What Is Chinese Herbal Medicine?
There are many systems of herbal medicine world-wide. Chinese herbal medicine is several thousand years old and uses hundreds of plants and a few animal products, each with specific functions to restore balance to the body. Unlike other herbal traditions, the medicines are almost never used individually, but rather in groups called formulas that are tailored to specific patterns of imbalance and to specific individuals. This has the function of causing less side effects and a more holistic result. Formulas may be used for short periods of time or longer periods depending on what is being treated.
Note: Some Chinese medicines that have been used for centuries are based on animal products. I strive to maintain an ecologically healthy practice by not using those products that cause unnecessary harm to any animal, or using products from animals that are endangered. If you are a vegetarian or prefer to not use any animal-based medicines, please inform me and I will abide by those wishes.
How To Take Herbs…
Herbs are available in raw form, in which they are dried and cooked in a “tea,” and also in pills, powders, granules and liquid extracts. When granules are made, the raw herbs are cooked, then freeze-dried. When using granules, one need only re-constitute the herbs with warm water. All forms of herbal medicine will be prescribed with a clear dosage. Most often they are taken 2-3 times per day over the course of several weeks. It is best to follow your herbalists’ instructions when taking herbs. It is also best to take your herbs at least 20 minutes before or after any western drugs, prescriptive or over-the-counter. If any stomach upset occurs, try taking your herbs with a meal. While herbs are generally safe, occassionally a person will have an allergic response which manifests as a skin rash or diarrhea. It is important to discontinue use of your herbs and contact your practitioner right away if one of these should happen.
Have Chinese Herbs Been Studied?
Chinese Herbs have been used for several centuries, and the amount of anecdotal research is vast. Only recently have herbal products been studied using double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. As more of these studies are done, researchers are finding that herbal products are safe when used as prescribed by trained professionals. Many herbal products are foods, or different parts of food plants. There are some Western drugs that can interfere with the functions of herbal medicines, or vice versa, and this practitioner continues to educate herself on these studies as they are published. Keep in mind, that herbal studies are generally done of one herb or plant at a time, and not in the formulas described above. The outcome of single-herb studies may not be indicative of how an herb works in vivo when taken with other herbs. In addition, some studies don’t even look at the plant as a whole, but rather isolate one chemical component of a plant, which again, does not give an accurate indication of how an herb will function when taken as a whole.