WHAT IS CHINESE HERBAL MEDICINE?
Chinese herbal medicine is based on a Chinese medical diagnosis. As a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, the goals of our treatment are not only to address your chief complaint, but also to determine the cause of your problems according to Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) theory. If you fix the cause, then there will be no recurrence of the problem. In other words, it is not simply a symptomatic treatment.
For example, if a person is suffering from headaches, there is no specific “headache” herb in Chinese Medicine, although it can treat headaches quite effectively. In order to do so, we have to make a Chinese medical diagnosis (find the cause). We would need to know the location of the headache (temples, back, front, or top of head, etc.), the type of pain (dull, achy, sharp, etc.), whether or not the headache is constant or it comes and goes, what brings it on, is it better or worse at a certain time of the day, what makes it better or worse, etc.
Chinese diagnosis always includes a look at the tongue and palpation of the pulse for additional clues as to what is causing the pathology. These signs and symptoms all contribute to a Chinese Medical Diagnosis. Once we have the Chinese Medical Diagnosis, then we do the appropriate treatment to correct the imbalance.
CHINESE HERBAL MEDICINE IS MORE ESPECIALLY EFFECTIVE BECAUSE IT’S MORE SPECIFIC TO EACH PERSON
Understanding the nature of Chinese medicine to address the root cause of pathologies and to promote the body’s ability to heal itself, one can see why the individualization of Chinese herbal Medicine, when prescribed properly, is so effective. Taking a single herbs for a condition is uncommon in the practice of Chinese herbal medicine. The use of singular herbs for specific complaints is more common in the practice of Western Herbalism, which is a based on a symptomatic approach without diagnosis of the root cause.
THE 3 MOST COMMONLY USED FORMS OF CHINESE HERBAL MEDICINE ARE:
- Bulk Herbs (i.e. raw Chinese herbs one cooks into a tea to drink)
- Granular (Powdered) Herbs (i.e. Chinese herbs that have been cook and concentrated down into a powder form, which is then mixed with hot water.)
- Chinese Prepared Medicinals (i.e. pills, tablets, cough syrups, etc. made out of Chinese Herbs)
Each form of Chinese Herbal Medicine has advantages and disadvantages.
Bulk Herbs are the standard form of treatment in China.
They allow a practitioner to effectively prescribe Chinese herbs which are tailored exactly to the individual. Noticeable effects are usually seen faster by taking bulk herbs and they are relatively inexpensive. Bulk Herb may also be used in making medicinal wines and can be applied topically for certain conditions. The downside is that they are not as convenient if one is planning on traveling and sometimes the taste of the tea made from the herbs is less than pleasant.
Granular Herbs have been used effectively for decades in several country.
They also allow a practitioner to effectively prescribe a Chinese herbal tailored to the individual, and are also much more convenient for daily use at home or on the road. Granular herbs are similar to instant coffee and dissolve in liquid for easy administration. The downside is that they are slightly more expensive than other forms of Chinese Herbal Medicine and the taste may be less than pleasant. Granular Herbs may be encapsulated and swallowed with water to avoid the taste.
Chinese prepared medicinals are Chinese herbal formulas prepared for sale over the counter.
Prepared medicinals, or “patent” medicines are convenient and inexpensive. Due to a low herbal concentration ratio, however, a high number of pills, tablets, etc. must be taken to elicit a similar therapeutic response to that of the raw or extracted herbs. Additionally, these patent formulas are based on classic, and often basic, herbal formulas; patients are often required to take 2 or more patent formulas to address their entire medical condition. Despite these limitations, their convenience, ease of travel, and relatively low cost make patent formulas a valuable and useful tool. For chronic conditions requiring long-term treatment with Chinese herbs, taking pills or tablets is a viable and cost-effective route. Many of these formulas can now be purchased and your local vitamin or health food store. Some modern companies will make customized formulas into pills or tablets; the cost and time to produce such customized formulas varies.