I was born into a family of herbalists. My father, my great-grandfather, great-great grandfather, and his father were all herbalists. I represent the 5th generation in this long lineage dating back to Imperial China.
When I was three or four years old, I started to learn herbal songs and how to identify herbs. As I got older, I was taught how to process the herbs while working in my dad’s clinic in Vietnam. After we immigrated to the United States, my dad asked me if I wanted to pursue a career in TCM as an herbalist or acupuncturist. I said, “No, just leave me alone, Dad. I will find something I enjoy doing for work.” So, he left me alone to find my own way.
I wanted nothing to do with herbal medicine until I gave birth to my second daughter, Catherine, who was born with severe gastric reflux. When Catherine was 10 days old, I had to take her to the ER for IV injections into her little hand because she couldn’t keep milk down. Besides vomiting, she also was having diarrhea. Catherine was losing nutrition from both ends, so her tiny body was shrinking. At that time my dad warned me, “She needs to be treated with herbal medicine, otherwise she will have seizures later on.” I didn’t fully understand what my dad was talking about, so I ignored him.
My daughter got so ill that she could only take half an ounce of milk per hour. Before feeding her, I would use a syringe and shoot Zantac into her mouth to lessen the vomiting. As time passed, she needed milk more often, and consequently more Zantac. By the time Catherine was 8 months old, she needed to be fed and medicated 11 times a day.
I could hardly sleep, eat, shower or rest. Even at night, I had to drape my daughter over my shoulder for her to sleep. If I put Catherine down, she would vomit. I barely had time to squeeze in a 5-minute shower once or twice a week for myself. I was exhausted, but what could I do? I had to care for my daughter and do my best to survive each day with the hope that she would get better or at the very least her condition would not worsen.
Catherine had to wear a turtleneck with two sweaters along with a baby cap and scarf to be outside during the heat of summer, even when temperatures were 100 plus degrees. If I didn’t cover her up, she would have a runny nose, cough, and non stop vomiting. How will she be able to go to school or anywhere with air conditioning?
One day we went to a Vietnamese pho restaurant. After I set Catherine down into the high-chair, I turned around and adjusted my chair. Then I heard a woman’s shout, “Look at her!” I looked in the direction she pointed. It was Catherine…her eyes rolled up and her entire body stiff and shaking with fluid coming out of her mouth. Someone said, “Squeezed some lemon into her mouth.” I did it without hesitating and Catherine’s body relaxed.
We rushed her to the ER. For 3 days she was in the NICU where they monitored her brain. The doctors told me I was lucky because my daughter’s seizure didn’t last for more than 3 minutes which would have damaged her brain. After that I always carried a piece of lemon because I had no idea when my baby girl would have another seizure.
The seizures started to come weekly, so the doctor prescribed anti-seizure medication. Catherine wasn’t even 1 year of age, and already she was taking Zantac 11 times plus anti-seizure medicine 3 times a day. It was nearly impossible to administer the anti-seizure medicine because whenever I took out the syringe, she would cry and start vomiting.
I took Catherine to see a specialist at CHOC. I asked, “Doctor, have you ever seen any infant with this condition get well?” The doctor replied, “It depends. Some will grow out of it, but some don’t. If they don’t, then they will have to take the medication for the rest of their life.”
“What do you mean by grow out of it?” The doctor explained that Catherine might get better by herself as she got older.
My mind was racing. “All this time the prescribed medication has not been treating her stomach?” The doctor said, “No, it only helps to guide the food down, so she won’t vomit it back up. That’s why you have to give it to her before the feeding.”
“Well, what if she doesn’t grow out of it?” In that case, Catherine will be dependent upon medication for the rest of her life. The doctor further informed me that she was born with gastro reflux and is still taking medicine for the condition.
Her statement was like lightning in my brain. If the doctor can’t even treat herself for gastro reflux, how can she help my daughter? Seeing the futility of my path, I turned to my dad for help.
My dad advised me to stop all western drugs and to give her an herbal prescription 3 times a day. Administering medicine 3 times instead of 14 times a day to Catherine was a godsend to me. Even though it sounded too good to be true, I figured that I could still give Zantac to Catherine if she didn’t get better or continued to vomit.
After one month of herbs 3 times a day, Catherine vomited less and less. To test Catherine, I let her cry to see if she would vomit. She didn’t, so I knew she was getting better. After another month of herbal medicine, Catherine was able to wear less clothing without getting a runny nose, coughing, or vomiting. After 3 months of herbal formulas, she stopped having episodes of gastro reflux and seizure. Catherine will enjoy a normal, healthy life.
Because of Catherine’s dramatic recovery, I was sold on Chinese medicine and asked my dad to treat me. I fainted very easily especially during the winter. After a few months of herbal formulas, I have never fainted again.
I started to have time to think and tried to understand why a piece of lemon helps to relax the muscles and stop a seizure. Lemon is a common citrus, yet it has magical powers that we don’t understand and underestimate. I wanted to learn more and find answers, so I decided to go to China which has a long history of herbal medicine. I went to TCM schools in China and Hong Kong and worked in the TCM hospitals to learn from the best herbal doctors in the world.
When I was there, I knew one day I would want to become an herbalist, but how can I get a steady supply of high-quality herbs. My dad and I backpacked across China and visited many farmlands. We interviewed farmers to grow herbs for us. We also found a company to test and inspect each batch of herbs delivered from the farmers. This company also cleans, processes and dries the herbs for us.
After I came back to the state, I worked with my dad and learned from his experiences and studied the formulas that our ancestors passed down. What I have been through helped me to understand the importance of health. Without health, don’t even talk about career, beauty, education, freedom, etc. I now have worked with many families who have suffered as I have. Their endearing appreciation drives me to work harder.
Our namesake Silkie is a Chinese breed of chicken that is well known for it's calm and friendly temperament. They are gentle and caring and make wonderful mothers. A Silkie loves nothing more than brooding a cluster of eggs, whether they are her's or not, even if they are duck eggs. We share the same outlook on our clients and care for them the same way we care for our own family.