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Preserving Classical Chinese Medicine with Dr. Simon Feeney (EP#127)

Mason chats with Dr. Simon Feeney; Founder of the first and only Australian certified organic Chinese herb wholesaler dedicated to Tao Di principles, a physician in classical Chinese medicine, Acupuncturist, extensively knowledgable herbalist, and devotee of preserving the ancient knowledge of classical Chinese medicine.

Dr. Simon Feeney's journey along the virtuous path of classical Chinese medicine and healing has been far from ordinary. His integrity and purist approach to everything he does, has successfully set a new standard for wholesale Chinese Herbs in Australia, with the establishment of his company/clinic Empirical Health six years ago. Purity, Quality, and Potency are the principle values of Empirical Health; The first and only Australian certified organic Chinese herb wholesaler dedicated to Tao Di principles. A Physician in classical Chinese medicine, acupuncturist, extensively knowledgeable herbalist, and ongoing devoted scholar (20 years) of ancient medical Burmese scriptures, Simon's passion for upholding essential ancient knowledge is evident in everything he does. Like all journeys of the heart, Simon's is full of incredible stories; Stories of ancient manuscripts with cures for Leprosy, herbal preparations that demolish malarial strains, being held at gunpoint in the name of preserving ancient teachings, and quests of translating bygone measurements for 2000-year-old formulas used in the Han Dynasty. In this potent conversation, Simon and Mason discuss the preservation of Classical Chinese medicine through lineage, the institutionalisation of TCM (where it's lacking), concocting ancient formulas, species identification when it comes to Tao Di, and the reverence for classical Chinese medicine as a complete system. Tune in for ancient knowledge and so much more.


"If that herb's not available, what are we going to do? How are we going to adapt? Chinese medicine's beautiful like that, all of a sudden new things evolve, and that's the nature of Chinese medicine. It's still evolving. But it's not evolving as the western mind thinks about evolving, in the sense of, "Right, all that stuff's behind me, I need to forge forward into the darkness. No, it's evolving based on history".


- Dr. Simon Feeney



Host and Guest discuss:

  • Pulse diagnosis.
  • The Han Dynasty.
  • Chinese herbalism.
  • Energetics of herbs.
  • Availability of herbs.
  • Plant identification.
  • Administration techniques.
  • Therapeutic alkaloid testing.
  • Quality discernment of herbs.
  • Tao Di (original growing region) principles
  • The evolving nature of Chinese medicine.
  • Genetic testing and proper identification of herbs.
  • The current Chinese medicine renaissance in the west.
  • Dosage; The right dose, for the right person at the right time.


Who is Simon Feeney?

Empirical Health’s Director, Simon Feeney continues to pursue his lifelong passion for the study of Traditional Medicine under a Theravadin Buddhist Monk, who has been guiding his learning for the past 20 years. Simon’s commitment to fusing ancient knowledge with contemporary insight inspired his formal studies in Melbourne, Australia at the Southern School of Natural Therapies, where he completed his Bachelor’s Degree of Chinese Herbal Medicine and Traditional Chinese Acupuncture.

Along with his studies in the classical Chinese Medicine works of the Han Dynasty (200BC) and the refined art of Traditional Japanese Acupuncture, Simon is also a trained Bowen Therapist. Having studied intensively under one of Melbourne’s leading Chinese Medicine gynaecologists. He has a special interest in chronic conditions, internal medicine, sub-clinical health, and other ‘hard to treat’ conditions.


For the last 20 years, Simon has been working closely with his teacher to understand a number of scriptures from Burma (now called Myanmar). These writings, dating as far back as 500 AD, largely pertain to monastic order as well as ancient medical knowledge and further underpin Simon’s dedication to preserving the integrity of the ancient ways for modern application and translation. Simon has travelled extensively through Thailand and Myanmar in documenting these texts and assisting in the preservation of this essential ancient knowledge to understand, use, and appreciate in the modern world.

Simon has completed an extensive post-graduate education including a specialist course in Canonical Chinese Medicine under the internationally acclaimed educator and physician Dr. Arnaud Versluys Ph.D. director of Institute of Classical East Asian Medicine (ICEAM). He is a member of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society and a registered member of the Australian Health Practitioners Registration Agency (AHPRA).

His extensive knowledge as a herbalist came from him spending endless hours working through ancient texts identifying doses of various herbs, deciphering and translating those that were successfully used centuries ago into modern applications, yet have been largely lost in modern times. His growing prominence has now extended from Chinese Medicine physicians to also include a number of veterinarians who have sought out formulas for use in their animal clinics.

Simon’s life journey and his long-standing passion for helping people has also involved him working with a non-profit organisation and temple, that will help build a library to hold rare and ancient manuscripts.





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Check Out The Transcript Here:


Mason: (00:01)

Simon, thanks so much for joining me.


Simon Feeney: (00:03)

You got it. Thanks for the invitation.


Mason: (00:04)

Absolute pleasure. In the flesh no less.


Simon Feeney: (00:06)

I know. First time, hey.


Mason: (00:08)



Simon Feeney: (00:08)

I don't know. Yeah.


Mason: (00:09)

You're coming down from Brisbane?


Simon Feeney: (00:11)

Yeah, just been up at a conference, so coming back down through here and thought I'd stop in and take up the invitation, and it all worked out beautifully.


Mason: (00:18)

Yeah, getting the practitioner gang back together.


Simon Feeney: (00:20)

Yes, exactly. Yeah, it's always good to be amongst some colleagues and shoot the breeze and connect after such a long time of separation, and so it's been very nice, very rewarding for everyone, I think.


Mason: (00:32)

So I love your company.


Simon Feeney: (00:35)

Thank you.


Mason: (00:37)

Yeah, I know-


Simon Feeney: (00:38)



Mason: (00:38)

Thank you. I don't know if it's an unusual friendship or not the... I was very curious about your company when it came up, and you've established it with such authority, and I have so many friends who are acupuncturists, and they were telling me when you first came on the scene, and just how relieved they were that you were bringing Chinese herbs of this quality to Australia because you go to Chinatown, you go and pick up your cistanche, whatever, anything you kind of like, or your formulas, and you're like, "I assume they're clean and pure."


Simon Feeney: (01:21)

Well, sometimes you have to pick out cigarette butts or a piece of plastic or something. That used to be what it was like, literally it was like that. I mean, when I trained with my first herbalist, he had his big display, and he was a real traditionalist so he said, "If you can't identify anything, you shouldn't be using it." So he had no names. It wasn't in alphabetical order. It was just depending on how much he used it. But it used to be that he had a bottle of, like a little container, that used to put all the bits that he found into the thing that was just rubbish.


Mason: (01:53)

That's amazing.


Simon Feeney: (01:53)

Yeah, because it was much less regulated back... There still is no regulation for the quality of Chinese herbs in Australia still to this day.


Mason: (02:02)

This is loose.


Simon Feeney: (02:03)

So we have to set our own standards.


Mason: (02:06)

I mean, I guess there are... Again, it sits in a grey area. Technically, it is regulated, but because it's such an underground world and operation in business, it's not really enforced.


Simon Feeney: (02:22)

No, it's not. That's right. I mean, the practise of it is, but the quality is not regulated. You've got these companies in Taiwan and in China now, but there is no official regulation for the quality, but once you start treating patients and you start wanting these herbs for, your kids are born and your wife is pregnant, then you want to have some sort of assurity that they are good quality, and that you're not doing any damage. Do no harm is the foundation of all clinical practise. That's what started the journey for me, so looking for that kind of quality.


Mason: (03:06)

And I guess the most obvious one that comes up is pesticides-


Simon Feeney: (03:10)

Huge [crosstalk 00:03:10].


Mason: (03:10)

... and I think everyone can relate to that in their immediate consciousness [crosstalk 00:03:15]-


Simon Feeney: (03:15)



Mason: (03:18)

When I started the company I was obsessed, and so that's why I went and sourced herbs that I wanted, but then started to talk to people who, like this woman, she's pregnant. I want to give this to my mom who just had an aneurysm.


Simon Feeney: (03:32)

That's right.


Mason: (03:33)

All of a sudden, your level of...


Simon Feeney: (03:34)

That's serious stuff.


Mason: (03:35)

It's serious shit.


Simon Feeney: (03:36)

Yeah, it's really... Yeah.


