Chinese Herbal Medicine

A Visit to a Chinese Doctor


So, from September 2005 until August of 2006 I was routinely performing extreme physical labor while breathing mold and fungus-laden dust, having an average 3 – 4 drinks per day, eating greasy MSG-rich food late each evening, not sleeping enough, and don’t even talk about formal exercise.  Oh, and I was still dealing with excessive stress and still suffering bouts of chronic diarrhea.

Between the hurricane recovery and settling into a new marriage with a wife newly arrived in the US, Winnie and I were trying to start a family.  We started consulting an OB/GYN for Winnie, and one item her doctor wanted was for me to have a fertility test.  About the same time, my regular doctor decided it was time for my annual physical with complete blood work.  So about August 15, 2006 I was poked, prodded, tested and inspected in the finest practices of modern American medicine.

Baseline Examination

For the purposes of this article I will refer to the results of this August 15, 2006 lab work as my “Baseline” medical results.   The results can be summarized as follows:

  1. I was diagnosed with significant fertility issues.
  2. Blood work showed evidence of significant liver and kidney problems.
  3. My blood cholesterol was 242 and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) was at 139.7.

Overall, the medical tests indicated that I was in fairly poor health, developing some serious long-term health issues, and would have great difficulty conceiving a child.  I did not tell Winnie the results of my exam other than a brief discussion about my fertility issues.

I received the usual warnings from my doctors about poor diet, lack of exercise, excessive drinking, yada, yada, and yada.  Then in September 2006 Winnie and I moved from Mississippi to Northern Virginia.

The Chinese Herbologist

By early November 2006 we had mostly settled into our apartment ready to resume a semblance of normal life.  We had hooked up with a new family physician that reviewed the results of my August lab work and gave me the usual warnings about poor diet, lack of exercise, excessive drinking, yada, yada, yada.  He also confirmed the diagnosis of my physicians in Mississippi about liver and kidney problems and fertility issues.

One Saturday morning in mid-November Winnie and I decided to make our first touristy visit to Washington D.C.  We ended up wandering around the Chinatown region and Winnie quickly found a nice Chinese “General Store.”  A large part of this store was dedicated to a herb shop staffed by a D.C. licensed “Herb Pharmacist.”  The pharmacist could not speak any English, so my wife engaged him in a rather animated Chinese-language conversation that she occasionally interrupted to explain to me what was being discussed.

During the conversation my wife asked the pharmacist about prescribing me herbs for my fertility issues.  He explained he could not give anything without a prescription from a licensed Herbologist, of which there were several he dealt with in the local area.  The Herbologist located closest to the store was about eight blocks away and took some appointments on Saturdays.  The shopkeepers provided us an address and phone number.  Winnie insisted on walking down and finding the office, “just to look.”

The doctor’s office turned out to be a Victorian-style brick townhouse in a semi-decent neighborhood.  At about 2:00PM on a Saturday, Winnie knocked on the door, had a brief and very animated Chinese-language chat with the young woman answering, and got us an on-the-spot walk-in appointment.

The doctor was the father of the young woman answering the door, Dr, Zhung of Zhung’s Clinic.  Over the course of the next several visits I learned a lot about him.  Dr Zhung was then in his late 40’s.  He had studied in the Fungung province of China and later immigrated to America.  He was a licensed acupuncturist in the states of Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.  He was also a licensed Herbologist in Washington D.C. (I do not know if Virginia or Maryland recognize herbology licenses).  He explained that as part of his medical training in Fungung he had learned the uses of over 1200 different herbs, but only had access to about 800 here in the U.S.  He explained that in China there were over 2000 different herbs available.

His offices were on the main floor of his turn-of-the-century townhouse.  He operated two examining rooms, each one containing a massage-table style bed that was used for his acupuncture procedures. The only other furniture was a desk and three chairs in each room, a sink and wall-mounted cabinets, portable medical equipment including a stethoscope and blood-pressure tester, and a telephone/fax machine.

His English was marginal, so Winnie did most of the talking our first visit.  What I surmise is that she explained we were trying to start a family and so far not particularly successful (please make crass jokes and then move on thank you).  The doctor asked her some questions, and then in his halting English, with the assistance of Winnie and her limited English, he asked me some questions.  After our discussions he started his examination.

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