by Justin Penoyer, M.S. L.Ac.

Access to a menagerie of medical services is one of the great privileges in our modern day. As we well know, there is a proper tool for every job, and in no case is that more apparent than in medical practice. The onus is upon every physician to cultivate an expansive awareness of treatment options, and then prescribe appropriately that which will provide the greatest benefit to the patient—a decision measured in terms of efficiency and functionality. With all of the options available today, physicians have a great advantage in the blending of various treatment modalities in order to provide comprehensive, effective care custom tailored to the individual.

Rather than one pill or one therapy, functional medical practitioners will often prescribe an array of therapies such as yoga, massage, Chinese medicine, healing touch, and even surgery or prescription medication should the need arise. Again, the guiding principle is understanding what works for each specific disorder. In my time as a physician, it has become abundantly clear that Chinese internal medicine offers unique therapeutic measures that are unobtainable through other treatment modalities—particularly its ability to comprehensively modify the internal biochemical environment safely and permanently. More importantly, the utility of Chinese medicine is further enhanced by its low cost and diverse therapeutic effects over a large population spread.

Internal herbal therapy is just that—a therapy and not a quick fix nor a substitute for healthy nutrition and lifestyle. However, it offers a methodical, unparalleled ability to counter the effects of stress and to regulate what is known as the HPA Axis—the hormone and biological communication pathways operating among your hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands. The interactions among these organs comprise a significant part of the neuroendocrine system, which mediates response to stress and regulates many body processes—including but not limited to digestion, the immune system, mood and emotions, sexuality, and energy storage and expenditure. In regulating stress and imbalances in the HPA Axis, Chinese medicine is able to rectify the root of modern day disorders in ways unavailable through other medical systems.

Pharmaceutical medications and hormone therapies, such as anti-depressants and birth control, force the body to change. And therein lay the issue, for forcible change is always met with forcible resistance—in this case, in the form of adverse reactions and side effects. Further, these forms of treatment rarely rectify the issue and often lead to further complications. Rather than working against the body, Chinese herbal therapy assists the body mechanic in returning to a state of efficiency and homeostasis. Though the treatment length can be longer than that of pharmaceutical intervention, the therapy invoked is that of actual, lasting change.

With its long-established, systematic approach toward modulating the biochemical environment, Chinese internal medicine offers an irreplaceable means of addressing the core issues underlying modern disorders. When correctly applied, its ability to adjust the HPA Axis and down-regulate the stress response positions it as an invaluable asset in the functional, comprehensive approach toward modern health management and prevention.