Mason: (03:36)

Don't muck around.


Simon Feeney: (03:37)

Yeah. No, you're talking about young foetuses. You're talking about the beginning of life, so you don't want to be doing any damage whatsoever, and you want to be assured, assured 100% with no doubt, that what you're doing is safe and not only effective, but primarily safe.


Mason: (03:56)

One thing I'm liking though is the self-regulation that does come up because I know you've started out a couple of years ago, a few years ago, officially distributing?


Simon Feeney: (04:06)

We've been distributing for about six years or so now. Yeah, yeah.


Mason: (04:11)

Wow, and so what's been the uptake? Where have you guys... I guess it's because I've been tuned in to what you're doing. I've seen you grow exponentially, but was there a constant exponential growth in the beginning, or was it a mad slog going up against the big Chinese herb companies in Australia?


Simon Feeney: (04:28)

Well, like you said earlier, just coming in it with authority and that sort of certainty. I was never happy with... Basically, I started because it was just in my clinic and wanted to make formulas, so I wanted to make these old ancient formulas from the Han Dynasty, so 2000 year old formulas, figuring out how to make them is a whole 'nother level. I had to work out what a liang was, what a [zhu 00:04:52], what a [fen 00:04:53], what a [zhang 00:04:53], what are all these measurements that absolutely made no sense to what I learnt at university and was completely impractical in terms of figuring out. So I had to figure all that out, but then I had to look at the herbs and figure out all that. So then we're realising that you have all these adulterations in Chinese medicine, so incorrect species identifications, quality discernment, and then safety and purity of the herbs.


Simon Feeney: (05:20)

So that led me to kind of trying to find the better, better, better, better quality, and then looking for the paperwork that supported that. Some of it was there, it was kind of falsified. I found all these little things that you didn't want to find as a herbalist, you didn't want to know about, and it was like, "Well, I think I have to try to find the best I can possibly find in the world," and I asked my community internationally, the Chinese medicine community internationally, "Where's the best?" And they all pointed to this one guy in the US, Andrew Ellis. And so I contacted him and I was like, "I want to talk to you." About a year and a half later, he responded back to me on Facebook.


Mason: (06:00)



Simon Feeney: (06:01)

And then said... Yeah, and then literally I was on the phone with him that afternoon because he said, "What are you doing now?" And I was like, "Oh, man." I had a cancellation from a patient, and so I'm sitting there and all of a sudden it comes up. And then about an hour later on the phone, we started talking about all these ancient formulas, and then he said, "I'm going to Hangzhou in two weeks. Want to come?"


Mason: (06:23)

Holy shit.


Simon Feeney: (06:23)

And two weeks later, I was in Hangzhou meeting these, I mentioned to you earlier, these big Chinese companies and going out to farms and understanding all the testing, and the rest is history. And then I was like, "I want to bring that back to Australia," and I brought it back to Australia, and I told some of the suppliers and they got so upset with me. They were so upset with me. Some of them are not even talking to me still because I did that. So it was almost like a calling out, it's kind of like losing face for some of those people, which is a shame.


Mason: (06:51)

I mean, okay, so there's a couple of things. You've gone over, and you've started going to these meetings with these herb companies that based on the demand of you going, "Hey, I want to know that there's no pesticides. I'd like this testing to be done. I want genetic testing, or proper identification."


Simon Feeney: (07:12)

Yeah, yeah. The alkaloid testing and everything, that's what we want.


Mason: (07:16)

I can't remember where I've read these stories, but in regards to where this is unregulated... There's an element of upregulation on what is the highest quality herb, and I remember hearing the initial stories of when [Dedao 00:07:31] became relevant, or [Daode 00:07:34], been when all the trading routes became, those roads became really tended to, and all of a sudden you're getting Schisandra berry where Schisandra berry doesn't really grow and then people going, "Hang on. This isn't the excellent Schisandra that I'm used to. Where's it come from? Oh, it's actually coming from over here now because we can grow it more," and then that person that knew what they were talking about going, "No, I want that Schisandra berry from this region and grown this way," and all of a sudden, there's this born this invisible unregulated at just the highest quality. And it's been completely driven by people like yourself, like... was it Andrew?


Simon Feeney: (08:13)

Andrew Ellis, yeah. Andy Ellis, yeah.


Mason: (08:16)

But it's hard to communicate to people and then you've gone over there-


Simon Feeney: (08:21)

It's very complicated.


Mason: (08:22)

... and met with these huge businesses that you've gone, and then driven by Andrew's demands, then furthered by your demands are going, "No. I need the herbs at this level."


Simon Feeney: (08:31)

The correct... I mean, the concept of this adulteration concept is very, very complicated, and as you mentioned, it comes all the way back to trade routes and all sorts of things. The principles of Daode are so complicated. You've got everything from completely incorrect species, like just one example is just Sheng Ma. So Sheng Ma's a herb that they use. I think in English it's like a Black Cohosh, and I think that's the English name for it. Anyway, we think about Sheng Ma and different kinds of Sheng Ma, but if you look at Sheng Ma, the actual herb, you can have something in the north called Sheng Ma and the south called Sheng Ma, but the north call that one [Ma Hua Toe 00:09:13], but in the south, they call it Sheng Ma. So, that can be one issue.


Simon Feeney: (09:19)

So when I went to Thailand, for example, I went into a wholesaler, I was looking for [Her Hung Hua 00:09:25], and they're like, "Here it is," and I'm like, "No, no, no. You've got it wrong," because what I was saying was [Her Hung Wa 00:09:29]."


Simon Feeney: (09:30)

It's like a special, like a flower. And then all of a sudden you realise, "No, no, no. You're using the wrong species." "No, you're not. You're using the wrong species." "But I've been using it in clinics for 10 years." "Well, I don't know, me too." "You've been using it for what purpose?" "I've been using it for this purpose." "Okay." So in some cases there's just incorrect species, so you just get a completely wrong species. In other instances you can have a different... And one thing does what it does therapeutically and the other one doesn't, and it's just been used for whatever reason, maybe it's got a mild action, but sometimes it just doesn't. It doesn't even have the marker, the therapeutic alkaloid in it, because you can measure these things now. That's the first example.


Simon Feeney: (10:11)

Second examples are where you have two different species of, same gene, it's different species with exactly the same function. An example of that's suan zao ren, so suan zao ren has two different kinds of suan zao ren, [foreign language 00:10:31] and spinose. So the spinose species is a little bit more effective, but this is for insomnia and that sort of stuff. But the [foreign language 00:10:40] is being used long enough in the history of Chinese medicine therapeutically and effectively in the clinic to say, "Yeah, it's kind of suan zao ren."


Mason: (10:49)

Far out.


Simon Feeney: (10:49)



Mason: (10:51)



Simon Feeney: (10:52)

And then you've got others. You got like a, and don't even get me started on chai hu bupleurum sinensis. I mean, bupleurum species. There's like 50 that are in use. But in the north the bei chai hu is different from the nan chai, so the bei chai hu is very good at venting shaoyang, so getting out pathologies in the system. This kind of lingering, they call it like a lingering pathogenic factor, but it's just kind of a TCM way of seeing this. It's basically stuck, like the shaoyang imbalance, we need to regulate shaoyang. Doesn't stop the flaring from it, but that's a different herb, [wan chin 00:11:29], but the chai hu doesn't... in the sinensis species does that.


Simon Feeney: (11:35)

But then the nan chai hu which is the southern chai hu, that vents and courses the liver. So if you're using those the opposite way around because they were written... It's complicated, sorry, if I get distracted.


Mason: (11:49)

Go for it.


Simon Feeney: (11:50)

The sinensis is used in all Shang Han Lun formulas, so the classical formulas to vent shaoyang. And in the modern one, the nan chai hu is used in Xiao Chai Hu Tang, which is a very common formula in Chinese medicine... Sorry, Xiao Yao San, to course liver chi and get rid of the stasis. When you swap those around and use them in the context of that formula, they can really cause problems. They can cause the adverse effects that you want. And people think, "Oh, it's me or it's something else." No, it's the species. And the complications of species identification is intense and when it comes to Daode the... I was talking to an indigenous guy, indigenous elder in South Australia, and I was asking about this concept. I was talking about this with him because I was talking about, oh, the way you decoct something.


Simon Feeney: (12:41)

And he said, "Oh, Simon, I'm going to bring you something." And he brought me this herb and he's like, "Try it, and see what you think," and he wanted to watch me taste it. I'm tasting it and I'm like "Oh, wow. This does this." And he's like, "Oh, good. Good." And I said, "We should get more of this, and teach me how to use it in clinic and I can apply it." And he said, "Oh... " I said, "Can you grow it?" And he said, "No, no, no. You totally missed the point. You totally don't understand. This is only therapeutically effective if it is on the north side of the river on a south-facing slope. If it's on the other side of the river, it doesn't have any function." So that's a whole 'nother level. So now we're talking about, this can actually be the correct species in the correct area, but it comes back to these really deep principles of Daode.


Mason: (13:27)

So I always try to get to the crux of why this comes about. Why we get all these problems and I can see, first of all, blaring the obvious is commercialization, extreme commercialization, taking away from the nature based element of this philosophy.


Simon Feeney: (13:41)



Mason: (13:42)

Then the other one, you're saying, you got all these people in clinic using a herb because it's in a textbook and you told that you can get this in a pulse, and that in tongue, that in a complexion, this is the formula you're going to be using. "Oh, it's not working." Well, something wrong with-


Simon Feeney: (13:55)

Something is wrong with me.


Mason: (13:57)

... this person or the herb. Yeah, it's like, oh, yeah, me or...


Simon Feeney: (13:58)

Yeah, or Chinese medicine doesn't work. I've given up, I'm going to go and... Yeah.


Mason: (14:01)

Well, that's the most, I guess for me it's a funny frustrating thing because Chinese medicine is such a complete and ancient system-


Simon Feeney: (14:10)

It is.


Mason: (14:10)

... that we know works.


Simon Feeney: (14:11)

It is.


Mason: (14:12)

Yet, the way it's been, I can see in Australia the frustration and of course when you see it get kind of very westernised. You see this belittling of Chinese medicine. If anyone comes in with cancer you need to send them to a big boy doctor, that's a western doctor because your system can't do it.


Simon Feeney: (14:29)

No, we can do a lot of stuff and it's definitely the bane of my existence. I mean, it comes back to the principles of... And it goes further. You talk about, first thing is, is basically plant identification. That's step one. So we can see already how complicated that is and we haven't really even gone into the... There's a reason that it happens in the first place, like it's not necessarily... It can be because of innocence. It could just be just not only misidentification but just availability, and availability, what's the... necessity is the mother of all creations. People just need that herb, it's just not available. What are we going to do? How are we going to adapt?


Simon Feeney: (15:14)

And so, Chinese medicine's beautiful like that and then all of a sudden new things evolve, and that is the nature of Chinese medicine. It is still evolving, but is evolving based on history. It's not evolving in the sense, like the western mind thinks about evolving in the sense of, "Right, all that stuff's behind me and I need to forge forward into the darkness." I learnt this from my teacher, Arnaud Versluys. Obviously, everyone says everything because they're "Who taught them before?" So I've got to acknowledge that this idea came from my teacher.


Simon Feeney: (15:49)

So in the west you forge forward into the darkness with your mind like, "Right, we're going to create new things." And the eastern way of thinking is the absolute opposite. It spins around, you're looking at the foundations of what you have and how they manifest into the future, and the future's often behind you and you're sitting in this present moment. That's a completely different way of looking into the future. And so, trying to get these foundations are very, very important so you've got this... Anyway, back to the [inaudible 00:16:18] process. So plant identification is one thing and then you get to the quality discernment of something, and then you're looking at, right, it's this, this grown this time of the year, it's got pungency, it's got this, it's got that, it's got all its nature, it's got its chi, it's got its signature, it's got its flavour.


Simon Feeney: (16:33)

And then you look at dosage, it's a whole 'nother thing and it's underpinning your point which is watering down and diluting the efficacy of the medicine. If you're not using the right dose for the right person at the right time, you can't blame the medicine. And then administration techniques, so different administration techniques are being completely ignored during the course of Chinese medicine. It's very interesting to look at.


Simon Feeney: (17:04)

An example like qinghao, so Artemisia annua. What was the name? The lady's name? She got a nobel prize for a science in which she went back to the history of where she started testing qinghao for malaria. So she tested it as an extract or as a granule, and she tested it as a powder, she tested it as a decoction, she tested the level in which she was able to break down these malaria strains. And eventually, she kept following her way back, back, back into the history of Chinese medicine.


Simon Feeney: (17:41)

She eventually went and came back to this guy called Ge Hong who was the first person to talk about qinghao, and what did he say? "Read the subtext," he says. "Do a cold water extraction." So take the thing and actually take it, wring it out in cold water and beat it 100 times, all right? And then they tested it and it just... just demolished, just demolished. I get goosebumps thinking about it, the malarial strains, and I've seen it effective on the Thai-Burmese border when we're working there, like it's just so effective. But if you don't do it, the correct administration, you don't use the correct administration technique, you're not going to get that purpose. So every step of the way, identification, quality, dosage, administration, all these steps are very... any of those that are lacking. you're going to get an inferior clinical result.


Mason: (18:33)

Okay, because I love to jump in because it frustrates me when people are going and getting acupuncture. We talk about, a lot here about finding someone practising a classical Chinese medicine verse just straight out of the western taught model and it's a distinction I think is quite, I think it's quite stark. Someone like yourself is going, "Okay. I'm going to now have to go and study by myself after I've gotten trained." Tahnee, my wife, knew your name because I think podcasts you've been on talking about dose, so I really want to hear about that. But you just bring up a couple of things I think are just super significant in terms of when you're working with a practitioner.


Mason: (19:21)

One, we've brought up the fact that someone could be using a herb and that's any... Of course, we can do that, but it also speaks to the quality of practitioner that we're producing that you not able to get into the mindset and question and understand and see, "Okay, I'm going to be able to chop and change and find what is that energetic of that herb that's not working in this situation, and being able to feel, and be present and be tactile." And you encapsulated that in being able to look, by looking behind you to why the history of this medicine and knowing that the answer's going to be there somewhere if you can not just forge into the darkness.


Simon Feeney: (20:03)

No, we shouldn't be making... We're not making this stuff up. We are using the history of that medicine. It's the foundation of what we're doing, and I think it's very hard for, because we have huge egos in the west, like we want to be seen as this guru or we want to be seen as these things and I see it every day in Chinese medicine. You see, "Oh, he was wrong and she's wrong," like, man, we're all part of this. We're all part of this medicine and the only way we can make it better is if we work together, we unify and we basically...


Mason: (20:40)

Everyone needs to listen to a little bit of Vanilla Ice, "Stop. Collaborate and listen."


Simon Feeney: (20:44)

I wasn't expecting that.


Mason: (20:50)

It comes up in my head so much because I can't think of the word collaborate without-


Simon Feeney: (20:54)

Oh, without, oh, that's your relationship.


Mason: (20:54)

... singing that to myself.


Simon Feeney: (20:54)

Yeah, yeah. Nice.


Mason: (20:57)

And I mean it's the same for me in business. I'm a very reluctant businessman and watching other people come up in the medicinal mushroom space and the tonic herb space, and watching myself that perhaps at times kind of, like I just observe what my reaction to that is, especially when you see such a lack of collaboration going on. And every time I dip into the Chinese doctor world, the herbalist world, acupuncturist world, and I can see there's a lot of passion without collaboration a lot of the time. Everyone's just bickering at each other and bickering about like, "Well, this text says this and my lineage says this," and it's like, I mean...


Simon Feeney: (21:41)

I mean, we do have that division. I mean, it's just human nature I guess. Politics is in everything. There's politics in an elevator. So that is an issue. It's very much like the martial arts world. This technique doesn't work better, but guess what happens, eventually you kind of get better and better and better. That's the nature of I guess competition in a sense. It was very much like that. They're all, "This guy's next to this guy." If you look at the way it was, like they had booze outside hospitals, just a guy waiting to take your pulse and write your script and get a little bit of money to feed his family. So he had to be good, or he or she had to be good.


