If you’ve ever tried acupuncture, it is likely someone has tried to peddle ambiguous sounding herbs on you. Because the FDA does not regulate herbs or dietary supplements, it is difficult, if not impossible, to measure their efficacy. That being said, some herbalists have more experience than others, and I was excited to meet Daniela Turley, a leader in her field who joined Shellie Goldstein Acupuncture in 2011. As with anything, it is always smart to consult with your physician before starting a new routine.
Louise McCready Hart: What inspired you to go to into herbal medicine?
Daniela Turley: From the age of four months, I suffered badly with severe eczema, bleeding hands, scabs on my face, and terrible itching. When I was a teenager and more self-conscious than ever of my skin issues, I decided to make my own cream in an attempt to calm my skin. I had always reacted terribly to moisturizers and instinctively knew that they wouldn’t help my skin. There was no Dr. Hauschka in those days!
I camped out in our local library pouring over books on the subject. On reading them I often noticed herbs mentioned as “cures” for inflamed skin like mine. I then embarked on attempting to treat myself and would buy any book I could find (no internet then) and scoured the local countryside for the herbs I had read about. I made infused honeys and teas and creams. I experimented with essential oils and at least once nearly killed myself eating the wrong herb from a hedgerow! In this process my eczema went totally into remission.
I also went to see a local herbalist Phill Evans and asked to be his apprentice; he laughed and told me I was best off going to college to study. This was news to me–you could get a college degree in Herbal medicine? From that day on I was determined to be a herbalist and dropped (with much sadness) art and took up chemistry and biology to get the grades to go to study the four-year herbal medicine degree. There were 600 applicants and 30 places. I got in and happily started my studies to become a herbalist.
LMH: Do you find any common complaints among your clients?
DT: In New York the top issue is stress. It is incredibly rare to have an urban-based clientele without some kind of adrenal stress. The hormonal and biochemical changes this causes can have a big impact on overall health. Treating stress with adaptogenic herbs like Siberian ginseng can have huge overall benefits to a myriad of health complaints. I am finding that even people in their 20’s can be showing signs of exhaustion; ten years ago I wasn’t seeing as much of that.
LMH: Acupuncturists in the past have prescribed me herbs in the form of powders or teas, but you offer tinctures. Why is that? How do they compare?
DT: As a pharmacology lecturer, the choice to use tinctures for me is all down to the extraction and bioavailability of the active ingredients!
Teas are great for dissolving water-soluble compounds like tannins but changes in these compounds in the digestive tract can affect the effectiveness of these herbs. Chinese medicine gets around this by combining saponin rich herbs (like licorice), which help absorption of these compounds. However teas don’t extract resins, fatty acids and gums so these active ingredients won’t end up in the final tea. I am not saying these are not effective, but the herbs used in Chinese medicine will be working via the water-soluble and essential oil components rather than the resinous, fatty, or gum component.
As herbal medicine has evolved as a profession in Europe, we have understood more about pharmacokinetics. That is why western herbalists predominantly use tinctures. The process of making them takes into account the ingredients of that plant so that an herb with a fatty or resinous ingredient will be made with a higher alcohol content compared to the extraction of a plant that has mainly water-soluble components.
Furthermore European tincture manufacturers are highly regulated and come under drug regulation rather than under food regulation. Batches of herbs are tested for active ingredients. Phytochemicals can vary widely in natural products based on whether the raw herb has been correctly stored, what time of year the plant was harvested and what conditions it was grown in. The tincture making process can be monitored thus ensuring the quality of the herbal medicines. It is generally easier for clients to take tincture rather than boiling teas. Lastly, it is easier to make a custom blend formula with a tincture.
That said there are times when I do use teas–when the herb has water-soluble components and doesn’t have to be boiled but can rather be steeped. Equally there are times when I use powders, when I don’t want the herbs well absorbed, in the treatment of gut pathogens.
LMH: Can you tell me a little bit more about the bio-meridian test? I found it fascinating that it revealed I was wheat and cow dairy intolerant.
DT: Electro-Dermal Screening (EDS) works by measuring the electrical resistance on the skin’s surface. EDS has been widely used throughout Europe and around the world for over thirty-five years. It is an efficient and effective method of determining food intolerances and Chinese medicine organ balance.
LMH: How effective is EDS testing for food intolerance?
DT: A study at the University of Hawaii compared EDS allergy testing with six other methods of assessing food allergies. The EDS data was rated as one of the most accurate available food allergy diagnostic techniques.
LMH: How many herbs do you draw from?
DT: I have 105 herbs in my dispensary however if there is a herb I do not stock that I think is ideal for a client I will order it specially for them.
LMH: What has been your greatest success story?
DT: That’s a tough one as in a way every client who gets their health back is the greatest gift! But there are many stories I could tell so I will give you a few.
I was extremely concerned a TV executive who had dangerously high blood pressure, extreme anxiety, panic attacks and sinus issues may have a stroke, but he wanted to try the natural route. I only agreed to treat him if his blood pressure went down after a week of treatment. Luckily it did. Within two months on the herbs all his symptoms were controlled. His blood pressure was normal, he was no longer stressed and his sinus issues were gone. The reason I always remembered his case was that he was such a hyper type A person and I was amazed by his transformation into this zen healthy guy.
An amazingly brilliant young woman with muscular dystrophy that left her significantly disabled came in with bloody frequent stools, muscle weakness and cramps. She wanted to see if a food could be triggering the issue she also had. With the treatment her bowels were completely normalized within a month and she had improved muscle strength and cramping had gone.
A young professional with cystic acne since her teens, had also digestion issues, chronic constipation and bloating, and urinary tract infections twice a month. At her one month follow up, her skin had cleared by 90%, her gut was now normal, and she had not UTI’s since the herbs.
A type two-diabetes sufferer managed to come off her conventional medications in three months with the changes in diet and the taking of blood sugar regulating herbs.
LMH: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
DT: Many health complaints can be improved greatly or cured by taking herbal medicines and changes in diet and lifestyle. I see time and time again that treating the body in this holistic way gives better long-term outcomes and improves one’s general health. A lot of the herbs are rich in antioxidants and cancer fighting chemicals, so a pretty good side effect of taking herbs is that you are probably reducing your cancer and heart disease risk also. My interest is in true health and that will shine through the skin.