The use of herbal formulas is the main treatment method within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM is the world's oldest, continually practiced professional medicine. Its written history stretches back over 2,500 years and its practice is probably much older than that.
Although acupuncture was the first Chinese method of treatment to gain wide acceptance in the West, Chinese herbalism is quickly establishing itself as one of the most popular and effective alternative therapies in the West.
What's the difference between Western folk herbalism and Chinese herbalism?
Western folk herbalism primarily treats diseases or symptoms, such as headaches, runny nose, menstrual pain, etc. Chinese herbalism, when practiced as a part of TCM, is based on an individualized pattern diagnosis as well as a disease diagnosis. Your pattern is made up of your signs and symptoms, your emotional temperament and the overall composition of your body.
The TCM patient receives a custom written herbal prescription designed to treat their individual pattern as well as the symptom or disease.
Are there any other differences?
Western folk herbalism usually focuses on one symptom or disease at a time and use a single herb or groups of herbs for treatment.
TCM formulas are crafted to treat your entire pattern as well as the symptoms or disease that prompted you to seek treatment. TCM formulas may include six to eighteen herbs to treat the symptoms or disease as well as your entire pattern.
Are all the herbs vegetable in origin?
Chinese herbal medicine may include vegetable, animal, and mineral ingredients.However, the majority of ingredients are form vegetable sources.Leaves, flowers, twigs, stems, roots, tubers, rhizomes, and bark are among the parts of the vegetable used. Most formulas are purely vegetable or mineral in origin, and your acupuncturist can assist you in understanding the ingredients in each formula.
Do all the herbs come from China?
The Chinese adopted and incorporated herbs from all over the world. Fifteen to twenty percent of the 500 ingredients considered standard originated from outside of China. What makes these “Chinese” herbs is that they are prescribed according to Chinese medical theory and a TCM pattern diagnosis.
How are Chinese herbal formulas taken?
The most common method of taking Chinese herbal formulas is drinking a liquid, prepared by boiling the selected herbs. Increasingly, however, practitioners are moving toward the use of granular herbal extracts, composed of the water-soluble portions of the herbs reduced to a fine, dry powder, that is then dissolved in water. There are also herbal pills, tinctures and powdered extracts for those who do not have the time or taste for drinking the more traditional liquid form.
What are the benefits of drinking Chinese herbal formulas in liquid form?
This method allows the practitioner maximum flexibility in writing a prescription. They can put in just what is necessary in just the right amounts. The formula can be changed frequently if necessary and liquid forms tend to be more potent than other means of administration. With standardization of the granular extracts, each batch of herbs is extracted to a known strength, allowing greater uniformity in the compounding and administering of herbal formulas prepared using these extracts.
Why do liquid herbal formulas taste so bad?
Chinese herbal teas, whether made from raw herbs or using the granular extracts, tend to taste very bitter because they are made mostly from roots and bark where the strongest medicinal ingredients are found. The bitter taste may go away after a day or two. Many patients report that they actually enjoy the taste of the formula; this often occurs when the patient's body recognizes the benefits of the herbal formula, and so triggers the brain to "enjoy" the taste of these beneficial herbs.
What are the benefits of pills and powders?
Pills and powders are good for:
prolonged administration, like for chronic disease
where formulas do not need to be very potent
where formulas do not need to be changed very often
Pills and powders are also commonly used to continue therapeutic results after a successful initial treatment with liquid herbal medicine.
Do Chinese herbal formulas have side effects?
Most of the components of Chinese herbal formulas have a very low toxicity compared to even common, over-the-counter Western drugs. When they are prescribed according to a correct TCM pattern diagnosis, they should have few, if any, side effects, only beneficial healing results.
If you experience any discomfort while taking Chinese herbal formulas, tell your practitioner who will modify the formula until there are no side effects.
What are Chinese herbal formulas good for?
Chinese herbal formulas have been used to assist with the full range of human disease. They are used in cases of:
acute diseases, like intestinal flu and the common cold
chronic diseases, such as allergies, gynecological disorders, autoimmune diseases and chronic viral diseases
degenerative diseases due to aging
Chinese herbalism is especially good for promoting the body's ability to heal and recover from illness.
Can pregnant women take Chinese herbs?
A professional TCM practitioner can write prescriptions that are appropriate for pregnant women and lactating mothers.
Can children take Chinese herbs?
Yes again. Pediatrics is a specialty within TCM and children can be given reduced dosages. There are also specially prepared pediatric formulas in pill and powder form. Chinese herbal formulas can be used for colic, the fussiness of teething, earcache, diarrhea, cough and fever in babies and children.
How long does it take to see results with Chinese herbal formulas?
In acute conditions, results may occur in a matter of minutes. In chronic conditions, some results should be seen within two weeks. Although chronic conditions may require taking Chinese herbal formulas for a long time, signs that the herbs are working should be apparent to the patient and practitioner alike almost from the very start.
How do I know if a practitioner is professionally trained in Chinese herbalism?
Chinese herbal formulas are safe when prepared or recommended by a trained, knowledgeable practitioner who has had experience in treating the patient's specific ailment.