Simon Feeney: (22:22)

And they're always, "Oh... " And I guess the difference is badmouthing other people as opposed to just being good. So you can spend a lot of time, that's what Andy taught me. I said to him, "Oh, I'm so frustrated. Everyone's saying they've got this pesticide test, and said they got this and they got that. They're saying they got the same stuff as us, but I know they don't." And he's like, "Simon. Simon, just let your herbs speak for themselves."


Mason: (22:45)

Great advice.


Simon Feeney: (22:45)

I was like, oh, awesome advice. Awesome advice. And that's what it comes down to.


Mason: (22:51)

And that's walking the path.


Simon Feeney: (22:52)

It is walking... Yeah, it is. It's tough-


Mason: (22:54)

I love coming across people like that.


Simon Feeney: (22:56)

Yeah. Yeah.


Mason: (22:57)

Because it's tough when you're getting triggered by your shadows. You get up and there's all these mirrors for yourself when you get into business, and if you can rise above, let your herbs speak for themselves, go, "There's more than enough for anyone. I'm championing the lineage. I'm championing people being well." All of a sudden-


Simon Feeney: (23:15)

Yeah. You're bringing awareness to these issues and it's great. It's what we need. It's what everyone needs.


Mason: (23:21)

I'm really-


Simon Feeney: (23:21)

We're trying to get people well.


Mason: (23:23)

I mean, that's ultimately-


Simon Feeney: (23:26)

It's for our community, yeah.


Mason: (23:26)

That's where I slap my palm on my head when everyone starts like, when people reporting each other, going after each other, stealing from each other, getting sneaky covert calls, and then we figure out what's going on and we're like, "Dude, just call us." We help so many young businesses and I talk to people who are bigger than me. I ask them advice all the time, and it's so nice when you can get out of that, there's that combative nature because we're trying to get everyone well.


Simon Feeney: (23:59)

Yes, absolutely we are. And I think, as you must experience it, it's difficult when you're coming from your perspective, and I think you were mentioning before people are saying, "But you're not this, and you're not that."


Mason: (24:12)

Not a herbalist.


Simon Feeney: (24:13)

"You're not this and you're not that." It's tough. People spend a lot of time training and they get protective. Same things happening in our acupuncture industry at the moment. There's people spending five years studying their butts off, taking time away from their families. They're living really meagerly to get their degree in acupuncture and they come out, and then a dry needler opens up nextdoor to them and says, "Oh, acupuncture's not safe," or something, and then they give someone a pneumothorax, and then it's, what happens? An acupuncture needle did this. Yeah, but who was holding the acupuncture needle? Some person who's...


Mason: (24:58)

What you're talking to there is when there's someone, like there's someone with herbs saying they got the same thing. It's hard if you know someone's potentially going to do damage, like that's if you get out and you know you're in a system and it's one thing to ignore if someone's just doing something measly, but if you know that's going to do damage, how do you not get combative and triggered?


Simon Feeney: (25:20)

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So...


Mason: (25:21)

Because I know dry needle, it's always funny... Well, for me, verse the ultimate institutional herbal practise. This is why I enjoy going out and seeking these conversations with practitioners, with people like yourself that are such experts in the system of healing. And I've learnt how to not justify my existence but yet acknowledge that there's this part of me that is so... I've always been called to just stay away from becoming a practitioner and be... I love being folky. Okay, cool, we've identified, there's like a rise of, [inaudible 00:26:07] identified that this works in a very lifestyle kind of space potentially to keep us out of the practitioner office and then cultivate an ability to respect when something goes beyond your expertise, and then go and interact with a practitioner. I mean, I don't know if you [inaudible 00:26:22]-


Simon Feeney: (26:21)

Yeah, definitely. I mean, it reminds me of when I... In my 20s, we used to hang out with this Buddhist monk. For years and years, we travelled Southeast Asia unearthing these old manuscripts, and I would spend years... He's one of only two people in the world who can read this stuff, and we would... The stuff that we saw, and I sometimes would bring the script to him and say, "Oh, [Bunty 00:26:48], this one looks really old, is this good?" He's like, "Oh, yeah. That's a thousand years old." And all this stuff was just getting eaten by insects and some of it is just, pertains to really interesting information. This is what started my whole journey.


Simon Feeney: (27:01)

So one day I gave him... Normally the texts are about two foot long and they're all on palm leaf or etched by hand. This one was only about 20cm long, and I opened it up and it had all these graphs on it and pictures of the body and all these sort of astrological symbols and stuff. And I said, "Bunty, what is this?" And he's like, "Oh, it's a medical text. The reason it's so small is that the monks used to pop it in their robes and then travel with them, " and they couldn't take the big ones because they would stay at the monastery and they would study them. They would study monastic culture... Oh, sorry, the monastic order and things like that. Anyway, spend a lot of time with him and that, and then I said, "What's on it?" And he said, "Oh, this is for, what's that herb? What's the condition where your skin's falling off?" I'm like "Leprosy?" "Yeah, yeah. This formula's for leprosy." "What?! There's a formula here for leprosy in this stuff?" "Oh, there's a lot of stuff in that, Simon. You have no idea, there's a lot of stuff in that." "This has to be known."


Simon Feeney: (27:54)

So I spent a lot of time hanging with him and learning about all the individual herbs and all the formulations and did all this stuff at a very grassroots level. It came to the point where he said to me, and I tried to raise all this capital through this big project to get all this funding to help him get this medicine protected, get these manuscripts into museums, all this stuff. We digitalized. I spent many, many days and nights getting smashed by mosquitoes digitizing these things, smuggled them out of Burma, all sorts of stuff, and arrested at gunpoint, it was hectic. And it got to a point where no one would take me seriously. No one would take me seriously.


Mason: (28:34)



Simon Feeney: (28:35)

Because I didn't have any credentials. I said, "Bunty, I'm so frustrated that this project would say, Alan, this person wants to know, our investors want to know this or our project coordinator, to get the funding from this we need to have some sort of legitimacy to you."


Mason: (28:53)

This is when you're going into the healing of disease state.


Simon Feeney: (28:56)

So I'm working into that. Yes.


Mason: (28:56)

That kind of thing with these formulas.


Simon Feeney: (28:59)

Yes. Yeah, and also sort of building projects to support them as a culture as well in terms of books and just... I mean, legitimization basicallY. And so, my teacher said, "Ah, Simon, you go and get paper." And I was like, "What do you mean, Bunty?" "You, I teach you enough for here. You go get paper" So I was like, "Okay." Everything he's ever said to me I've just listened to, and it's good to have someone like that in life. And then I left and I got my... I spent five years getting a piece of paper.


Mason: (29:34)



Simon Feeney: (29:36)

Yeah, in Australia. Yeah. And that's kind of what that was my path, and it depends on which path you're going and I certainly think that there is room for everybody and there's room for being... I think that's... It's just a different path.


Mason: (29:52)

Yeah, I definitely did... That story's insane. [inaudible 00:29:57].


Simon Feeney: (29:58)

Oh, there's lots more. Yeah.


Mason: (30:00)

Well, let's go, like I'd love to go lots more. I mean, there's a crossroad and I can definitely relate to that crossroad. When you're looking at leprosy and you're looking at these, this is a formula classically done and doses classically done. This information needs to get out there. If you want to go out and start talking about that, you need a piece of paper behind you for sure.


Simon Feeney: (30:25)

Yes, you do. Yeah, yeah. And it's not for everyone, and I respect people who don't do that just as much. Like Chinese medicine is built on all kinds of people. Actually, the foundations of it come from aesthetics, come from people like [Shen Nung 00:30:40]. Anyway, this guy didn't have a piece of paper, so I'm not saying it's important-


Mason: (30:45)

You just had a translucent [crosstalk 00:30:46].


Simon Feeney: (30:46)

I did have a translucent [inaudible 00:30:48]. And just lots and lots of meditation and lots of time in a cave.


Mason: (30:53)

Yeah. I mean, I feel like-


Simon Feeney: (30:55)

There's room for everything.


Mason: (30:57)

Yeah. I mean, for me, I, at one point, like I'm walking that line where you've got, like I'm going I want to step out of practitioner, and so there's a level of what grandma and grandpa says like, "Oh, no. Take that. It makes you strong." I'm at that point where I'm like for the least this little bit of my path I'm happy just going, "Yeah, makes you strong. Yeah, that'll get you thinking a bit sharper." I don't want to say anything more than that. I'm going to have to know if we've got TGA products where we can only say immunity and those kinds of things, or actually we're able to say like cultivate Jing and things like that.


