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What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?

I feel the need to inform people about the herbal aspect of Chinese Medicine.  Many people don’t know much about it and therefore are wary about trying it.  I don’t blame them, what we don’t know we don’t trust.

So let’s get straight about Chinese Herbal Medicine.  What is it, how does it work, what is it used for, what to expect when  you receive a prescription.


What are Chinese Herbs?

Chinese herbs are substances found in nature that are mostly plant, some mineral, and some animal.  We use a lot of roots, twigs, seeds, leaves, fruits, and bark from various plants.  Where they’re grown and how and when they are harvested are part of their identity and use in the medicine.  Some familiar and commonly used herbs include ginger root, cinnamon, apricot kernels, and peach kernels.  If you are vegetarian, or have allergies, please tell your herbalist so they can be sure your prescription is aligned.

How is it different from other herbs like the ones I see at the health food store?

Here in the US, people tend to be more familiar with Western herbs, in single form.  For example, saw palmetto, or milk thistle.  While most herbs in the capsules and tinctures on store shelves have their own uses and validity, they derive from a different system of medicine altogether.  Chinese herbs are prescribed in formulas, meaning in combinations of 2 or more herbs.  The formulas come from texts dating back as far as 200 BCE, and some even as recent as the 18th century.  I mainly use formulas from the Han Dynasty China which was about 1800 years ago.

Are they safe?

Chinese herbs are medicine.  This means they affect the body chemically.  So it’s not something you can just buy off Amazon because your friend recommends it.

They have also been in use for literally thousands of years, and when prescribed by a professional that has undergone specific training including a nationally recognized board certification, and taken as prescribed, are very safe.  But they are taken to effect change in the body and should be regarded as medicine.

How are they taken?

Herbal prescriptions can come in several forms.  Some practitioners will send the patient home with, or have mailed, bags of the actual herbs to be cooked in water on the stove and then drunk as a tea.

Some herbs do come in tablet or capsule form, and yet another form is as granules that are stirred into hot water and drunk as a tea.

Do I need a prescription?

Yes, because there are som many formulas for so many different conditions and symptoms and individuals, they’re not just one or five sizes fits all.  They are prescribed specifically for one person at one time.

How long do I need to take them?

Course of treatment with Chinese Herbs varies from 1 dose to several months to even years.  It really depends on the patient’s needs at the time.

What are the benefits?

I tend to get patients who’ve either had bad experiences with conventional drugs or who want to avoid the side effects of drugs.  So one benefit is the zero to minimal side effects, as well as the synergy the natural herbs have with our also very natural bodies. They tend to work with the body more than against it.  The benefits depend on the reason they’re prescribed – so we use herbs to improve sleep, fertility, mood, digestion, elimination, urination, pain, etc.  The benefits are countless!


Interested in an herbal consulation? You don’t have to have acupuncture although most people do.  Please call me at 630-335-1069 to set up an appointment!


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