Acupuncture/ pressureChinese Medicine

Transitioning East Asian medicine to the West: An Asian perspective

Giovanni Maciocia is Italian, not Chinese. Regardless, he is a respected practitioner of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. And he has the ability to speak to westerns about Chinese medicine in a way that cuts through the mystique.

Three quotes from his book, “The Safety of Chinese Herbal Medicine” provide a different perspective than is typical among those who practice or are treated with Western medicine.

I make no judgment, right or wrong. It’s just different, and should be considered in any evaluation or critique.

Differences in the pharmacodynamics of drugs and herbs (page 18)

  • “Ancient Chinese prescriptions are balanced in a way that reduces side-effects of their individual constituents? A mixture of several crude herbs could have greater beneficial effects compared with a single plant extract. First, crude drugs given in combination could act synergistically. Second, they could have unknown interactions but could interact to diminish possible adverse side effects of one or more of the components. Indeed, that is the art of making a balanced herbal prescription.”

Side effects, adverse reactions, idiosyncratic reactions and allergic reactions to herbal medicines (page 20)

  • “It should also be said that adverse reactions to herbs attract a disproportionate amount of attention in certain quarters, compared with the scale of adverse reactions to drugs.”

How to advise patients reporting alleged side effects, adverse reactions, or unspecified reactions (page 55)

  • “The use of herbal remedies is inevitably linked to possible side-effects or adverse reactions. This is not because they are toxic, but because human metabolism differs widely from person to person and although side-effects are undesirable effects that can be foreseen, individual patients’ reactions cannot.”

8/5/06 11:27 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.