People in America often times wonder how Chinese herbal formulation is done. What are Chinese herbs? Why take them? How do you take them? Why can’t I just go to the Vitamin or Health Food Store and take a mixture of supplements?
The answer to all of these questions is simple: each person, and their individual life stresses, is unique. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to getting your body healthy. Herbs and supplements are not recommended for everybody. A good practitioner will be able to accurately assess each patient’s state of health and recommend things that will benefit them specifically.
Now, on to answering the questions.
What are Chinese Herbs? How do you take them?
In Oriental Medicine, Chinese herbs have been used for thousands of years to help with many different health concerns. The earliest known literature containing herbal prescriptions, found in a tomb in China, dates back to almost 200 BC.
Modern day herbs are often a mixture of plant and animal parts, prepared in a certain way, and mixed in an exact formula to benefit the patient’s individual health needs. Not all acupuncturists are licensed to mix herbs; it requires additional education and licensing, depending on which state the acupuncturist is practicing.
Patent herbs, the type you find most commonly at an acupuncturist’s clinic, come pre-mixed in pellet/pill form. These formulas and generally more standardized and cannot be modified to fit each patient’s individual needs. Many TCM practitioners use this form of herbs because it does not require the rigorous schooling and licensing, but they are able to prescribe them to the patients because they are not physically mixing the herbs themselves, rather ordering the premixed formula from an herb company. (Read more about TCM HERE)
Chinese herbal extracts, on the other hand, are individual herbs that can be mixed specifically for each unique patient. These extracts are often made into a granular form, which the Chinese herbal practitioner then keeps in their herbal pharmacy to compose formulas specific of the patient. To take these herbs, the patient mixes them with hot water and drinks it like a tea. These formulas are very individualized and highly effective for the patient to whom it was prescribed. (This is the form of herbs we carry in our clinic.)
Why Take Chinese Herbs?
Not all patients take herbs, and on some occasions, herbs are not recommended. If herbs are prescribed, they help reinforce what the acupuncture is doing, and, in the case of patients who cannot do acupuncture, there are many benefits. Herbs can be helpful in the treatment of pain, arthritis, inflammation, digestive trouble (IBS, colitis, diverticulitis, etc.), migraines and headaches, anxiety, depression, weight loss and metabolism deficiency, PMS and menopausal symptoms (cramping, bloating, irregular periods, hot flashes, mood swings), and many other health concerns.
Because they can be mixed based on each unique patient, we can address many health problems with a single formula.
Why can’t I just go to the Vitamin or Health Food Store and take a mixture of supplements?
Well, technically you can, but you possibly will end up spending more money on supplements that may not be right ones or the correct dosages for your individual needs. Chinese herbs require additional licensing for a reason: a qualified professional must assess each individual and prescribe them, much like a doctor prescribing a medication (although, with herbs, there are rarely any side effects like you may experience with medication).
As usual, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.
Nothing in this document is intended as a substitute for your doctor’s diagnosis and/or treatment. This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA.