Q: What is a Chinese herb?
A: In China, people have been using natural herbs to treat a wide variety of diseases and conditions for generations. These herbs are called herbal medicine and are composed of roots, bark, flowers, seeds, fruits, leaves, and branches. It is well known that Traditional Chinese Medicine has over 3000 years history and Chinese herb medicine is one of most important aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In China, there are over 3000 different herbs that can be used for medical purposes. However only about 300 to 500 of these herbs are commonly used. It is important to use herbs grown in China rather than outside of their native environment and one must use the right herb from the right source to get the full benefit.
Q: What can Chinese herbs do for me?
A: Chinese Herbal therapy or herb medicine has three main functions:
1. Treat acute diseases and conditions through killing bacteria or a virus;
2. Heal chronic illness such as gastrointestinal disorder, respiratory disorder, allergies, immune system deficiency, etc. by strengthening the body and helping it to recover;
3. Maintain a daily life health by keeping the balance of human body.
In general, herbs can treat a wide variety of diseases and conditions. Compared with chemical medicine, Chinese herbal medicine is gentler and safer because it comprises natural herbs and most Chinese herbs do not cause side effects. Even some of the side effects that do occur among a few herbs can be easily counteracted with other herbs. For these reasons, people turn to herbal therapy for a number of indications. More and more people rely on Chinese herbal medicine as an alternative once chemical (allopathic) medicine has failed.
Chronic illness treatment - As we know, many people with chronic illness may take a number of different conventional drugs daily. Chinese herbal medicine is a very good option for those who are looking for a natural alternative to conventional western medicine. There are many very efficient Chinese herbal patent medicines and prescribed herb formulas taken for pain syndromes, gastrointestinal disorders, neurological disorders, stress related syndromes, respiratory disorders, heart problems, sexual dysfunction, allergies and immune system deficiencies, as well as replacements for antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Side effect reduction - As highlighted earlier, Chinese herbs are safer and generally side-effect free. Actually they can be taken to reduce the side effects of other medication such as antibiotics, chemotherapy, etc. It is well known that antibiotics weaken the immune system whereas herbal therapy can strengthen the immune system. During chemotherapy, the white blood cell count drops, which causes fatigue, lack of energy and appetite. Herbal therapy has proven quite successful in relieving the side effects of chemotherapy.
For prevention - People may take Chinese herb medicine for disease prevention. For instance, a person suffering from frequent headaches may take herbs to prevent the headache from ever starting rather than as a pain reliever. Herbs are also used to prevent flu, menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome, among other things. For health maintenance- Herbal therapy can also be used for general health maintenance. Tonic herbs are used to increase energy and to slow the aging process. They are also used for enhancing sexual energy and for cosmetic purposes. Herbs are also used to treat minor symptoms that are not severe enough for heavy chemical drugs, symptoms that cannot be diagnosed by Western medicine, and symptoms and illness that are not easy to treat, such as mononucleosis and immune system deficiencies.
Q: Are the concentrated herbs as the same good as the raw herbs in prescribed herbs?
A: Yes! The concentrated herbs are made from the raw herbs. First of all, best herbal sources from China are selected. Then these raw herbs are purified and then processed through steaming, cooking and finally condensed into fine granular particles. Therefore, they are easy to be dissolved and absorbed and enhance the healing process.
Q: Why Chinese herbs are always mixed in formula to use?
A: Chinese herbalists usually do not prescribe single herb for their patients. Chinese herbs are usually used in combinations of 8 to 15 herbs. There are three major reasons to support the combination practice. Mutual Reinforcement involves combining two or more very similar herbs together to create a stronger effect. Mutual Assistance is the way to use one herb to help another work better. Mutual Restraint is meant to use one herb to reduce or eliminate side effects of another herb in the combination.
All of these demonstrate that a herbalist should be experienced and knowledgeable about herbs before attempting to combine them. Otherwise, Mutual Inhibition occurs when one herb reduces another's Effectiveness; Incompatibility occurs when the combination of certain herbs produces side effects or becomes poisonous. The important aspects of Chinese medicine are the knowledge of formulation and blending.
Q: Could you offer me some precautions for taking herbs?
A: Like anything else you put in your body, you should be taking a certain amount of caution when you take Chinese herbs. For instance, some herbs are too strong for pregnant women and may cause miscarriage. Certain foods can have adverse effects on the herbal therapy. Generally speaking, when taking Chinese herbs, one should avoid food that is greasy, strong tasting or fragrant, difficult to digest (such as beef), or irritating to the digestive system (like spicy food). It is always a good idea to get advice from a herbalist before you take Chinese herbs.
Q: How are herbs taken?
A: Prescribed herbal medicine is traditionally taken in liquid form often as tea as the human body absorbs such easily and quickly. However the smell or taste of blended herbal medicine is unpleasant and therefore capsule or tablet form is recommended. Tea should always be warm, and capsules or tablets should be swallowed with warm water. Generally, it is best to take herbs just before you serve meals. You should consult a herbalist for specific instructions on taking herbs. For example, tonic herbs to promote health are best taken before meals. Purgative herbs, to cleanse the system are best taken on an empty stomach. Herbs that either irritate the stomach or are taken to protect the stomach should be taken after eating. Herbs for insomnia and other sleeping disorders should be taken at bedtime