I am a student in London at the age of 26. I often have dry mouth while speaking and tend to get stressed easily. I have often used Kampo available at drug stores in Japan, but have never been diagnosed by Kampo doctor. While doing research on Kampo in London for my Masters project, I found there was a student Kampo clinic at the Kailash Centre of Oriental Medicine in London.
In the beginning of March 2012, I knocked the door at a clinic of Gretchen De Soriano, who is the first Kampo practitioner in the UK. Gretchen asked me about my general daily routine such as sleeping hours, how much exercise I do, how often I eliminate etc. I also explained my stress and dry mouth.
I lay down on an examination couch for examining my abdomen. Gretchen gently pushed under the right rib, and it was soft and flexible. She then tapped on the upper left abdomen to hear the sound from the stomach, and found that there is spasm in lower-centre of the abdomen. This examination, called Fuku-shin (Abdominal diagnosis), aims to know an internal balance of my body. In Kampo, it is considered that a good internal bodily balance of blood, water (body fluid) and ki (qi) keeps you smooth and healthy. Practitioners examine this balance through abdominal palpation, tongue inspection and pulse diagnosis. She then saw my pulse and asked me to show my tongue and looked its colour, shape and fur on the surface. This examination, called Zessin (Tongue diagnosis), aims to understand metabolism of the body — my tongue looked fine then!
After these examinations Gretchen diagnosed my body type as: Yin and Exterior Empty Confirmation, Hot at top/Cold below. This means I always think a lot and the energy goes up to the head. Heat then accumulates in my head and I sweat easily on the top part of the body but there are chills on my legs and toes. This contrast between lower and upper part of the body interrupts a smooth flow of qi.
Then she prescribed Bupleurum and Chih-shih Formula (Shi Gyaku San), which is often used for treating spasms of the abdomen, cold hands and feet and irritability caused by nervousness. This formula comes as an extract of herbs and dosage of 4 days costs £5.50 (consultant fee of £10.00 was billed separately). I was asked to take if three times a day before eating – each time, I have to mix a teaspoon of medicine with some hot water – it tastes like herbal tea. After taking the medicine several times, I started feeling a reduction in the desire to drink so much coffee, which used to be 4 or 5 cups a day. Also, I felt that my toes became relatively warmer and my mouth tended to become moist.
Initially, taste of medicine was quite strong and spicy, and the cost of medicine could be slightly expensive when used every day. However, I appreciated to know my body’s tendency and the effectiveness of this medicine on the chills of my toes and my dry mouth.
Yin and Yang
In Asian philosophy, a concept of yin is described as darkness, negative and passive while yang is lightness, positive and active. This concept is the way of understanding polar opposites of the body and the natural world. Oppositions harmonize each other, so a relative balance between yin and yang is integral e.g. Mass and Energy, Moon and Sun, Night and Day, Covert and Overt, Water and Fire, Lounge and Dancehall etc. These examples are always relative, nothing is always yin or yang.
Exterior and Interior
This is a meaning of exterior/surface and internal/interior of the body. Practitioners use this term to determine where the unbalanced part of the body exists.
Empty and Full
Empty means void, emptiness and weakness in physical constitution. Fullness means strength, power and repletion in physical constitution.
Bupleurum and chih-shih formula
Bupleurum (Sai ko) dispels stagnant heat.
Peony (Syaku yaku) coordinates qi and blood; relieve spasms; ease pain.
Chih-shih (Ki jitsu) gives vitality and increases urine output.
Licorice (Kan zou) coordinates qi and blood; relieve spasms; ease pain.