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— updated 2012-05-22

Herbalist Review, Issue 2004 #1a: Reviews and comments from users of HerbalThink-TCM

(formerly: Traditional Chinese Herbal Sciences CD-ROM)

Here is what health professionals and students of TCM herbology have said about the HerbalThink-TCM software package (Self-Study Reference, TCM Herbal Tutor, and TCM Pulse Simulator):


Marion Bachra, MS, RD — Bozeman, Montana:

The TCM Herbal Tutor is an essential part of my practice. It allows me to make interrelationships between patterns that would have otherwise escaped me. Consequently, with the aid of your program, I have made some very effective but simple and to-the-point TCM formulas for my clients.

I continue to benefit from the TCM Herbal Tutor, and use it for each client's formulas. The Formula Table helps me narrow down the formulas by Syndrome, instead of having to thumb through Bensky's Formulas and Strategies book. This is much quicker. The Formula Table provides a to-the-point overview of the formula's actions, syndromes, cautions, ingredients in qians, clinical notes, and related formulas. I still use Bensky's book, for instance, if I need a more detailed description of how the herbs work together. When I want to see the individual monographs of each herb, I use the "Show Herbs" button. The Syndrome Table allows me to find a Syndrome description quickly and also allows me to look at one symptom and check for the different syndromes that possibly have that type of symptom. The Herb Table helps me to narrow down the herbs by syndrome which is very handy.


Paul Bergner, Editor of Medical Herbalism and Director of North American Institute of Medical Herbalism — Boulder, Colorado:

This computer application now allows the study of Chinese diagnosis and formulation in a way never previously possible. This tool is indispensable for the serious student of Chinese medicine who wants to reach a level of excellence in practice, and is especially for the professional practitioner who does not imagine that his or her need to study and refine their diagnostic and prescribing skills ended when they got their license.

See Paul Bergner's review of version 4 here.

Dean Campbell — Salt Lake City, Utah:

Wow, after playing with the Pulse Simulator for just a few minutes the old saying of "a picture is worth a thousand words" comes to mind. In just a few minutes I now "get" things that I never could really get a handle on, the depth parameter (sinking, floating, etc.) becomes so much more clear than ANY description I have read in any book.

I understand what you were saying yesterday about how you thought the main problem for western students was the difficulty of communicating sensations with words, particularly words that culturally don't mean the same thing to us (westerns) as it does Chinese/Indians.

You guys are making learning TCM fun. Great job on executing a wonderful idea!


C.S. Cheung, MD, LAc, Founding President of American College of TCM — San Francisco, California:

Scholars of traditional Chinese medicine have for centuries noted that accurate and comprehensive differential pattern assessment is the key to high-level practice of Chinese herbology and that the ability to handle intractable and difficult cases that many other physicians have failed to resolve is a skill analogous to that of untying knots. In the HerbalThink-TCM interactive learning software, its designers Roger Wicke and Curt Kruse have gone far beyond the simple-mindedness of multiple choice exams to recreate the types of mental puzzles that practitioners will face in real clinical practice. Its TCM Herbal Tutor module will prepare students and practitioners with an intimate knowledge of clinical pattern recognition that otherwise could not be achieved without years of practice and internship with master physicians.

The TCM Pulse Simulator module of HerbalThink-TCM systematically breaks down the pulse qualities into independent parameters like rate, strength, depth, pulse profile, rhythm, elasticity, etc., in a similar way that I have described and advocated in my own lectures for many years. The authors adhere closely to the way that traditional master of pulses Li Shi Zhen described them, but with a few crucial insights from circulatory physiology and biophysics that makes this system totally compatible with modern medical models of the pulse. Modern TCM practitioners will benefit by being able to visualize in three dimensions the effects of each pulse parameter on the sensations felt in their fingertips, thus clarifying pulse terminology that has before this time been the source of much debate and confusion.

The HerbalThink-TCM contains invaluable tools for the student learning to recognize and treat multiple patterns as well as for the practitioner working up diagnoses and treatments on actual clinical cases. I unreservedly recommend this software for both students and practitioners. Though written in English, it contains a wealth of insights that provide a unique complement to the traditional literature of Chinese medicine.

See Dr. Cheung's original review in Chinese here.

K.L. Chong — Penang, Malaysia:

Keep up the good work. Your games have made learning TCM so wonderful, which I could not have imagined possible a few years ago. And you are right that this software will take us into a life-long learning with its limitless possibilities. Our Asian dollar is weak and living standard here is low. It has been an expensive investment but I did not have a slightest regret after the purchase considering its high quality and effectiveness!

I discuss your work with friends when the opportunity arises. We've come to the conclusion that there are no TCM practitioners or teachers we have met so far that could match your overall skill and insights on TCM, current health issues, and scientific knowledge. Many are strong only in certain areas but you are different. My observation is that your TCM skill is equal to rare Master Herbalists who administer herbs with precision. Also, the way you teach pulsation is very effective which I suspect is rarely taught anywhere else. Your criticisms on the pitfalls in pulsation should be contemplated even by long-time TCM practitioners; many still focus only on 28 types of pulse in clinical practice when there are actually millions of combinations, as you rightly point out. Your 101% commitment in what you do makes you another rare gem the world is indebted to.


