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Chinese Herbology


Chinese Herbology is one of the five main branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Chinese Herbology uses natural ingredients to promote health and healing. The Chinese materia medica (a pharmacological reference book used by TCM practitioners) contains hundreds of medicinal substances—primarily plants, but also some minerals and animal products—classified by their perceived action in the body. Usually, herbs are combined in formulas and given as teas, capsules, tinctures, or powders.
There are over three hundred herbs that are commonly being used today. A Chinese herbal medicine prescription is a cocktail of many substances, usually tailored to the individual patient. Typically, one batch of medicinal is prepared as a decoction of about 9 to 18 substances.
Some of the most commonly used herbs are Ginseng, wolfberry, Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis), astragalus, atractylodes, bupleurum, cinnamon, coptis, ginger, hoelen, licorice, ephedra sinica, peony, rehmannia, rhubarb, and salvia.


What is the history of Chinese Herbology?

The legend of Shénnóng

Chinese herbology has existed for over 4,000 years. The earliest known records are attributed to Shénnóng [神农, lit. 'Divine Farmer'], 3494 B.C. The ancient Daoist monks left detailed records of extensive herbal studies aimed at finding “elixirs” to provide a healthy and long life.
The legend says the Shénnóng, who is said to have lived around 2800 BC, tasted hundreds of herbs and imparted his knowledge of medicinal and poisonous plants to farmers. His 'Shénnóng Běn Cǎo Jīng' (Shennong's Materia Medica) is considered as the oldest book on Chinese herbal medicine. It classifies 365 species of roots, grass, woods, furs, animals and stones.
Although Shénnóng is considered the father of Chinese Herbology, most common formulas used today are based on the works of later Herbologists, such as the 'Compendium of Materia Medica' [本草綱] compiled during the Ming dynasty by Li Shizhen and the classic 'Handbook of Traditional Drugs' from 1941.


Are Chinese herbs effective?

Yes. Chinese herbs are still commonly used today in modern Chinese hospitals, often preferred over drugs, as some are safer and more effective. Herb cultivation and harvesting has been a traditional art in China for thousands of years. Chinese herbs have been studied and documented as to their energetic natures, medicinal functions, and remarkable effectiveness.


Are Chinese herbs dangerous?

As they have the power to heal when used properly, they also can be dangerous if misused. There are many herbs that are contraindicated in certain conditions. This is why it is so important to only take herbs that are prescribed by a TCM practitioner or herbalist who has undergone the training to know which herbs are the correct ones to safely get the proper results.
There has also been some question as to herbs being tainted with pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals or pollutants. Although it is true that some suppliers may not pay attention to this, we are extremely careful to use only herbs that come from reputable sources that have been tested and are certified pure and free of any contamination.

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What is the difference between taking herbs and taking pharmaceuticals?

The difference between an herbal formula and a pharmaceutical is that an herbal formula has therapeutic actions to first reduce symptoms and then to heal or strengthen the tissue, organ, or system. Pharmaceuticals typically have one therapeutic action, which is to mask or reduce the symptom, and no actions to address the root issue or strengthen the body to keep symptoms from returning. Herbal formulas have multi-layered therapeutic actions which address the symptoms or problems at the root so that they will not return.


How are Chinese herbs used differently from other herbs?

chinese herbs

Most western herbs are used singly and symptomatically, such as valerian for insomnia, white willow bark for headache, etc. The body constitution of the patient and root cause are not always considered. In contrast, Chinese medicine looks carefully at the energetic nature and functions of herbs to balance these qualities with the patient’s body constitution while treating the disorder. Chinese herbs are usually used in combinations in order to be more effective and establish balance in the body.


Can Chinese herbs replace western drugs or conflict with them?

Chinese herbs are strong medicine that can sometimes out-perform western drugs, and can often resolve negative side effects the drugs may be causing. It is important that you inform us of any medications you are using so that we are able to prescribe herbs that will not cause problems. Neither a TCM practitioner nor an herbalist can tell you to take or not to take a medication prescribed by an M.D. They can however, give you information that allows you to make an intelligent decision, or recommend discussing options with your M.D.

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Should I avoid taking Chinese herbs if I am on prescription medication?

Not necessarily. Herbs often work well in conjunction with certain medications. Medical doctors often refer patients to us to support their treatments, such as in infertility, or relieve the side effects of allopathic treatments such as in chemotherapy. It is very important that all your healthcare practitioners are aware and approve of combined types of treatment.


Are Chinese herbs safe if I am pregnant or a nursing mother?

Most herbs are completely safe during pregnancy and for lactating mothers, often offering a solution to treating conditions where pharmaceutical drugs are contraindicated. As is true with any type of treatment, certain substances are inappropriate during these times. Make sure your practitioner is aware if you are pregnant or nursing, so only the correct and safe herbs are prescribed.


Are Chinese herbs appropriate for children?

Chinese herbs are often preferred over pharmaceutical drugs as they are generally much safer and offer excellent results. Children are often given reduced dosages and respond more quickly than adults. There are also anti-viral herbs that effectively treat and prevent the common cold or flu that have no allopathic counterparts.


Why do I need herbs? I don't want to take more things.

My intention is not to keep you on herbs. I use herbal formulas to reduce and clear your symptoms, and then to tonify and heal your body. As a result is the source of the problem is healed, which keeps symptoms from returning. I use herbs because they are extremely effective without side effects, pure and simple.


Is it advisable to combine Chinese herbs with acupuncture?

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be extremely effective when used together. Often times the herbs are able to sustain the effects of an acupuncture treatment for much longer than if acupuncture alone was used. Some conditions respond better to herbs than to acupuncture, and others respond better to acupuncture than to herbs. Your TCM practitioner will discuss these issues with you.

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