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Chinese Herb Medicine FAQ

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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 FAQ

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. Li’s answers:

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 benefit.

Q: What can Chinese herbs do for me?

Dr. Li: Chinese Herbal therapy or herb medicine has three main functions:

  1. treat the acute diseases and conditions such as killing bacteria or a virus;
  2. heal chronic illness such as gastrointestinal disorder, respiratory disorder, allergies, immune system deficiency, etc. by strengthening the body, helping it to recover;
  3. maintain daily life health by keeping the balance of human body.

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 by patients?

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 herbalist.

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 becomes poisonous.

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.

Your most valuable asset is good health. Invest in it wisely. Consider Chinese Herb Medicine!!!

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