Herb FAQ ] [ Introduction to TCM ] [ Chinese Patent Medicines ] [ How
to Take Chinese Herbs ]
Dr. Li is preparing a
prescribed Chinese herb formula for her patient.
Dr. Lingling Li, OMD in China
Dr. Lingling Li graduated from a
prestigious Oriental Medical college in China with a MD in Chinese Medicine degree
15 years ago. She has been practicing Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Prescriptions and
Chinese Massage since then. She is a National Board Certified
Acupuncturist & Chinese Herbalist and a Pennsylvania Licensed Acupuncturist.
Chinese Herb Medicine
||We have received many questions from
our web site visitors regarding Chinese Herb Medicine. Dr. Li reviewed these questions.
Those very common and important questions are selected and answered by Dr. Li. The
following is those FAQ and Dr. Lis
Q: What is the Chinese herb?
Dr. Li: In China, people have been
using natural herbs to treat a wide variety of diseases and conditions. These herbs are
called herbal medicine, which 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 part of Traditional Chinese
Medicine which also includes acupuncture. In China, there are over 3000 different herbs
that can be used for medical purposes. However, 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. One must use the right herb from the right source to get the full
Q: What can Chinese herbs do for me?
Dr. Li: Chinese Herbal therapy or
herb medicine has three main functions:
maintain daily life health by keeping the balance of human body.
- treat the acute diseases and conditions such as killing bacteria or a virus;
- heal chronic illness such as gastrointestinal disorder, respiratory disorder, allergies,
immune system deficiency, etc. by strengthening the body, helping it to recover;
In general, herbs can treat a wide variety of diseases and conditions. Comparing with chemical medicine, Chinese herbal
medicine is much more gentler and safer because it is made of natural herbs. Most of
Chinese herbs do not cause side effects. Even some side effects that do occur among a few
herbs, those side effects 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 herb medicine as alternative after chemical medicine failed.
Chronic illness treatment - As we know,
many people with chronic illness may take a number of different conventional drugs daily.
Chinese herb medicine is a very good alternative for those who are looking for a natural
alternative for the conventional western medicine. There are many very efficient Chinese
herbal patent medicines and prescribed herb formulas for the medications 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 mentioned
early, Chinese herbs are safer and less side-effects. 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. Herbal therapy can strengthen the system.
Also, 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, for a person suffering from frequent
headaches, taking herbs to prevent the headache from ever starting is a much better option
than taking a pain reliever after the fact. Herbs are also used to prevent the 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 arc 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: Have herbs been processed before use
Dr. Li: Yes. Chinese Herbs have
been processed before use.
Why? First of all, the processing can
reduce any possible side effects of herbs by detoxifying the herbs. The second reason for
processing herbs is for filtering out impurities such as dirt and sand. Another reason is
the processing can soften the strong taste or smell of herbs. Finally, it is very
important to address that processing herbs can enhance their functions.
Q: Can you tell me the difference
between Chinese patent and prescribed herbs?
Dr. Li: Chinese Patent herbs are
premixed herb combinations according to the traditional formulas developed by experts in
traditional Chinese medicine through over 3000 years. They are similar to
over-the-counter-drugs and usually in the form of pill, capsule and liquid. The advantages
of Chinese patent herbs are convenient, ease to take, less expensive. However, patient's
symptoms must fit the patent herb's narrow indications.
Prescribed herbs are mixed by a herbalist
according to an individual patient's symptoms and diagnoses. In general speaking,
prescribed herbs are more effective than patent herbs because the prescribed herbs are
tailored to your symptoms and conditions exclusively by your herbalist if he or she is
very good at traditional Chinese medicine.
Q: Can I buy Chinese patent herbs from
herb store directly?
Dr. Li: Although Chinese patent
herbs are relative safe and have less side-effect, I do not recommend you buy Chinese
patent herbs from herb store or other channels without obtaining advice from a certified
Q: Are the concentrated herbs as the
same good as the raw herbs in prescribed herbs?
Dr. Li: 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. After that they are processed through steaming,
cooking, 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?
Dr. Li: Chinese herbalists usually
do not prescribe single herb for their patients. Chinese herbs usually are 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
I received many emails and phone calls regarding where to buy single
Chinese herb. I think that Many of people in the United States misunderstood Chinese herb
medicine when they tried to use single Chinese herb to treat some diseases and conditions.
One of the most important advatages of Chinese medicine is the power of mixing.
Q: Could you offer me some precautions
while I take herbs?
Dr. Li: Like anything else you put
in your body, you should be taken 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. In general speaking, when
taking Chinese herbs, one should avoid food that is raw (fruit is okay, but vegetables
should be cooked), greasy, strong tasting or smelling, difficult to digest (such as beef),
or irritating to the digestive system (like spicy foods). It is always a good idea to get
advice from a herbalist before you take Chinese herbs.
Q: How are herbs taken?
Dr. Li: As you know, prescribed
herbal medicine is traditionally taken in tea form. Human body absorbs tea easily and
quickly so it is the most commonly used method. Sometimes, if the smell or taste of the
herbal medicine is unpleasant, capsule or tablet form of this herbal medicine 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.
most valuable asset is good health. Invest in it wisely. Consider Chinese Herb Medicine!!!