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(Some Information is Courtesy of the American Society of Acupuncturists)

Herbal medicine is the main treatment method within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM is the world’s oldest, continually practiced professional medicine. Its written history stretches back over 2,500 years and its practice is probably much older than that.

Although acupuncture was the first Chinese method of treatment to gain wide acceptance in the West, Chinese herbal medicine is quickly establishing itself as one of the most popular and effective alternative therapies in the West.

Q: What’s the difference between Western and folk herbalism and Chinese herbal medicine?
– Western folk herbalism primarily treats symptoms such as headaches, runny nose, menstrual pain, etc. Chinese herbal medicine, when practiced as part TCM, is based on an individualized pattern diagnosis as well as a disease diagnosis. Your pattern is made up of your signs and symptoms, your emotional temperament and the overall composition of your body.

Q: Are there any other differences?
Western folk herbalism usually focuses on one symptom at a time and uses a single herb or groups of herbs for treatment.

Q: Are all the “herbs” vegetable in origin?
Chinese herbal medicine may include vegetable, animal, and mineral ingredients however, the majority of ingredients are from vegetable sources. Leaves, flowers, twigs, stems, roots, tubers, rhizomes, and bark are among the parts of the vegetables used.

Q: Do all the herbs come from China?
The Chinese adopted and incorporated herbs from all over the world. Fifteen to twenty percent of the 500 ingredients considered standard originated from outside China. What makes these “Chinese” herbs is that they are prescribed according to Chinese medical theory and a TCM pattern diagnosis

Q: Does Chinese herbal medicine work for Western patients?
Yes, Chinese herbal medicine works as well for Westerners as it does for Chinese. Chinese herbal medicine has been used successfully in North and South America, Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and all throughout Asia.

Q: Are there other alternatives to drinking prescribed medicines?
In the past the most common method of taking Chinese herbal medicine was drinking a liquid prepared by boiling the selected herbs. Today herbal pills, tinctures and powdered extracts are available for the patients’ convenience.     

Q: Do Chinese herbal medicines have side effects?
-Most of the components of Chinese herbal medicine have a very low toxicity compared to even common, over-the-counter Western drugs. When they are prescribed according to a correct TCM pattern diagnosis, they should have few, if any, side effects, only beneficial healing results. To assure there are no conflicts between pharmaceuticals and herbal medicines, a professional practitioner should always be consulted.

Q: What is Chinese herbal medicine good for?
Chinese herbal medicine treats the full range of human disease. It is used to treat:

  • Acute disease, like intestinal flu and the common cold
  • Chronic disease, such as allergies, gynecological disorders, autoimmune disease, and chronic viral diseases
  • Degenerative disease due to aging
  • Chinese herbal medicine is especially good for promoting the body’s ability to heal and recover from illness.

Q: Can pregnant women take Chinese herbs?
A professional TCM practitioner can prescribe herbs that are appropriate for pregnant women and lactating mothers.

Q: Can children take Chinese herbal medicine?
Yes. Pediatrics is a specialty within TCM and children can be given reduced dosages. Pediatric medicines are available in pill and powder form. Chinese herbal medicine can treat colic, the fussiness of teething, earache, diarrhea, cough, and fever in babies and children.

Q: How long does it take to see results with Chinese herbal medicine?
In acute conditions, results may occur in a matter of minutes. In chronic conditions, some results should be seen within two weeks. Although chronic conditions may require taking Chinese herbal medicine for a long time, signs that the medicine is working should be apparent to the patient and practitioner alike almost from the very start. 

Q: How do I know if a practitioner is professionally trained in Chinese herbal medicine?
-Although Chinese herbal medicines are safe when prescribed by a trained, knowledgeable practitioner, they are strong medicines. Patients should ask about where the practitioner trained, how long the training was, how long he or she has been in practice, and what experience the practitioner has had in treating the patient’s specific ailment.