Welcome to a Kampo UK’s brand new and exciting project, “Ask a Kampo Doctor!”! In this project, a number of great Kampo doctors and Kampo specialists from different countries will be interviewed about their first hand experiences of Kampo medicine in their clinical practices. Hoping that this will be a great space to learn and be inspired about traditional Japanese medicine, Kampo Igaku 漢方医学.
Our today’s guest is a Kampo specialist and a founder of a Kampo Apprentice Course here in the UK, Ms. Gretchen De Soriano!
Kampo UK: Thank you for participating in this project.
Kampo UK: What was the inspiration for you to start using Kampo in your practice?
Ms. De Soriano: When I was a student in Tokyo, one of my Kampō colleagues moved abroad for a year, doing research in the USA. He returned very busy, we met for less than five minutes when, curiously, he passed me a hand-written note. The note said “半夏厚朴湯”, hangekōbokutō, the name of a Kampō formula. Studying reference books I discovered that this formula was for stress and associated symptoms. I had not noticed being stressed, or having any symptoms related to ki stagnation. Nonetheless, I took the formula and noticed profound improvement in my state of mind. I was forever grateful for his quiet watching and care. Once I understood the subtle and profound effects of this simple formula I wanted to share the benefits of Kampō.
Kampo UK: What are the most common conditions/illness for which you use Kampo to treat in your practice?
Ms. De Soriano: The most common conditions in my central London practice are two patient groups. The first group are patients who are prompted to make an initial visit through conditions where standard English treatment fails ; insomnia, headaches, seasonal allergies, skin problems, an injury that does not heal, or similar. More recently there are patients with a stressful lifestyle, including the family members who accompany vascular dementia patients to clinic.
The second group of patients are those who experience Kampō initially (for one of the above conditions) and return regularly because taking Kampō formulations enhances well-being and improves performance in work and in life-skills.
Kampo UK: What was the most memorable case throughout your entire practice of Kampo?
Ms. De Soriano: My most memorable case was a young boy undergoing treatment for leukaemia. In the intervals between his hospital treatments he suffered from severe itching, anxiety, insomnia and panic attacks. Kampō was useful in supporting the hospital-based therapies; his itching, insomnia and anxiety were effectively relieved by simple nutritive herbs, within the scope of food products. The whole family benefited from his better state of mind, and relief from the secondary symptoms caused by his major illness.
Kampo UK: Could you share one memorable experience with Kampo that it did not work as well as you would have liked?
Ms. De Soriano: One very healthy 70-year old woman was referred by the nurse of her NHS surgery with pain due to an elbow broken several months earlier. With her innocent mind-set our patient could not comprehend that pain relief agents could become dose-dependent. Neither acupuncture nor Kampō brought sufficient relief. This case is typical of those patients with an episode of acute pain –following a minor operation, infection or mild accident –who unexpectedly become dependent on prescribed medication. I was very disappointed that we could not manage her pain, nor could she understand the twin processes of pain and healing.
Kampo UK: What is the most important lifestyle advice you give patients to maintain good health?
Ms. De Soriano: I recommend to keep active, both mentally and physically. Seek challenging mental activity to stimulate in memory, learning new skills, solving puzzles, speaking new languages, developing handiwork craft and the aesthetics of art.
For physical well-being, seek activities as appropriate to the seasons changing to suit the climate, with an aim to extend core attributes of endurance, flexibility, balance and agility.
Kampo UK: Thank you for the valuable stories!
About Ms. Gretchen De Soriano
In 2001, she was called to the Bar of England and Wales, as a Barrister and she joined the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. She spent four years working on behalf of the charity Greenwich Housing Rights in the County Court preventing homeless.
Here is a time-line of Kampō-relevant training.
1978-1987: A private student of Otsuka Yasuo and Manaka Yoshio , at Kitasato in Tokyo, Japan.
1980: Student at the Kuretake School of Acupuncture and Moxabustion, Tokyo
1982-1983: Acupuncture study in Beijing, China.
1987: An NHS team worker, at the Cavendish Health Centre London, England.
1990: Founded the Kampō apprentice course in Japanese Herbal Medicine
2009: Founding member and president of ISJKM, International Society of Japanese Kampō Medicine, Europe
2010: Translated Otsuka Keisatsu’s Kampo I Gaku for Churchill, Livingston.
2011: MSc Medical Anthropology, University of Oxford
2013: Wellcome Trust Studentship, with the EASTmedicine Project, University of Westminster, London
2015: Historical research on the development of Kampō in the Tokugwa period (1601-1865)