This centuries-old natural approach to medicine is getting a new look

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LYNDHURST -- The Cleveland Clinic has opened a Chinese herbal therapy clinic , one of the first hospital-based herbal clinics in the U.S., to round out its integrative medicine services and provide supplementary options for patients seeking a holistic natural approach to care.

"Today's patients are looking for a medical model that addresses both prevention and treatment of chronic disease using natural approaches in combination with Western medicine," said Melissa Young, M.D., internist and integrative medicine specialist at the Tanya Edwards, M.D., Center for Integrative Medicine at Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute.

Changes to Ohio laws in 2012 opened the door for licensed Chinese herbal therapists to legally prescribe custom herb blends and traditional formulas within a clinical practice. The clinical expertise of the herbalist coupled with attentive vigilance from a practicing physician decreases the risk of drug-herb interactions, similar to drug-drug interactions patients experience while taking multiple prescription drugs.

The Chinese herbal therapy clinic offers this new avenue for patients interested in a holistic approach to their care in a safe and effective manner.

"There is a general assumption that 'natural' means 'safe,' " said Jamie Starkey, LAC, lead acupuncturist. "That's not always the case. As both medical professionals and specialists in traditional Chinese medicine, it's our responsibility to address our patients' needs but also prescribe safe, high-quality herbs that will be effective and beneficial to their health."

Prior to state law changes, patients interested in Chinese herbal therapy had to seek out alternative options to fill prescription blends, which made them vulnerable to negative side effects.

Requiring physician referrals for Chinese herbal therapy encourages a collaborative effort between the patient's doctor and herbalist and increases the likelihood of a positive patient experience while using herbs.

While herbal treatment has been used for centuries in China to treat acute and chronic conditions, it has not been widely used in modern practice despite proven benefits. The unique mix of ancient Eastern therapies and present-day medicine is a progressive approach to care.

At the Chinese herbal therapy clinic, herbalists will prescribe blends based on research that has shown that herbs may be used to help manage diabetes, decrease cold/flu symptoms, manage chronic pain, increase energy, improve breathing, digestion, sleep and menopausal symptoms, and help address menstrual cycles if infertility is an issue.

Herbal therapy is best suited for patients who present multiple, complex symptoms, have exhausted other medical treatment options, need additional therapy to counteract prescribed medications or are overall interested in integrative preventive medicine.

For more information on the Chinese herbal therapy clinic, click HERE.

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