Mason: (31:38)

But nonetheless, I'm really enjoying, for me, being at that point where I just sit literally within the kitchen household, and then I had all these, for me, then all of a sudden that opens me up to getting really curious and inviting folks like yourself onto the podcast. And then going, I feel like I can go on an adventure with you. I know my place, and I think that's something that I've liked in going forward with tonic herbalism, non-institutionalised kind of like style of herbal, like it's shoot from the hip, it's grassroots and it's chaotic and archaic, and I kind of like that. But the collaboration at some point needs to happen and they need to get humbled, and I think the tonic or herbal world needs to realise where its edges are.


Simon Feeney: (32:33)

Yeah, and same with everything. Same with Chinese medicine. I know that I share this with a lot of practitioners whatever they come from, I mean everything from western surgeons to Chinese medicine practitioners is that you have to know the limitations of that. When you come out you're like, "I can treat everything with Chinese medicine." I'm thinking this, right, as a new graduate. There is nothing this medicine can't do, and then you treat it once and it works, and you treat it twice and it works, and you treat it the third time, I've totally got this, and then it doesn't work.


Simon Feeney: (33:12)

Right, okay. Well, go back to my training, go back to my [inaudible 00:33:16] again. Try this, try that, try this, try that, do more training, you're upset with yourself. You're like, "Why doesn't this work?" Okay, factor all these things in. Yeah, all this, got the best quality herbs, got the best... You can do all this and be the best you possibly did 100%, got this pulse right, I've nailed it. Still can't get a result, why? Don't know. The person might need surgery. So to come to that realisation that... It's a really good realisation, a very humbling experience because you say, "Right, just there is a time and place for everything."


Simon Feeney: (33:47)

I had a patient with terminal cancer, and I had to say goodbye. That was really tough for the first time it happens. It's so sad when your first patient dies. It's really, really difficult because you think that... I mean, coming from the [Taoist 00:34:11] point of view, you're trying to create everlasting life.


Mason: (34:16)



Simon Feeney: (34:16)

Immortality, maybe. And then all of a sudden that happens and it's devastating. It's devastating, but it's very humbling and it just makes you do what you can do.


Mason: (34:31)

Let's go, I want to hear more about these gooey adventures that you go on where you've gone out of like... You've kind of gone from the diagnostic Chinese... Are you all right?


Simon Feeney: (34:42)

Yes, yes, yes.


Mason: (34:42)

Yeah? Chinese medicine too... and there's times when you have limitations and then obviously there's... But you've looked and gone, yeah, but we're not being as effective as we can be because we're not dosing say correctly or there's this... There's not this, like bricks and mortar, it's not just bricks and mortar style Chinese medicine. There's obviously something else back in the classics that you're wanting to bring to the forefront, particular formulas, dosage, or maybe there's something like a tactile, like being more agile within your clinic where you actually face backwards to the past, and therefore you've actually got your finger on the pulse in a sense where you can move rather than just following the textbook and have that kind of skill.


Mason: (35:29)

I'm curious about that, like I don't know if that's even appropriate what I'm bringing up there, but I get the sense of you... There's this movement and you're part of it going back to these classics which makes you more of a personal... brings more of a humanness and this greater agile skillset to yourself in clinic with that patient. I don't know if that makes sense in that statement.


Simon Feeney: (35:50)

Sort of, yeah. So I think there is a renaissance in Chinese medicine currently. It's from the west. The west is guiding this because I mean, I could just think of literally like two days ago I got lectured. I'm not sure if I want to bring this up, but look, this is the truth of what happened. I got a lecture. I consider myself a very, not a specialist by any means, but certainly an obsessive, I'm obsessed with the classics. I'm obsessed with this kind of administration, I'm obsessed with understanding these texts, and I was lectured by this lady... Actually, no, I'm not going to talk about that. So, I'm going to change the topic.


Mason: (36:40)

I don't know even if it helps in that context not talking about that specific situation, but let's see on not with you but in a broader sense maybe bring up where's the clashing of the heads between the renaissance and what's maybe been really institutionalised in Australia in the west and China.


Simon Feeney: (36:59)

Yeah, definitely. So the way that the TCM model is being taught currently, it's lacking. It's lacking the clinical application. It wasn't until I met my teacher, Arnaud Versluys that I really realised, "Wow. This is really, really good medicine," and I talked to people about his level of pulse diagnosis that he has taught us in Australia to other people who are super experienced and they're like, "That's impossible. You can't have two people feeling the same pulse and coming up with the same conclusion." I'm like, "No, no, no." I've seen it time and time again. I can give you an example, if you like?


Mason: (37:35)

Yeah, please.


Simon Feeney: (37:36)

First time I met Arnaud, we had 50 students on either side feeling each pulse. So 50 students feeling the right pulse, and 50 students feeling the left pulse, and he felt both-


Mason: (37:47)

I can just imagine.


Simon Feeney: (37:47)

It was awesome. It was awesome. And so, he's just in the centre figure feeling these people's pulses. He's feeling the pulse, writing the script, giving it to them, to the patient. The patient's going over sitting there, and then everyone's trying to feel what he felt, and this is part of the training and part of his training, it's called pulse calibration. So what we're trying to calibrate our fingers to feel exactly what he's feeling.


Simon Feeney: (38:06)

One of his top students was there and anyway, so there's a patient sitting down and she comes over to the patient and says to the student that's feeling her pulse, "Would you mind if I just quickly feel the pulse? Just wanted to jump in." "Course, no worries. You're the... " So she feels the pulse, and he's like, "Would you like to see the formula?" And she goes "Oh, no, no. It's fine. I just want to check." And then she said the formula name [foreign language 00:38:28]. And he said "Oh, wow. That was pretty good." The student said to her, "Wow, I bet you don't know the dosages," which is kind of being a bit condescending to her. And she's like, "Well... " blah-blah-blah. And she said about one of the doses, she said the [Che Bai 00:38:45] was at 48g. And he goes "No, 24". He thought she got one thing wrong and that was enough to say that she wasn't legitimate, like that was already just super, super... I was just going, "Wow, whatever. I want to learn this." But then she goes, "Oh... " And she didn't take offence to it.


Simon Feeney: (39:08)

She in fact just went and took the opportunity to feel the pulse to figure out what she'd done wrong, and then she feels the pulse and she's like, "Really? I thought he would have done 48." And he's like... And she said, "Can I see the paper?" "Yeah" The student had written 24. She said "Excuse me, Arnaud. This patient, did you do Che Bai at 24 or 48g?" And he goes through his notes and he goes, "48," and she looked down at the student. She said, "Maybe you need to check your notes." And I was just blown away. I've never seen anything like that in pulse diagnosis, to be able to replicate that, and that's what Chinese medicine is, is replication. But that information and trying to replicate it without diluting it, it takes a lot of effort to say the least. It's hard. It's hard to keep that level of quality going. Anyway, off tangent but...


Mason: (40:07)

Well, I mean, it's on tangent because I think we are... I mean, especially on the podcast and the people that tune in, we're such, for me, I'm such a fan of Chinese medicine and I'm such a fan of clinical acupuncture, and to see it flail sometimes is really heartbreaking.


Simon Feeney: (40:29)

Yes, yes.


Mason: (40:30)

And to hear something like that, it's such a transformation. Immediately, it transforms me into a way of seeing the world that I always, I move towards. I feel like there's a sense, when you look at the classics and you look at the metaphor and the story there's a sense of animism that emerges in me and I can feel the world view and the skillset that a practitioner's going to need in order to be able to come up with the same pulse diagnosis every single time, and I think, what happened? We took out the story, the love, the animism and everyone goes, "Yeah, but that's going to be good because it's going to be [inaudible 00:41:14], we cut out all the shit that's not... " Cut the spirit out basically, and we're going to get more consistency.


Simon Feeney: (41:20)

Yeah. That's what happened.


Mason: (41:20)

And the opposite happened.


