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Clinical Essay:


by Ryan Bemis

“Psychiatric patients don’t want super duper soup.” Michael O. Smith.

NADA co-founder and psychiatrist Michael O. Smith recently told program administrators at a workshop that soup and friendship were “the best technology” for acu detox patients. In China, recipes of herbal remedies are most commonly referred to as “tang,” pinyin for “soup.” Herbal Sleepmix Detox Tea is the “soup” Mike created for NADA programs to be cooked and shared by clients and staff alike.

He recalls Sleepmix’s development in the ’70’s while searching for a good sleep aid for his clients. “Some people said valerian. Some people said chaparral. No one said Sleepmix.” He reports he tried all three and to his surprise, clients preferred the “just off the store shelf” Sleepmix blend.

“Valerian is famous for being a sleep aid. But valerian is a heart tonic marketed for middle aged women. It isn’t what my patients needed. They needed to clear heat.”

In TCM, cold and bitter herbs are typically used to clear heat. Smith contends that an herb like Oriental scutellaria, or Huang Qin, a very strong cold and bitter herb used to clear heat in Chinese medicine, would make his clients sicker. He included western scutellaria known as skullcap in his formula. Both varieties are cold and bitter and open up the liver as well as clear heat. However, western scutellaria has a slightly sweet flavor, which may enable a harmonizing function.

Mike describes his formula as “easy to digest, easy to handle,” calling to mind that “our clients can’t handle very much.” He credits chamomile as his formula’s main herb. Primarily a digestive herb, chamomile has a unique capacity to either cool the body down or warm it up, to adapt to what the body needs. Chamomile tastes sweet, which is the flavor of the Chinese element earth. In TCM, sweet herbs can moderate the intensity of other herbs. Chamomile, along with hops, catnip, skullcap and peppermint, has calming functions.

In Sleepmix, peppermint, yarrow and catnip have acrid flavors, which may account for their capacity to increase circulation and release heat by promoting sweating. Mike explains, “A big part ofthe herbal business is to make you sweat a little bit. And this is just a gentle version of that.” He notes that yarrow “makes the liver flow better.” Peppermint, like TCM’s field mint Bo He, also soothes the liver.

Mike characterizes his formula as some chamomile and some mints (peppermint, catnip and skullcap are all types of mint). He contends, “None of these herbs are famous and all of them you can giveto children,” yet are sufficient to detox an alcoholic. NADA programs need not venture beyond Sleepmix’s safety and simplicity for energetic explanations of why the recipe works for acu detox patients. However,the slow healing, light tonic properties of yarrowand skullcap can treat deficiency and excess as well as internal and external conditions, depending on what the individual needs.

This resonates with NADA parlance that “it’s an inside job,” therefore ideal for complex and cunning pathologies. Such are the cases in NADA programs. While Zang-Fu diagnosis is not always appropriate or helpful, especially at transitional phases of recovery, Sleepmix detox tea is, and at a low cost ($72 for 1000 tea bags from licensed supplier Nutracontrol).

Nutracontrol’s Indications for Sleepmix include (see

Treating sleep disorders

As an integral part of drug & alcohol detox ` programs

People in high stress environments

Hyperactive children and adults

Chronic anxiety relief

Chronic pain relief

Daily stress and anxiety relief

General aid in detox

Yarrow is the only herb in Sleepmix detox tea that has been used in China. Though not included in many Chinese formulas, yarrow, known in pinyin as Yang Shi Cao, was said to clear heat and clean toxins from the blood and from the liver. The stalks were used to consult the I Ching, or Book of Changes, an ancient Chinese text consulted by seekers of wisdom and self-knowledge. Millennia later, on the other side of the planet, Saint Albert the Great used yarrow for fear and self-negation, two nagging recovery issues.

Yarrow is a known wound healing remedyin cultures around the world from the Chinese tothe Cherokee. Also called Military Herb and Soldier Wound Wort, it grows along pathways and was readily available to traveling troops and tribes alike. In fact, the botanical name, Achillea, comes from the Greek hero Achilles who applied yarrow to the wounds of his soldiers during the Trojan War. Interestingly, Yarrow is astringent, which may account for its wound binding capacity.

Holmes, P, The Energetics of Western Herbs. Vol. I and II, Revised Second Edition. ISBN 0-9623477-4-4. Snow Lotus Inc. 1994.

Ross, J, Combining Western Herbs and Chinese Medicine. ISBN 0-9728193-0-4. Greenfields 2003.

Herbal Sleepmix Tea is available from :


Box 1199

Old Chelsea Station

New York, NY 10011


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