Herbal FAQ

 

 

What are Chinese herbs? 

 

Chinese herbs are comprised mostly of plant material: roots, stems, leaves, bark, flowers, and tree resins are all part of the Chinese Materia Medica. Minerals such as various shells and stones are also some of our favorite remedies. To a lesser degree, some animal products are used as well. Let your practitioner know if you are vegetarian or vegan and she will leave those components out of any formula she may prescribe for you.

 

Does a Chinese herbalist have special training?

 

Yes. Practitioners of Chinese herbal medicine have undergone years of training, in addition to any training they may have received in acupuncture or other modalities. Not all acupuncturists are certified herbalists, so make sure to ask about your practitioner’s credentials.

 

 

What’s the difference between Chinese herbs and pharmaceuticals?

 

There are some important differences between Chinese herbal medicine and prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Most importantly, Chinese herbal medicine treats a wide variety of health problems with few or no side effects. Unlike western drugs, Chinese herbs are taken in a whole food form. For example, teas are decocted from whole roots, stems, and leaves and capsules are filled with crushed whole food material. Western pharmaceuticals are made by locating active chemical compounds and creating medicines from these compounds. When reduced to their chemical fundamentals, drugs have a high potential for side effects. When used appropriately, Chinese herbs will cause no side effects as long as they are used in their whole food form.

 

What’s the difference between Chinese and western herbs?

 

Chinese formulas almost always contain a number of different herbs.  Many people familiar with western herbal medicine think of herbs as they do western pharmaceuticals; a single herb is good to treat a single disease (for example, echinacea is good for colds). In Chinese herbal medicine, single herbs are rarely used. Formulas may contain as few as 2 or 3, and as many as 15 or more different herbs. In combination, the function of each individual herb is enhanced and balanced by the other herbs in the formula. For example, some herbs may augment or limit the potency of others, while some may concentrate on one specific area of the body. Through thousands of years of practice and research, Chinese herbalists have found formulas to be the most effective, most powerful, and safest way of using herbs.

 

 

Do I have to cook the herbs?

No. In most cases, herbs are prescribed in capsule, tablet, or liquid tincture form. Complex cases sometimes require a custom granule formula, which is easily made into a tea by adding warm water.

 

 

How long do I need to take Chinese herbs?

 

While the length of treatment varies for each condition, according to Chinese medicine principles, no treatment lasts forever. With western drugs, it is not uncommon for individuals to take certain medications indefinitely. For example, a person with thyroid problems may take a thyroid medication her entire life. A person with chronic back pain may take a pain killer for many years. In Chinese herbalism, a person takes a set of formulas for a limited period of time. This is why Chinese herbalists will see their patients regularly (every one to four weeks is common practice). When the patient no longer feels improvement, or her practitioner no longer finds improvement in objective signs and symptoms, the herbs will be changed. When the person’s underlying condition is treated, she will no longer have symptoms and treatment is completed. At that point, there is no longer a need to take herbs. The purpose of treatment is not simply to control symptoms, but to restore balance to the body.  The duration of treatment varies depending on the nature and severity of a person’s complaints, how long she has had the condition, and how quickly her body responds to treatment.  In general, the more chronic a condition, the longer it will take to address it to completion.

 

Where do the herbs come from?

 

Although the plants used in the Chinese Materia Medica are grown all over the world, in order to ensure safety and efficacy I use only herbal products that are made in the U.S.A. by the most reputable herbal manufacturers.

 

When do I take my herbs?

 

It is best to take herbs at 30 minutes before or after meals. If you also take western pharmaceuticals, vitamins, or other herbs, it is best to take these an hour or two apart from your Chinese herbs.

 

Will Chinese herbs conflict with my western prescription medicine?

 

In most cases, there is no conflict between these two kinds of treatments, but it is always best to let me know what medications you take so that I can allow for special considerations.