Simon Feeney: (41:20)

Yeah. Well, I mean the TCM model is still being taught every day. Look, if you talk to some incredible acupuncturist like David White here in Australia, and these guys are bringing back some of that old acupuncture system, but it died, like it was killed. They killed it. It was dead. Luckily, we had actually had it for herbalism, Chinese herbalism, we had an actual physical thing to touch and to measure. So during the cultural evolution that was actually an opportunity to grow. It was then institutionalised obviously, but some of that old stuff survived. It survived in Taiwan, really. That's really what's made that survival. But it survived in practitioners like my teacher's teacher's teacher, Dr. Tian.


Simon Feeney: (42:14)

So he lived till 98 basically treating 300 patients a day, and passed it onto a few students and one of those students was my teacher's teacher. And he survived with that same thing even though he went through that period, but he just kept practising the classic, kept practising the classic, practised what his teachers practised and he managed to pass it onto Arnaud, and now Arnaud is passing it onto us. But most of it definitely has been lost to a degree, very much similar to what happened in western herbalism. I remember talking to Jimi, I heard you interview Jimi and he's-


Mason: (42:49)

Love him.


Simon Feeney: (42:50)

He's a great guy. Yeah. He-


Mason: (42:52)

That's Jimi Wollumbin, everybody.


Simon Feeney: (42:54)



Mason: (42:54)



Simon Feeney: (42:54)

Yeah, he called me up one day just out of the blue and we just started talking, and I was like, "Wow, I could talk to this guy for a long, long time." So, yeah, very interesting, and I think he was sort of illustrating that as well, kind of that massive loss of herbalism, and then I think people like him are really kind of bringing that back to western herbalism, seems to me.


Mason: (43:15)



Simon Feeney: (43:16)

Seems to me. It's needed.


Mason: (43:16)

And likewise yourself.


Simon Feeney: (43:17)



Mason: (43:18)

Having these conversations when... Well, I mean for you especially, and I know we won't go too much into it, you're really playing in both worlds.


Simon Feeney: (43:26)



Mason: (43:26)

You really got your foot... You're rubbing up against the way that TCM is being taught here.


Simon Feeney: (43:32)



Mason: (43:34)

Directly with the new-


Simon Feeney: (43:35)

Yeah, a lot of people get upset with me, unfortunately. Yeah. Yeah.


Mason: (43:37)

It's kind of fun, isn't it?


Simon Feeney: (43:38)

So you're thinking, welcome to my world.


Mason: (43:39)

[crosstalk 00:43:39] world. I mean, I kind of tell people regularly. They're like, "How often does it happen that you have someone contacting you and getting upset?" I'm like, "I don't know why, not often."


Simon Feeney: (43:53)

Oh, good, good. Yeah.


Mason: (43:55)

But I don't know why. I think because I was beaten by the press and I think and try and have a conversation with myself to be like, "What am I doing that rubs up against the wrong way of... " and it's the TCM people, or even my classical acupuncturist. He gets upset at me sometimes because he's moved away now so, people, you can't ask me for his name because everyone's looking for that classic like, "Oh my God, you got a classical acupuncturist in the area? Can I have his name?" You know, for having like a few individual herbs, and I'm like, "I get it." I'll sit down and have a discussion of my rationale or where I was when I brought them into the range and now, how they're being used and how practitioners are using, so on and so forth. But I would much prefer to have it than leave that conversation in the shadows.


Simon Feeney: (44:47)

Yeah. I think it's probably just jealousy for other people. I think they're probably just jealous of your success and that's not very attractive for those people.


Mason: (44:58)

It's weird.


Simon Feeney: (44:59)

But I think bringing this awareness to people in Australia is necessary. I think it's great what you've done, what you've achieved. I've seen your place now, it's really great. Well done. Yeah. I think it's great, yeah.


Mason: (45:12)

Thank you very much. I really appreciate it. I think part of the mission is on the sidelines it can be the joker scallywag bringing attention to what you're talking about, to what Jimi Wollumbin is talking about. Do you know Rhonda Chang?


Simon Feeney: (45:25)

I don't, no.


Mason: (45:25)

I'm going to see if I've got a spare one of her books to give you. She's got a book called Chinese Medicine Masquerading as Yi.


Simon Feeney: (45:33)



Mason: (45:33)



Simon Feeney: (45:33)

Oh, yeah. Okay.


Mason: (45:38)

Blows it out, like documenting exactly how this new TCM is an invention that came about in the 50s.


Simon Feeney: (45:46)

Yes, yes. Yeah.


Mason: (45:48)

And I'm sure none of it's going to be news to you.


Simon Feeney: (45:50)

Yeah. Well, it's funny, I was talking about the, even on the weekend someone was talking about some basic concepts like chi, people still think it's energy. You look at the translation, it's really fair. So these kinds of ideas are very new to the western Chinese medicine practitioners. It's very hard to understand that, because a lot of people come into the medicine with a very romantic view of what Chinese medicine is and can do. I was the same. I was very, how herbalism they can treat all this stuff, but then when you really start to practise and you realise it's not as... You've got to be very pragmatic about it, you've got to be very systematic about it, you've got to approach it with a clinical mindset. It's a very different thing, a very different way of thinking about it.


Simon Feeney: (46:47)

But when you see how it connects with natural phenomena then you can actually reconnect with that whole idea. When you start to understand that, for example, you learn about different conformations, or just the translations. So for example, like the six, they call the six channels, they used to call the six channels or the six meridians or the six systems or the six warps. It just gives you a... It's very planned, and you can learn it like that. I'm talking about Tai Yang, Yang Min, Shao Yang, et cetera. When you translate it a different way, which is we translate it as conformations which is the way my teacher, Arnaud, translates it. It takes on a whole different perspective.


Simon Feeney: (47:29)

So a conformation is something that's... It's vessels that are conforming to natural phenomena. So all of a sudden you're looking at it from a natural perspective and you're looking from a metaphoric, you're using natural metaphors to understand the body because we are just the microcosm of the macrocosm. And then you can get that whole romantic perspective and artistic perspective of what the medicine is. It returns, but it's only due to this renaissance that we're going through at the moment. It doesn't happen in the current model that's taught, but it's like everything, probably the same as accounting, I don't know.


Mason: (48:15)

I mean, the world of numbers, I know there's a... I know, I've got friends that are sacred mathematicians [crosstalk 00:48:22]-


Simon Feeney: (48:21)

Yes, exactly. There you go. Well done, exactly. Well said, yeah.


Mason: (48:27)

Yeah. It is exciting. It is exciting feeling the story-telling and the metaphor and the alive, spiritually alive world can-


Simon Feeney: (48:38)

It is. It's living and breathing. You feel it when the pulse changes. When you give someone a formula and their pulse changes and you go, "Whoa!" Or the seasons change, you feel it in their pulse. It's awesome.


Mason: (48:48)

I mean, and I know what happened to the water.


Simon Feeney: (48:51)

Yes. Yes.


Mason: (48:51)

I can feel that. Was it like-


Simon Feeney: (48:52)

Yes, it changes. Things change. Everything courses and lives and breathes.


Mason: (48:59)

It's nice to see that, it's so simple. It's something that's so, it's so looked down on to have that romantic, that animism, yet you should have that with extreme structure and discipline at the same time.


Simon Feeney: (49:17)

It does. It's both of those things simultaneously, and that Taoist medicine. That is the interaction and the mutual exchange of yin and yang and the cosmos, it's good.


Mason: (49:31)

And the people that feel it, they feel the lineage.


Simon Feeney: (49:34)

Yeah, it's very, very... It's in you. Yeah, absolutely. You practise it, and that's why it's kind of protected.


Mason: (49:42)

I'd love to just go down that rabbit hole maybe hear some more adventures along the way, especially around the dosing. As I said, Tahnee knew you.


Simon Feeney: (49:51)

Yes. Dosage stuff, yeah.


Mason: (49:53)

Yeah, heard your stuff and I mean, if anything can go to the difference between something not working clinically and working clinically...


Simon Feeney: (50:01)



Mason: (50:02)



Simon Feeney: (50:03)

Yes, it's huge. Yeah. So that whole dosage journey started when I started to make those classical pills. So a good example is MaZiRenWan. It's a hemp seed pill that's used for chronic constipation and inflammation in the small intestine, and that formula when I was trying to physically make it, because this is what I was trying to do. I wanted to use the, this back to this kind of original dosage but as an administration technique, so I was trying to use the administration techniques to be the way they were originally used. As I mentioned before with Artemisia, these kinds of factors are really, really huge.


