The cancer had spread to her lungs and she was told that her prognosis did not look good. The doctor said she had roughly 6 months of healthy days left to spend with her family, her husband and two children. Brenda came to the Dao’s family clinic after her doctor’s announcement at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
We immediately customized an herbal formula for her to use everyday. The cancer never went away, but it had stopped growing according to the MRI results she shared with us every six months. Brenda continued to live for the next 18 years after the prognosis and passed away in the fall of 2014. Her husband and children were grateful for this miracle of an extra 18 years to spend with her. This is the miracle of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The most gratifying thing for me as a practitioner is that I get to help people have another chance to spend more time with their family. I truly enjoy watching people consistently achieve a better quality of life with our herbs.
FC: Common misconceptions to the practice of TCM abound, what are a few you’d like to clear up?
MTD: The most common misconception of TCM is that it is folklore and doesn’t work. We live in a climate where large drug company-funded studies dominate the market, and up until now, that is what has driven the western consumer. TCM hasn’t yet been publicized heavily in the West and that keeps people from utilizing it because they are unaware.
The reality is that there are literally thousands of years of clinical and anecdotal evidence out there supporting the efficacy of TCM. There are entire major hospitals in China where TCM is the exclusive and only form of treatment.
This is one of our biggest goals at Eastern Botanicals: to educate the western consumer on the history, functionality and efficacy of TCM. People are looking for natural medicinal alternatives, and we want to help them learn enough to trust those alternatives.
Herbal medicine is a gathering of plants, fruits, berries, seeds and roots, boiled together with fresh water. It can then be consumed like tea, or extracted into granule form for capsules. Herbs can help alleviate symptoms of a vast number of illnesses, build immunity defense and also act as preventative medicine. They are gathered from natural environments and are kept in their natural state until they’re ready to be consumed. They have potent healing properties with very little to no side effects. Herbs can be taken long term to promote longevity and overall vitality.
It should be noted that a typical herbal formula contains 10 or even 20 different herbs. Sometimes more. So it is absolutely crucial that the herbal doctor understands the precise ratios of each herb to be used. Once again, it is all about finding the perfect herbal balance to create the perfect balance in the body and mind.
Regarding acupuncture, the most common question is “Do the needles hurt? And do they really work?
Acupuncture needles rarely hurt because they are thinner than a strand of hair. With the proper training and skillful technique of the acupuncturist, one can come out of treatment pain free and relaxed without any worry about the needles. Acupuncture activates certain energy pockets in the body and stimulates the release of endorphin and serotonin (chemicals in the brain), delivering therapeutic effects to the patient.
FC: Every herb grows best in certain regions and affects the end quality, tell us about your products and how you select and source your ingredients.
MTD: It starts with selecting the right herbs and ratios, which is a process we have perfected over four generations of family practice. This is the most crucial step, as only the optimal balance of herbs can create ideal effects in the body and mind.
The next step is sourcing. Because each herb grows best in certain very specific regions and conditions, our manufacturing team takes great pride in their stringent standards of farming and manufacturing practice. Overseen by a team of PhDs, all of our farms are fully contracted and grow exclusively for us, so the crop is guaranteed to meet our extreme standards. We also use a number of scientific processes to guarantee correct species and quality.
From the farm, we use the highest quality technology and scientific personnel in the decoction and extraction process to ensure maximum herb medicinal efficacy and batch-to-batch consistency. Each production batch has a Certificate of Analysis, batch record, and lot number, creating a complete and clear link from finished product back to raw herb sample lot and supply farm.
Finally, manufacturing and packaging takes place in a state-of the art facility in the US that is GMP-certified by the Natural Products Association. All products are third-part tested. Every step of our process has been carefully considered and optimized for the benefit of our customer.
FC: What are the challenges to the practice of complementary medicine as it compares to its modern counterpart.
MTD: The main challenges we face today center around building the trust in our customers and informing the public of what options they have for healing their bodies. Modern medicine has the financial support for scientific research and data gathering, as well as media power. Meanwhile, complementary medicine is considered quite new and unknown in the western market. Modern medicine is highly promoted and endorsed by primary care physicians, while complementary medicine requires manual research efforts from the end users themselves.
FC: For someone who normally utilizes modern medicine, how can TCM be integrated into his or her wellness routine?
MTD: Speak with a TCM practitioner. A well-trained TCM practitioner will be able to guide that person to take appropriate actions towards preventing diseases and healing of his body and mind.
FC: Which modern health problems do you feel are the most rapidly growing?
MTD: Among all the modern health problems that I feel are the most rapidly growing, the one that deserves the most attention is mental ttress. We don’t focus enough on mental health and sharpening our ability to cope with stress. The mental strain is normally the root cause, while physical disease is only the manifestation. You can pour water on a branch all day long to stop the tree from drying up, but where you should focus is nourishing the root of the tree. In TCM, we are always concentrating on the root rather than the branch because we understand that the alternative doesn’t work.
FC: If you could pick one alternative medicine practice what would it be?
MTD: Herbal medicine is definitely my favorite choice as an alternative medicine practice. I feel closest to it because I grew up with it. I understand its benefits very well because I’ve seen it work over and over again.
FC: Where does the future of healthcare lie, particularly where integrative medicine is concerned?
MTD: I believe that the future of healthcare will heavily involve integrative medicine because it is a system that has been tried and tested for thousands of years. If the healthcare industry were comprised of medical practitioners who truly care about their patients’ well being, then they would surely integrate anything that brings health benefits to their patients. This is truer than ever as patients increasingly become frustrated with side effects from chemical drugs. You can’t go wrong when what you’re doing is helping others heal faster, more effectively and without adverse side effects. It is the future of medicine.
FC: When it comes to balance, health, longevity, wisdom and happiness, what are your top tips?
MTD: These things can be achieved. For me the key is being in touch with your emotions, accepting what you cannot change, and having gratitude for every day that you are alive. Focus on your breath because the breath is what gives you life, and remember to be grateful for that. Compassion is a proven method to achieve happiness in many holistic practices. Have compassion for all things and people around you, but most importantly be kind to yourself. Only from a place of internal peace and harmony can you radiate that positivity outward and affect your external environments with the same peace and harmony.
Play. Do things you want to do. Choose love over fear. Grow. Build strong bonds with family and friends and contribute to society and the earth. These are the building blocks of happiness and balance. This wisdom can help people achieve health and longevity.
Interview by ForthCulture.com