Jon Egan — San Francisco, California:

I just purchased the Pro Option two weeks ago and already I feel that I am evolving from reluctantly studying herbs to becoming passionate about them. Just that alone affects my ability to retain so much more information.


Bob Flaws, OMD, Editor of Blue Poppy Press — Boulder, Colorado

[from his review in 1994 of the original print textbooks, which form the core of the Self-Study Reference]

Roger uses case histories to exemplify the theory he is explaining almost from the very first pages. This makes otherwise abstruse theory immediately concrete. The reader does not have to wait till some other time to learn how this theory is used in clinical practice. ... Anyone interested in the philosophy of science and epistemology as they relate to Chinese medicine and our role as Western practitioners of this art will find Roger's discussion clarifying and thought-provoking.


Barbara Hann — Lantana, Florida:

Since starting your herbal course I have not stopped jumping for joy. Finally text and cross-reference in English that is set-up so well and follows lots of common sense. Prior to your program I have read many Chinese translations with numerous notes however, it was difficult to grasp the details and the big picture or each small concept. Thank you for sharing your life experiences and education to put together this well thought out and executed program.


Yasser Hassan — St. Paul, France:

I had been studying the basics of TCM for a bit more than a year when I had the chance to come across RMHI. I was not only attracted to the thoroughness of their program but also by the fact that they were (maybe still are) the only ones that had actually developed a fully integrated self-study and diagnostic reference software in the field. The work required to master the various disciplines is tremendous and necessitates real dedication and motivation, however, the software in itself is extremely user friendly, fully accessible to novices under few hours. A few weeks before my graduation, I was confronted with a client suffering from chronic elevated pressure, severe indigestions and lower back pains. Using what I had been taught at RMHI, I was able to correctly assess the TCM patterns and provide an adequate herbal formula (one actually adapted to the client’s needs and persona) that relieved the client from these symptoms in less than ten days, with a full recovery after only six weeks. The client had been suffering from these symptoms for more than two years with prescription drugs only temporarily relieving the associated pains!


Matthew Hawkins, MD, Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, Ohio:

After twenty-five years of western medical practice I decided to study Oriental medicine. Acupuncture was easy to learn compared to Chinese herbology. I was staggered at the complexity of the herbal system and wondered how I would ever learn such a system without going to study in China for 6-12 months as there is no school of Oriental Medicine in Ohio. I looked at every program I could find and then flew to Seattle to ask Dan Bensky, the author of Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica. After refusing to teach me personally, Dr. Bensky recommended Roger Wicke's program at the Rocky Mountain Herbal Institute. He made this recommendation five times in our conversation. He said the RMHI program had no equal and he could not recommend any other program. That was unbelievable to me at the time but I took his advice and contacted RMHI. Dan was right and I couldn't be happier.

The course, the learning system, and the program simply have no equal. Pattern diagnosis is the foundation of TCM and the hardest aspect to learn. Points can be learned and herbs memorized, but all acupuncture and herbal treatments rest upon the pattern diagnosis. All patient conditions and presentations are not static and therefore the pattern diagnosis is not static. The RMHI presentation and computer program teaches you to recognize TCM patterns from the changing information of the signs, symptoms, tongue and pulse. You then learn easily how to apply this information to herbal treatments. It is brilliant and fun, because it is really a GAME in which you learn a TCM pattern diagnosis and herbal treatments. It is a GAME played with signs, symptoms, pulse, and tongue findings in which you are challenged, surprised, delighted, and assisted to learn and win. There is nothing like it anywhere for learning TCM.

If you want to learn TCM Herbology don't take another course. Sign up for the RMHI program.


Michelle Kozera — Mayfield, Michigan:

I have been enjoying your Self-Study Reference immensely. It is extremely useful. I personally feel your course is the best self-study course available. Thank you so much for all the time and effort you have put into this course.


Brian LaForgia LAc, DiplAc, CH — Pou Ji Tang Clinic, San Francisco, California:

The Traditional Chinese Herbal Sciences CD, which includes the Self-Study Reference and TCM Herbal Tutor Program, is undoubtedly the best teaching program for students learning to recognize and diagnose multiple diagnostic syndromes and choosing appropriate herbal formulas currently available on CD. It is also an excellent program for practitioners working up diagnoses and treatment plans. It forces the practitioner to expand and deepen their understanding of differential (pattern) diagnosis and herbal treatment protocols. I highly recommend both the Self-Study Reference and the TCM Herbal Tutor for practitioners and students.


