The use of herbs is a major component of Chinese medicine, a health care system over 3000 years old. Used throughout the world today, Chinese medicine views the body as an integrated whole, possessing a vital energy or life force called Qi (chee). Our health depends on the free flow of this qi and if we have too little or too much qi then disease occurs. Specific herbs are used to bring the body back into balance and restore our health.
Chinese herbal medicine is composed of over 5000 plant, mineral and animal substances. Most herbalists work with around 200 to 300 herbs. Traditionally the raw herbs are cooked in water to form a decoction or tea. Depending on the practitioner or the patient’s preference, you may take herbs as a tea, in pill form, as a tincture, or powdered and dissolved in water. Although the taste may be not to your liking, most people don’t mind given the health benefits.
After an evaluation, which is comprised of asking a variety of questions about your specific complaint and your health in general, I will recommend an herbal formula consisting of several herbs and made especially for you. All formulas are modified according to your specific needs.
Although Chinese Medicine can treat a wide variety of conditions, sometimes a western medical consultation and treatment may be appropriate. If this is the case, your Chinese medical practitioner will suggest that you see your primary western medical provider.
As with any form of healing, your attitude, diet, determination and lifestyle will affect the outcome of your course of treatment. You are encouraged to actively participate in your healing process to obtain the best possible results.
In the hands of a well-trained herbal practitioner, Chinese herbs are effective and safe. Careful attention to dosage and combination of herbs, as well as any known drug-herb interactions, are covered in comprehensive Chinese herbal medicine education programs. In addition, the Chinese herbal profession is working with the FDA to ensure the quality and safety of Chinese herbs imported into this country.
Herbs have a balancing or regulating effect on the body and are usually gentler than pharmaceutical drugs. Side effects from herbs are possible, but are usually minor. The most common problem is gastrointestinal upset, gas and bloating due to slight difficulty digesting the herb material. If this or any other problem occurs, discuss it with your practitioner so she/he may change your formula.
Herb-drug interactions are rare. However, in order to allow your health care providers to treat you effectively and work in partnership, you should inform your western medical physician that you are taking Chinese herbs just as you should inform your herbal practitioner of any prescription medicines you are taking.