Simon Feeney: (50:41)

So you have Tang, Sans and Wans. So Tang's a decoction, so it's much more for sorting the organs clean, a very acute medicine. Sans are the powders, and they're for things that you need a little bit of hydrochloric acid to absorb into the body. And then Wans are pills, so they're much more chronic issues that have to be gently administered into the body or you want them to slowly get into the bloodstream. So you use honey, acts like a slow-release mechanism so it helps the herbs to stabilise, not get affected by the hydrochloric acid and absorb through the walls of the small intestine, straight into the bloodstream, straight into the liver, and then systematically.


Simon Feeney: (51:20)

So, I didn't want to use Wans as Tangs and Tangs as Sans and Sans as Tangs or Wans. I wanted to use them according to the classics, so then I have to make them. So, go to the textbook, go to make them, read the current dosages, like this gramme equal this liang, this is this gramme, make it, slop. What's going on? Try a different formula, totally dry. How am I going to roll this into a pill?


Simon Feeney: (51:51)

Now, I'd made medicine with my teacher on the border in Burma and Thailand, and I made boiled pills with him. I'd seen everyone, I'd hang out with the monks in the temples, breaking, grinding up herbs. I'd been doing that for years, learning all these techniques. I went "This is not right. Something's not right here." So, then I went "Okay, well, like you do, foundational medicine. Go back to the foundations." Went back to the foundations, what were the dosages? Oh, it's one liang of this, I have no idea what that is. It's half a jin. Well, I don't know what that is. It's one jin. Well, at least I know that half a jin, if I figure out what a jin is, I can figure out what half a jin is. A zhang? Don't even know, that's like a volume measurement? And then a [chur 00:52:35]. A chur is just a foot of something. I'm like, what the hell am I doing? How am I going to make this formula?


Simon Feeney: (52:43)

So, okay, what is a liang? Because I knew that eight liang is one jin, half a jin will be four liang, et cetera, et cetera. Then you have these fen measurements and zhu measurements, and all these old measurements. I read every book I can find about this measurement stuff, and then I start going to the people who I feel like know the most in the English world, and even found some Chinese text. One liang equals 15.625g, and I'm like, "That's pretty precise."


Simon Feeney: (53:17)

My dad's a PhD in algebra and he taught me at a very age about all sorts of mathematical things, so I was obsessed. How come everything thinks it's 3g when he's saying, and these people are like the authority, it's 15.625. So find out that, I mean how much do you want to know? Do you want me to... Am I boring you?


Mason: (53:37)

I mean, I'm fascinated.


Simon Feeney: (53:40)



Mason: (53:40)

Screw everyone listening, I want to hear you.


Simon Feeney: (53:43)

I'm not sure this is right for your audience, but even if it's just for me and you... Yes, I mean, I don't care if you-


Mason: (53:47)

No, go for it. You'll be surprised at how much they'll be loving this.


Simon Feeney: (53:53)

Okay. So, yeah, 15.625g. So it turns out that this weight system comes off an old measurement system, so it's this old bell and you need to use a pitch pipe to tune the bell and it's called a Huang bell, and you use this pitch pipe that's cut with a particular size of bamboo. You know, how you got the knots in the bamboo and the gap? So then they create this at different sizes, and would create a different tune, right, when you "hoo". You... whatever, blow on it, right?


Mason: (54:20)

When you hoedown on it.


Simon Feeney: (54:23)

So in order to figure out how high that had to be, it was based on putting pieces of broomcorn millet inside this thing, and 1200 of those would be where you cut it off to make the pitch for the bell, this is a ceremonial bell. Turns out 1200 of that is 12 zhu, and 24 zhu is one liang. So I went and became a specialist in black broomcorn millet because of course that's what you do.


Mason: (54:56)

Of course, that seems so obvious.


Simon Feeney: (54:58)

Then I counted... It was such an obvious conclusion, right. So I had to find not only that but I had to find black broomcorn millet that was produced in the Han dynasty, which was an interesting process. Counted them all out, 1200, weighed them all out, 7.8g, right, 15.625, that's how they came up with the conclusion. So I was certain that's what that dose was.


Mason: (55:17)

There's no industry for this in the Han... Where did you say was it?


Simon Feeney: (55:20)

In the Han dynasty.


Mason: (55:21)

In the Han...


Simon Feeney: (55:22)

Yeah. Oh, sorry.


Mason: (55:22)

Like where were you sourcing the millet? Where did you say you had to go and source it somewhere in China?


Simon Feeney: (55:26)

Oh, basically just research. Yeah, just extensive research into the growth patterns of black broomcorn... because I didn't want to know that the size was different. Like the wheat grain had changed, it's different. The size, so if I'm counting them individually...


Mason: (55:39)

That's what I'm thinking, yeah.


Simon Feeney: (55:40)

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we're talking about a volume measurement with something that could be potentially bigger or smaller. So, long story short, I started to figure out what a liang was. Then I could find out what a jin was, and half a jin was, and then this, and a zhu and a zhang. Put it all together based on those weights, perfect pills.


Mason: (55:59)

Do you know where the-


Simon Feeney: (56:00)

Like, yeah!


Mason: (56:01)

Like that is [crosstalk 00:56:01] I'm feeling [crosstalk 00:56:02].


Simon Feeney: (56:03)

Yeah. It was good moment.


Mason: (56:05)

You're looking at your dad about how elated he was when he got like a massive formulation and you're like, "I get it."


Simon Feeney: (56:11)

Yeah. It was a revelation, yeah.


Mason: (56:15)

Where was the crux point where it's gone away from these forms of measurements? Where has the standardisation occurred that led to such dramatic poor translations on the formulas?


Simon Feeney: (56:28)

What an awesome question. I mean, gosh that's complicated. So many factors. I mean, every factor from... As we mentioned earlier, quality to so many species differentiation, change in the environment, change in climate, lifestyle, people's... In the Han dynasty [inaudible 00:56:48] are living in huts versus living in air conditioned housing, so the strength of someone's digestive system that could cope with that compared to now. So that's one theory why it kind of got reinterpreted, but then if you look back through the dynasties each measurement system sort of changed, and then there's conflicting arguments, and then it kind of... and let's just all, just a big discussion.


Simon Feeney: (57:15)

And so, there's still a massive discrepancy in the industry. Everything from 1g to 50g equals the same measurement. It's really interesting actually because like Kampo... I thought I was very right in terms of like, "Wow, I'm correct." Nice to be correct, but then Chinese medicine comes along and says "bah-bow" so it's always good like that, which is what keeps us coming back.


Simon Feeney: (57:44)

In Kampo you have a very, very low dosage system, like it's 2g a day and when I'm thinking, "Wow, only 250g a day is effective," and it's still an effective medicine. So that's just something you just got to live with I guess, that it's just different, what's it called? Courses for horses, or whatever, and so I... Oh, whatever that saying is.


Mason: (58:05)

Horses for courses.


Simon Feeney: (58:05)

Horses for course, okay.


Mason: (58:07)

I mean, and straight away I think about Japanese lineage of acupuncture verse the Chinese lineage of acupuncture.


Simon Feeney: (58:12)

Exactly, it's totally different.


Mason: (58:13)

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Straight away I think about Japanese acupuncture, little needles, subtlety verse maybe a classical drive your needle in [crosstalk 00:58:21].


Simon Feeney: (58:21)

Exactly, right. Yeah, you can have a Chinese practitioner, huge needles, two [inaudible 00:58:26] into the body, body needs to convulse to even get a therapeutic reaction versus the Japanese which can hardly, don't even touch the body. It's just amazing how different people and different parts of... different times in people's lives or different climates or whatever they're exposed to, or their... even their genetics, it does factor into all of that. So it's very interesting. It doesn't mean that there's one way I guess, that's [crosstalk 00:58:57]-


Mason: (58:56)

And it's really nice seeing these classical ways. It's the classical, the lineages, that are collaborating.


Simon Feeney: (59:03)

Yes. Yes.


Mason: (59:04)

Opening up possibilities.


Simon Feeney: (59:05)

Yes. It's tough though. Opening up possibilities, but remaining tightly closed.


Mason: (59:11)

That's a really interesting feeling, even though I'm limited by what... Well, ultimately what works.