Todd Luger LAc, DiplAc — Director of Chinese Herbal Academy and educational software designer:

The material covered in the self-study course and companion databases is similar in scope to that covered in the combined contents of a basic theory text (like Fundamentals or Foundations), a materia medica, a formulary, a case study text. But it is Roger's commentary and style of teaching that make this course unique. Presenting each new aspect of this foreign language of life, Roger goes to great lengths to get his point across to an audience that that may have little familiarity with the material. In doing so, he succeeds admirably. In writing this, I am reminded of the new burdens of teaching TCM in the early 21st century. Many teachers have expressed concern that current students have little exposure to eastern philosophy or holistic medicine before entering school. Roger provides a solution to this dilemma in his materials by teaching not only the data, but staying ever focused on understanding this new language.

The power of the HT [TCM Herbal Tutor] software lends itself particularly well to the real life analysis of complex cases. Thus it is potentially a great tool for the clinical intern and seasoned practitioner. One can rapidly analyze a complex case and then compare and contrast a ranked list of formulas that correlate with the search parameters. This can save tremendous time compared to poring over books and then probably glossing over some critical data anyway.

In addition to the fully searchable tables in the HT software, the progammers have developed the most innovative games to challenge, test and hone ones knowledge and diagnostic skills.


Nigel Ogston, MD — Huntsville, Ontario, Canada:

The manner of presentation of the material is incremental and logically consistent from the simplest levels (definitions of Heat, Cold, Deficiency, Excess, etc.) on up to the most complex levels of multifaceted disharmony patterns (which can always be logically reduced to subsets or composites of the basic patterns presented). The texts are concise and crisp. The reader gains confidence in his or her understanding as they progress.

The TCM Herbal Tutor picks up from the text with a series of interactive games based on the information in the text, and powerfully assists the learner in the assimilation and understanding of the foundations of TCM methodology for accurate pattern assessment as well as facilitating rapid and exhaustive familiarity with the core herbs and traditional formulas in all the major therapeutic categories of TCM. This program works at any level from beginner student to professional practitioner. The program adapts itself to the capability and knowledge level of the user. Very few, if any, professional practitioners would not be challenged at some level by the degree of subtlety this program is able to demand of the user, but even the beginner can have fun and enjoy the experience of computer-assisted learning as they expand their knowledge.

I confess that my fundamental bias is not toward computers, and that in the past I have greatly preferred print modes. Other software programs, purporting to simplify the approach to TCM, have done little to change that stance. This program, however, is unique and a genuinely pleasant surprise: it actually delivers far more than it promises, and keeps on delivering no matter what level you are working at... It is truly possible to develop state-of-the-art knowledge of the factual basis of Chinese Medicine quickly and comprehensively with this program.

See Dr. Ogston's complete review here.

Jim Reinhart, PharmD — Whitefish, Montana:

I think the TCM Herbal Tutor is an excellent way of learning the patterns, materia medica, and the formulas. I have found the tutorial very challenging and actually a lot of fun. I really appreciate the case studies, what a learning tool.


Phil Rogers, MRCVS — Dublin, Ireland:

The RHMI Traditional Chinese Herbal Sciences CD-ROM has a very impressive amount of data, useful not only to practitioners and students of TCM herbal medicine, but also to acupuncturists who may wish to increase their knowledge of the TCM Syndromes.

...The software has very powerful Search and Find functions that enable users to match various patterns of input search profiles.


Amy Sothman, Herbalist — Bellingham, Washington:

The Traditional Chinese Herbal Sciences Study Course and the Herbal Tutor are invaluable components of my practice. The databases within the TCHS Study Course and the Herbal Tutor allow efficient and effective cross-referencing of symptom/sign patterns, Zang-Fu patterns, Exterior Evils and the actions and indications of herbs and formulas. The program displays information that could take hours to find in books. The study course as well as the database text is clear, concise, and in-depth. The TCHS Study Course goes beyond a professional tutorial for learning traditional Chinese herbal sciences and becomes a powerful reference tool for the practitioner.

The Herbal Tutor quizzes provide the opportunity to review my TCM fundamentals at my leisure amid a hectic schedule. The quizzes point out overlooked areas and present them repeatedly to allow for my improvement. Both the TCHS Study Course and the Herbal Tutor are an asset to my practice and ensure that I continue to provide a high level of service to my clients. I would highly recommend them to anyone wanting to learn Traditional Chinese Herbal Sciences and to professionals wanting to fine tune their skills.


Pauline Vaughan, MA, DAc — Upper Canada Centre for Oriental Medicine (Ontario, Canada):

Roger has created a learning tool that goes far and above anything else I've seen in interactive learning for TCM. Working with the Herbal Tutor and games, the material almost "learns itself" — that is, I learn it faster and easier than I ever would have thought possible without the effort or tedium of memorizing long lists of material.

The Pulse Simulator is the star of the show. The animation grabs me viscerally, and somehow Roger has created a visual image that I actually feel in my fingertips, anchoring the pulse characteristics in my mind in a way I hadn't imagined possible without an actual patient there. All TCM schools should be considering this CD as a standard text for their herbology and acupuncture programs.