Chinese Herbs are a hot topic these days. This makes me happy because it get’s the conversation going around a 4000 year old medicine that is amazingly effective! The more people are asking questions, the more I can educate them on the truth.
When I bring up Chinese Herbs as a treatment option for my patients (usually in addition to acupuncture), I sometimes get a “look.” It’s a look that says something like, “WHAT? You want me to take something from CHINA! Scary?!?” Many people are weary of substances made in China. There’s been enough bad press for Chinese made goods and products in the last few years to last a lifetime. However, A LOT of things you consume come from China (and are safe) and therefore cannot be automatically discredited for this reason alone! Keep an open mind when it comes to Chinese Herbs. A trained and licensed Chinese Medical Practitioner will give you the formula that’s right for you, and will make sure they are safe for you to take.
The 4 most commonly asked questions about Chinese Herbs:
1. Are they safe?
When taken properly, absolutely. There are some raw herbs that come from China that include substances you don’t want to ingest, but if you get your herbs from a reputable company that screens and removes these substances then you’re all good. Much like the herbs I use in my clinic, which are from a fantastic company called Herbalogic.
Here’s their answer to this question:
“We take the purity of the herbs we use seriously. We buy from reputable farmers, and our herb buyers frequently go to China to visit the farms in person. In addition, our herbs are tested three times: at the point of export, upon receipt, and after processing into their final liquid form. Independent testing ensures they are free of pesticides, microbial contamination, and heavy metals.”
If you have a concern, simply ask your practitioner if the herbs are tested and safe to consume. I don’t know of any practitioner who is not conscious of the safety of the herbs they offer. Most Chinese herbs need to be prescribed by a licensed practitioner, other than a few formulas you can find at your local health food store for common ailments.
2. What are they and what are they used for?
Chinese herbs are mostly plant and mineral substances that traditionally come from China. There are climates and terrains in China that are conducive to the growth of certain herbs, which cannot grow in other places and produce the same medicinal properties. There are, however, many more common herbs that are grown all over the world that we often use in Chinese herbology, like ginger, cinnamon and peppermint.
Chinese herbs are most often used in combination to make a formula, as there is a synergy to using them together than cannot be achieved when used alone. It’s actually a very precise medicine and requires an amazing amount of study. It’s like pharmacy school in many ways, as we learn the properties, temperature, indications, dosages, interactions, etc for each herb. Then we learn how to put them all together! Like I said before, it’s 4000 years old, so the Chinese have had LOTS of time to figure it all out.
They can be used for any health condition or imbalance in the body. I use them to treat stress, pain, insomnia, allergies, PMS, hotflashes and much more. Herbs are a great adjunct to acupuncture treatment and can also be used alone. Think of using Chinese herbs like taking food as medicine. They are, after all, just natural substances from the earth that we use to heal.
3. How do I take them?
There are many forms Chinese herbs can be taken in, including raw, powder, pill or tincture. Raw herbs are the most fast acting and potent of all the forms. Raw herbs are the raw form of each herb cooked together in water for a certain amount of time, with the water from the boilings being the medicine. Powder herbs are the liquid from raw herb preparation powdered and then dissolved in water. Pills are the herbs compressed into pill form and tinctures are a liquid form that also comes from the raw preparation with a bit of added alcohol for preservation.
The herbs I use in my clinic are tinctures from Herbalogic, as I find them to be very fast acting and effective. I also find that people are very compliant with taking this form because it’s easy! You can stick it in your bag and go!
4. Do they interact with any medications I’m taking?
There are very few Chinese herbs that interact in a negative way with pharmaceuticals. Again, we’re talking about all natural substances that don’t work the same way pharmaceutical drugs do in the body. Chinese herbs don’t force your body into a reaction like drugs do, they have a gentle effect and can therefore take longer than a drug to produce a result.
Pharmaceuticals tell the body what to do in a very forceful way, hence all of the side effects that come with most drugs. You can’t tell your body to do one thing with that much force and not get another equal reaction (usually an undesired one). Herbs are great because they work with your body and gently nudge it in the direction of balance. Of course, when used improperly, they too can cause unwanted effects, but when prescribed by a licensed practitioner, Chinese herbs are very safe and effective, with no nasty side effects.
Any interaction between a pharmaceutical and a Chinese herb is well known by your practitioner.
Do you have an experience with Chinese herbs? I would love to hear it in the comments below! The more information out there about this fantastic natural medicine, the more trust we can develop around it and the faster we can all get well!
Thank you so much for reading!