Herbal Medicine Programs at MUIH

MUIH offers six programs that focus on the medicinal use of herbs. In all of these, plants are used as a primary therapeutic and health promotion tool. These programs are grounded in two different health and wellness traditions, which guide their perspectives and different approaches to promoting health, treating disease, interacting with patients and clients, and professional practice.

MUIH Programs

Chinese Herbal Medicine Clinical Herbal Medicine/Herbal Product Design

Foundational Philosophy

Chinese Herbal Medicine Clinical Herbal Medicine/Herbal Product Design
Chinese herbal medicine primarily uses traditional East Asian concepts of organ function as well as the balance of natural elements (e.g., earth, fire, water) to understand health and disease. These programs are rooted in a tradition which has evolved over 2,000 years, blending not only native Chinese medicine but that of multiple other East Asian traditions. The programs utilize a medical approach based on the notion of biological mirroring, which refers to the world and the human body existing within two diagnostic frameworks: 1) The Eight Principles and 2) The Five Elements. From this perspective, herbs are vehicles for flavor. These flavors (sweet, salty, sour, acrid, bitter) when combined in formulas act synergistically to unwind complex disorders and hand normal function back to the body. Clinical herbal medicine and herbal product design primarily uses biomedical concepts of organ function and changes in physiological and biochemical pathways to understand health and disease. These programs use a biomedical approach to herbal medicine which is heavily rooted in herbal medicine tradition as a global system. These programs focus on contemporary science, research and evidence-based medicine while reflecting a “melting pot” of cultural and philosophical perspectives intended to be inclusive of diverse populations.

Understanding How Herbs Work

Chinese Herbal Medicine Clinical Herbal Medicine/Herbal Product Design
In Chinese herbal medicine, herbs are viewed as positively impacting vital substances in the body and working as vehicles of flavor and direction to restore tissue planes, the body’s breath motion and in doing so return vitality and thriving to one’s life. In clinical herbal medicine, the impact of herbs is understood in a variety of ways including pharmacology, phytochemistry, history, folklore and tradition and the contemporary evidence base. Energetic systems of understanding are applied with broad strokes and don’t align to any specific system of understanding, using terms such as hot/cold, damp/dry, etc.

Understanding the Client/Patient

Chinese Herbal Medicine Clinical Herbal Medicine/Herbal Product Design
Chinese herbal medicine approaches patients on a body, mind and spirit level. Assessment and diagnosis are performed in two areas of study, zhěn診 (examination/testing) and duàn斷(decision/judgment). During each examination the herbalist utilizes multiple techniques to collect information from the patient using the Four Pillars of Diagnosis which include observation, inquiry, palpation, and hearing and smelling. Using these observations, the herbalist determines where and when the body lost its ability to be coherent and a pattern diagnosis is made. In addition, dietary and lifestyle modifications may be recommended to further assist the resolution of the disharmony. Clinical herbal medicine uses a narrative system of assessment to assist clients. This approach is heavily aligned with contemporary differential diagnosis and a bio-psycho-social assessment of individual clients. In practice, an herbalist typically spends an hour or more doing a comprehensive interview and history. The herbalist often interfaces directly with a patient’s primary care provider.

Herbal Pharmacy Approaches

Chinese Herbal Medicine Clinical Herbal Medicine/Herbal Product Design
The prescriptions dispensed in these programs are custom formulated by the student for their patient. Formulas typically contain 4-15 ingredients. The herbs are selected and verified for correct species and geo-authenticity; passing inspection for proper identification, maturity, and high quality, while offering organic herbs whenever available. The Chinese herbal formulas are cooked in water, or decocted, allowing many of the chemical components of the plants to be more readily bioavailable. Clinical herbal medicines are usually custom formulated by the clinician for the individual client. Formulas typically contain 3-9 herbs. Formulaic rationale reflects phytochemical, therapeutic, safety and flavor considerations. On the product development side, formulations are created in response to consumer needs, particularly in widespread, lifestyle driven etiologies.

Professional Practice

Chinese Herbal Medicine Clinical Herbal Medicine/Herbal Product Design
Graduates of MUIH’s Chinese Herbal programs are eligible to sit for the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) exam. Those who pass receive Diplomate status and are recognized nationally as board certified in Chinese Herbology. The NCCAOM is the only national organization that validates entry-level competency in the practice of acupuncture and Oriental medicine (AOM) through professional certification. NCCAOM certification is required for licensure in some states. Chinese herbalists blend these skills and knowledge with acupuncture to address the health and wellness needs of their patients. Graduates of the M.S. Clinical Herbal Medicine program are eligible to complete the requirements and apply for certification with the American Herbalists Guild as a Registered Herbalist. This is a rigorous, peer-reviewed credential. Clinical herbalists can practice herbalism nationally, however, as unlicensed practitioners they must observe certain practice limitations. Graduates of the M.S. Clinical Herbal Medicine commonly work with other medical providers. Graduates of the M.S. Herbal Product Design and Manufacture program are prepared to contribute as entrepreneurs creating their own herbal products, or to work within existing companies providing quality assurance and product development research, as well as federal regulatory guidance.