Chinese Herbal Medicine

Chinese Herbal Medicine is one of the primary modalities or treatment methods within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  While Acupuncture was the first Chinese modality to gain wide acceptance in the West, Chinese Herbal Medicine has quickly become one of the most effective and popular therapies.  Chinese Herbal Medicine is used as a stand alone treatment, and also in conjunction with Acupuncture.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

How is Chinese Herbal Medicine prescribed?

Patients who are prescribed Chinese Herbal Medicine receive customized prescriptions designed to treat the symptoms, the underlying causes, and the specific pattern unique to each individual.  A TCM pattern identifies a person’s emotional temperament and bodily constitution, as well as their specific signs and symptoms.  For example, two patients with seasonal allergies may receive very different formulas depending on their individual symptoms and constitution.

Do all the herbs come from China?

The Chinese have incorporated herbs from all over the world into their materia medica. What makes medicinal herbs “Chinese” is that they are prescribed according to Chinese medical theory and specific TCM pattern diagnosis.  Our suppliers are Good Manufacturing Process (GMP) certified.  The herbs we use are batch tested to ensure they are free of pesticides and heavy metals.

How are Chinese herbs taken? 

The most common method of taking Chinese herbs is as a decoction or tea.  Raw herbs are boiled for 30-60 minutes, strained, and the liquid is taken 2-3 times per day.  In addition to raw herbal formulas, there are also pills (known as “patents”), tinctures, and concentrated granular powders (“granules”).  These alternate delivery methods are ideal for those who do not have the time or desire to make traditional “raw” herbal decoctions.

Why do some Chinese herbal formulas taste bitter? 

Chinese herbal formulas are sometimes bitter because they are composed of roots and barks (where the strongest medicinal compounds are found).  Although patients may initially dislike the taste of Chinese herbs, they often develop a craving for them after a few days.

Does Chinese Herbal Medicine have side effects?

Chinese herbs are generally safe and effective, yet they can be strong, powerful substances. Patients who experience discomfort or adverse effects (gas, bloating, etc.) while taking herbal formulas, should tell their practitioner.  Custom-made formulas can be modified and adjusted as needed.

What conditions can be treated by Chinese Herbal Medicine?

Chinese Herbal Medicine treats a full range of diseases and health-related imbalances.  It can treat acute disease, like intestinal flu and the common cold, as well as chronic disease, such as musculo-skeletal disorders, allergies, gynecological disorders, autoimmune diseases, chronic viral diseases, and degenerative disease due to aging.  Chinese herbal medicine is especially helpful for promoting the body’s natural ability to heal and recuperate from stress and illness.

Can pregnant women take Chinese herbs?  

Yes.  Chinese Herbal Medicine has been used for more than 2,500 years to successfully treat diseases and symptoms during pregnancy.  Lactating mothers can also take Chinese herbs that have been properly prescribed by a trained TCM practitioner.

Can children take Chinese Herbal Medicine? 

Yes.  Children are typically given smaller doses based on their age and body weight. Specially prepared pediatric medicinals are available in pills, granules, liquids, and tinctures.  Chinese Herbal Medicine can treat colic, fussiness associated with teething, earache, diarrhea, cough, and relieve fever in babies and children.

How long does it take to see results with Chinese Herbal Medicine?  

In acute situations, rapid results can be expected.  For chronic conditions, results should be seen within a few weeks.  Chronic conditions may require that patients take Chinese Herbal Medicine for an extended period of time; however there should be notable improvement quite quickly.

What else do I need to know about taking Chinese herbs?

It is important that Chinese herbs be prescribed by skilled, knowledgeable practitioners. Patients should feel free to inquire about the training and credentials of their practitioner.

How do I know if a practitioner is professionally trained in Chinese Herbal Medicine? 

Look for the designation Diplomate in Oriental Medicine (Dipl. OM), or Diplomate in Chinese Herbology (Dipl. CH).

The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) has created a certification process for practitioners of Chinese Herbal Medicine.  NCCAOM certified practitioners are required to complete extensive training in traditional Chinese medical theory, and in the use and clinical application of Chinese herbs.  Practitioners who have completed certifications in BOTH Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture hold the title Diplomate in Oriental Medicine (Dipl. OM).

The following questions apply to the use of concentrated Granular Herbal Formulas (“Granules”): 

How are herbal formulas made into granules?  

Raw Chinese medicinal herbs are cooked in water in pressurized industrial cookers, under precise conditions to extract the active constituents.  Once extracted, the liquid is sprayed onto a binding medium, either a potato starch or hypo-allergenic dextrin base, and dried, forming “granules.”  Note: granules are not simply powdered raw herbs.  Granules are made from herbs and formulas that have been pressure decocted in advance, to save patients the time and effort required to decoct their own raw formulas.

How should I take my granular herbs? 

Granular herbs should be dissolved by adding boiling water to a cup or mug, then stirred and allowed to cool somewhat before drinking.  Drinking the herbs while warm or lukewarm is preferred.  The amount of water used is up to the individual and will not make a difference in the effectiveness of the herbs; however, they should be taken at once, rather than sipped over a long period of time.  Some people like to use less water so that there is less to drink, but the mixture will be slightly thick.  Some find it easier to use more water so that the mixture is more dilute, but in that case there is more liquid to drink.  Experiment to find the amount of water you prefer.  8 oz is a good starting point.

When should I take my granular herbs?  

On the label you will find the total amount of scoops of granular powder you should take per day.  Ideally, this amount would be split into three doses per day.  However, many people find it more convenient to take their herbs just two times per day, in the morning and evening.

Herbs are best taken on an empty stomach (30 minutes before or 60 minutes after a meal).  If this upsets your stomach, you can take the herbs with a little food.  Food present in the stomach should eliminate any stomach upset.

Can I add a sweetener to my granular herbs? 

Traditional Chinese Medicine states that the taste of medicinal herbs is an important aspect of their action on the body.  This is supported by modern research which shows that the taste of foods affects the way food is digested in the stomach and small intestine.  For these reasons, we advise patients to not add any sweetener to their herbs.  A few minutes after taking the herbs you can drink something with a strong flavor to eliminate any aftertaste.

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