Todd Luger began his study of traditional medical systems while completing his bachelors degree in biology at Rutgers University. His first influence was Michael Tierra, whose Way of Herbs presented an approach to natural healing that later became known as Planetary Herbology. After graduating from Rutgers in 1986, Todd spent two years at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) in Portland, Oregon, where he studied clinical diagnosis, nutrition, and western herbology. During this time, he also completed Subhuti Dharmananda’s course in Chinese Herbology from the Institute for Traditional Medicine in Portland and a series of workshops in Ayurvedic herbology with Robert Svoboda at NCNM.
The traditional herbal systems of both China and India are distinguished from many other contemporary herbal systems by being highly personalized in their methodology. This early exposure to a highly personalized form of medicine has led Todd on a lifelong journey exploring and practicing these systems as well as other complementary ones.
While at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Todd received formal training in Western herbology from Cascade Anderson-Geller, with a focus on the Eclectic and Physio-medicalist styles of the 19th and early 20th century in America. These two approaches to western herbology are distinguished by their emphasis on prescribing herbs in a personalized fashion. Instead of being disease-focused, these systems select their herbs based on patterns of symptom complexes, pulse, and tongue, much like Chinese herbology and Ayurveda.
Todd’s growing interest in personalized herbal medicine led him to transfer to the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM), where he completed his master’s degree in acupuncture and oriental medicine in 1993. During his clinical internship at OCOM, and for several years afterward, Todd worked very closely with Dr. Li Wei, who had grown up in a family herbal tradition that went back generations. His other Chinese herbal medicine teachers at the time included Edy Vickers and Heiner Fruehauf. Todd later went on to help Heiner found the teaching clinic at the school of Classical Chinese medicine at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (now known as National University of Natural Medicine).
After graduation, Todd worked at the immune enhancement program of the Institute for Traditional Medicine run by his first teacher, Subhuti Dharmananda. His former teachers, Edy Vickers and Heiner Fruehauf, also worked at the program. The treatment strategies they used were largely based on Subhuti’s unique approach to Chinese herbal medicine rooted in his advanced training in modern pharmacology. The approach centered in part on the use of various tonic herbs to modulate the immune and neuroendocrine systems. The center was also making use of exciting new research that was just coming out on medicinal mushrooms. Todd got to witness firsthand the impressive results that these herbs and mushrooms were having on a really hopeless population in the days before the anti-retroviral drugs for HIV were widely available.
Todd later took a job running the herbal dispensary at his alma mater and went into private practice for the next seven years in Portland, Oregon. His practice centered on the personalized use of herbs and diet to restore balance and function lost due to aging and chronic illness.
While running the OCOM herbal dispensary, Todd set up a free clinic project using Chinese herbal medicine to treat sufferers of what was called at the time Gulf War syndrome. Todd drew upon the work of his teacher Subhuti Dharmananda to create formulas for the various immune and psychological disorders the gulf war veterans were suffering at the time. At this time, he also began to work on herbal curriculum design with his mentor Li Wei, who was teaching herbal formulas at OCOM.
In 1996, Todd opened a café in Portland, Oregon called Elixirs. In this context, he created his first line of personalized herbal formulas, which were designed to be delivered in the form of pleasant-tasting beverages. He taught weekly classes out of the café that so that members of the general public could learn to use his approach to planetary herbology to select the right elixirs for themselves, their families, and friends.
In 1997, he opened a multidisciplinary clinic called the Belmont Street Holistic Health Center. In this clinic, he worked closely with a naturopathic physician who specialized in functional medicine and anti-aging therapies from a modern holistic perspective. This was Todd’s first exposure to the practice of functional medicine, which he immediately recognized as an ideal modern scientific companion to the planetary herbology systems he had been studying for the previous 13 years. Like those planetary herbology systems, functional medicine is highly personalized and focused on improving the functions of the organ systems of the body. At this time, Todd began to incorporate the method of functional medicine, the lab tests used in that system, and the nutritional supplements that were prescribed based on those tests, into his holistic health practice.
In 1999, Todd founded the Chinese Herb Academy (CHA). The Chinese Herb Academy was a membership-based group that centered around a robust discussion forum where the greatest minds in Chinese medicine in the west debated the most important herbal topics of the day. The Chinese herb academy was the first continuing education provider to be approved to deliver online continuing education by National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM®). He also produced two onsite conferences for the group in the early 2000s. The CHA website still houses many of Todd’s original articles.
Todd’s work at CHA led to a faculty appointment at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in 2000. He taught a wide range of classes on herbal medicine, including TCM diagnostics, materia medica, formulas, and advanced formulation. He also supervised interns 20 hours per week in the school clinic. During a five-year period, he supervised about 15,000 patient visits, most of which involved him writing personalized herbal formulas and providing nutritional advice or guiding senior interns to do so. Many of his students credit Todd with being the one who finally got their brains wrapped around how to actually practice Chinese herbal medicine (as opposed to just memorizing the names of formulas).
in 2005, Todd began to pursue a second Masters degree, this time in education, with an emphasis on instructional design and technology. He worked in the field of instructional design for online education for the next six years, mostly at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah Georgia. He received his Masters degree in instructional design and technology in December 2009. In October 2011, he returned to work at Pacific College of Oriental medicine as the director of online instructional design.
Todd is now a vice president at Pacific College, where one of his primary responsibilities is the development of online continuing education programs. In recent years, he has developed several advanced studies programs in various areas of herbal medicine:
- 20-hour program with Michael Tierra on Planetary Herbology
- 40-hour program with with Jake Fratkin on The integration of Functional Medicine and traditional Chinese medicine
- 40-hour program with Jason Blalack on the Qin Bo Wei method of herbal formulation.
He is also one of the lead developers for a recently launched master’s degree program in health and human performance. This program prepares graduates to analyze evidence from both traditional medical systems and modern science to help individuals and organizations achieve their peak performance goals through advances in nutrition, exercise physiology, cognitive psychology, herbology, and nutritional supplementation.