Simon Feeney: (59:21)



Mason: (59:22)

But I want to go into what's new and revolutionised for the modern world. It's like, hold your horses. Jimi talks a lot about this as well.


Simon Feeney: (59:29)

Right, right. Yeah.


Mason: (59:30)

Because he's going across multiple lineages.


Simon Feeney: (59:32)

Yes. Yeah.


Mason: (59:33)

Going, how do I stay in integrity?


Simon Feeney: (59:37)

Yes. Yes.


Mason: (59:38)

Really fascinating.


Simon Feeney: (59:39)

It's something that my teacher, Arnaud, talks a lot about, and what he sort of suggests is, because this comes up a lot, and he obviously experienced, and you experience that when you do Chinese medicine, when you practise. When you study Chinese medicine you study five element theory, Japanese acupuncture, yin yang theory, classical stuff, whatever it is, you study all of this at the same time, and I think that's what's sometimes good about those institutions is that it gives a lot of people a lot of scope and then afterwards you can kind of specialise to what rings more true to you.


Simon Feeney: (01:00:16)

But the more you can reign it down and simplify it, that's why it's better if the better you get because you have checks and balances that way. You can learn from your mistakes that way which is really awesome like my favourite formula is Gan Cao Tang, and that just involves Gan Cao. It's one herb, it is so effective and if I was like, "Oh, nah, but I've got to do this, I've got to do that," No, you don't have... It can be really, really simple and it's just... and if it's right, it's just right. It just hits it. And that's the art I guess, that's the art form of practise.


Mason: (01:00:56)

But there's a rule you're not allowed to use one herb


Simon Feeney: (01:00:58)

Yeah, that's right. How's that a formula? It's absolutely... If it's right, it's... Yeah, if it's the right thing for the right condition at the right time, it's perfect.


Mason: (01:01:09)

Love it.


Simon Feeney: (01:01:09)

It's spot on.


Mason: (01:01:10)

Last question before everyone's going to want to know how they can get more in contact with your really beautiful company potentially your clinic, Empirical Herbs, as well. Now, how have you seen the... There's a renaissance going on in the west. How have you seen and felt the response of practitioners and acupuncturists speaking to you feeling, one thing there's the quality of the herb, it's incredible. But then this conversation about the classics that you're having, has there been a thirst for this conversation?


Simon Feeney: (01:01:44)

Yes, absolutely. Just last weekend I was talking with some of my colleagues and encouraging, there's this really great practitioner up north and I was encouraging him, JP. He's like my big brother in the lineage, and I was encouraging him, "Come on, we need this. We need this. The practitioners are crying out for it." I know that it's hard these days. We have to adapt, we have to change. We can't get people from over... we can't get Arnaud, we can't get... or [Laurie 01:02:09], we can't get these guys. You're so versed. Can you offer not only the current practitioners who just don't have the connection anymore, it's just so odd seeing everyone. Like he said to me, "Oh man, it's so nice to see you in the flesh. I'm just so used to seeing you through a screen for such a long time."


Simon Feeney: (01:02:27)

So, like bringing the band back together. We're trying to do that at the moment and trying to get some of these new practitioners, so some local practitioners here in [Mullum 01:02:37] that I spoke to yesterday, another one today, some people from Brisbane, down in Melbourne, in Sydney. These practitioners want that, they need that, and we're going to try to figure out a way to communicate it without the massive depth which it actually needs. So we're trying to figure out a way to communicate it, but it's still with the integrity and the foundational training that's integral into the understanding of the actual practise.


Mason: (01:03:11)

Does that involve helping them understand where they can go to study further and get this kind of information?


Simon Feeney: (01:03:16)

I think it will. Hopefully, the idea is that it'll encourage them to do that further. So, [crosstalk 01:03:22]-


Mason: (01:03:21)

And have the resources for knowing where to go and do that and find a study group, these kinds of things.


Simon Feeney: (01:03:26)

Exactly yeah, because collaboration is really, really important. As I mentioned to you before when I was coming here, that all these practitioners are out there every single day helping people, but in the meantime they've got financial burdens. Their clinic... One of my mates went to his clinic, for the first time ever, he almost had to close his clinic. He had to actually think that, "I might have to fire everyone and I might have to... I can survive till the end of the year." This is actually in the people's psyche, but on the top they have to come to the clinic, put on their... and just feel people's pulses and listen to their problems. So they got all these problems going on. So to come together, and the healers need to heal as well. So that's very, very important for mental health for the practitioner.


Mason: (01:04:09)

And [inaudible 01:04:09] at that level of community is so, so important.


Simon Feeney: (01:04:12)

So important, yeah.


Mason: (01:04:14)

And, look, I hope that the contribution here from the listeners of this podcast, and these ones are always so enjoyed because everyone listening is such a fan of Chinese herbs, acupuncture themselves, and by increasing the awareness of the patient in terms of the standards that you can set for yourself, the wanting to understand themselves and become more literate and versed and having conversations with a practitioner. I hope to kind of help drive from the fans and the patients' angle.


Simon Feeney: (01:04:48)

Yeah, it's great. It's great, yeah. It's so important that everyone... Yeah, it's just open communication, transparency, really, really important, so people understand everything that goes on behind the scenes. It's great just to have that transparency in the industry and have opportunities to talk with each other. So it's admirable that you... I think you're very courageous in many aspects.


Mason: (01:05:13)

Yeah, I don't like leaving crusty unknowns in my world. I'm like, "There's something there. I have to go and explore it," and this is where it's led me for some reason.


Simon Feeney: (01:05:21)

Good for you. Honestly, that's just... I take my hat off to you. If I had a hat, I'd take it off. I am taking my hat off at the moment.


Mason: (01:05:28)

Yeah. Look, I'm an animist, I know there's a chi-based hat of acknowledgment somewhere. Your clinic, you're down in Port?


Simon Feeney: (01:05:36)

Yes, Port Macquarie.


Mason: (01:05:37)

Port Macquarie.


Simon Feeney: (01:05:37)

Yeah. Yeah. And we have a great network of practitioners that we can connect to any of your listeners to help them out. So if they have issues we can, in their local area, we have a really good network now of practitioners that we encourage. They're not all part of our lineage. They all maybe, but any of the practitioners we feel are trying to connect and communicate effectively because it'll stop that fracturing of practise because that means you can refer each other. You can refer, and they can move different places but you know you're speaking the same language. It's not miscommunicated, so it's for the welfare for the patient.


Mason: (01:06:21)

A huge-


Simon Feeney: (01:06:21)

Yeah, so they're hold on with what's been done, so it's very important.


Mason: (01:06:24)

Yeah, and listening to this. I want that.


Simon Feeney: (01:06:28)



Mason: (01:06:29)

Knowing that there's a network there to tap into, to actually be able to... and ease in with trust.


Simon Feeney: (01:06:34)

Yeah, you feel supported that way.


Mason: (01:06:37)



Simon Feeney: (01:06:38)

Yes, thank you.


Mason: (01:06:39)

Best way to get in touch with you, through on the website?


Simon Feeney: (01:06:42)

Yeah, website. Email.


Mason: (01:06:43)

What's the website, exactly?


Simon Feeney: (01:06:46)


Mason: (01:06:47)

Empirical health shop.


Simon Feeney: (01:06:48)

Yeah, that's our-


Mason: (01:06:49)



Simon Feeney: (01:06:50)

That's our herbal website, and then empirical-health is the clinic.


Mason: (01:06:55)

Cool. And Empirical Health on Instagram, is that right?


Simon Feeney: (01:06:57)

Yeah, Empirical Health on Instagram. Yeah, exactly.


Mason: (01:06:59)

It's a fun Instagram. You get to really, yeah. It's like one of my favourite accounts when you pop up a little video of what you're producing now. It's like-


Simon Feeney: (01:07:06)

Oh, that's nice. Thank you. Yeah.


Mason: (01:07:07)

It's fun. Thank you so much.


Simon Feeney: (01:07:11)

Thank you.


Mason: (01:07:12)

Just absolutely love what you're doing.


Simon Feeney: (01:07:13)

Ditto. Vice versa.


Mason: (01:07:15)

Yeah, everyone go... Yeah, go checkout Simon's stuff, and we'll see you later everybody.


Simon Feeney: (01:07:19)

Okay, see you everyone. Thanks again, Mason.


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