Herbal medicine is the primary method of treatment used in Chinese Medicine. Although acupuncture has been more widely researched and publicized in the West, it is herbal medicine that lies at the heart of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The first job of an herbalist is to establish the patient’s “pattern of disharmony” based on their signs and symptoms. This diagnosis takes into account not only the physical symptoms, but also emotional factors as well as the individual bodily constitution. A “pattern of disharmony” is a much more detailed and descriptive diagnosis than a simple disease label. For example, two patients seeking out herbal treatment for an asthmatic condition may be given two completely different herbal formulas. One patient may have asthma attacks which are triggered by stress and emotional upset, the other may have attacks triggered strictly by environmental or physical factors. One of these patients may be frail and petite with weak and deficient wheezing whereas the other may be strong and energetic with harsh, intense fits of wheezing. Both these patients will be prescribed different Chinese herbal formulas which are custom written to treat their individual pattern.
Chinese herbal formulas are typically made up of anywhere between six and eighteen herbs. In complicated case, the number of herbs in a formula may be much higher. The majority of these herbs are from plant sources including leaves, flowers, stems and roots, although some animal and mineral products are also considered to be herbs in Chinese medicine. These herbs can be used to treat both acute and chronic conditions, ranging from lung infections to gynecological disorders and degenerative diseases. Many herbs are shown to have anti-bacterial or anti-viral properties while others work to promote the body’s innate ability to heal and recuperate.
Herbal formulas can be administered in the form of raw herbs which are cooked into a decoction or in granules which dissolve easily in hot water. Good quality herbs are tested for pesticides, chemicals, bacteria, fungus, mold, and heavy metals as well as for potency.
Since most formulas are made up primarily of roots and barks (where the strongest medicinals are found), they tend to have a rather bitter flavor. Some patients begin to enjoy the taste after taking their formula for a couple of days, others choose to have the granules made up into capsules. The most effective method of taking a formula is to drink a tea made from raw herbs. When granules or capsules are prescribed, it is important that they are taken in their correct dosage. Herbal dosages may seem very high when compared to dosages of Western drugs.
Although the herbs are pharmaceutical grade (and powerful), they will rarely cause side effects. If loose stools or mild discomfort do occur as a side-effect of taking the herbs, please let me know so that I can modify your formula accordingly.
Due to the extremely low toxicity of Chinese herbs and because formulas are custom-written for each individual patient, these herbs can be safely taken by just about anyone. Pregnant women and lactating mothers can safely take Chinese herbs as long as they are prescribed by a Chinese medicine practitioner. Children can also benefit from Chinese herbs for a wide variety of conditions.