Chinese herbal medicine is also one of the oldest treatment methods known to man and is an integrated part of mainstream health care in China, along with acupuncture. In the course of gathering food, humans discovered that certain plants, animals and mineral substances have medicinal properties. Through trial and error in using these medicinals, the Chinese discovered that combining substances was often more effective in treating disease than taking the herbs individually. A typical Chinese herbal formula will, therefore, contain 4 – 12 herbs within the formula. Some large formulas contain as many as 25 single herbs! The Chinese have catalogued their observations and experiences with these medicinals over the course of thousands of years. This has led to an extensive, vastChinese pharmacopoeia and Chinese herbal medicine as it is practiced today. In today’s China, approximately 80% of all traditional Chinese medical patients are treated with herbs.
Though Chinese herbal medicine is not as widely recognized in the United States, it is rapidly growing in popularity given the current health care environment. We grow up with the quick-fix promise of pharmaceutical drugs in the U.S. But this “quick fix” comes with a price. Many patients are tired of paying for expensive drugs with numerous undesirable side effects and then taking other drugs to alleviate those side effects. As beneficial and life saving as drugs may be in many circumstances, patients are looking for alternatives.
Herbal medicine is particularly useful in the management of chronic diseases and in the treatment of “premorbid states.” This is when a patient feels ill and complains of certain vague symptoms, but a Western medical workup fails to reveal any laboratory or diagnostic data. The patient is then sent home without a solution to their complaint!
Herbs vs. Pharmaceutical Drugs
There is a big difference between taking Chinese herbs and taking pharmaceutical drugs. When taking Chinese herbs, one often ingests the whole plant/animal/mineral substance. Whereas the western pharmacological approach is to take a plant substance, find its active ingredient for treating a SPECIFIC disease and extract the isolated ingredient. The active ingredient is then concentrated, patented and sold as a pharmaceutical.
In contrast, a medicinal effective in treating MANY ailments is considered superior in China. The more illnesses it treats, the more precious it becomes. Ginseng, for example, is thought to be extremely precious because it is a “tonic” to many body systems (it strengthens the Lungs, Spleen and Heart at the same time). While Oriental medicine considers a certain herb to be superior, Western medicine may view it as inferior and vice versa. Chinese medicine is based on natural principles and seeks treatment success on a broader, more gradual, more wholistic path.
In general, herbs work more gently and gradually. Many patients seeking herbal treatment have chronic ailments, and usually herbs are gradual in their effect since chronic problems have taken years to establish. The exception to this rule is for colds and the flu. There are Chinese herbal formulas that are specifically formulated to treat these problems and are very good at eliminating the pathogen (bacteria or virus) before it has a chance to wreak havoc in the body.
Are Chinese Herbs Safe?
At Jacksonville Acupuncture Wellness, PA, we keep many herbal formulas in stock. If we do not have it in stock, we will order your prescription for you and have it to you within a couple of days. We only order the BEST herbal products! All of our herbal formulas come from companies that have rigorous quality control specifications. Quality products begin with premium raw materials. Only medical grade herbs are prescribed. These herbs cannot be ordered without a medical license. We seek out companies who authenticate herbal identity and verify medicinal potency. In addition, all herbal formulas are only ordered from companies that use raw materials safe from heavy metals, yeast and mold, pesticides, herbicides, and pollutants.
Various Ways of Taking Chinese Herbs
There are several ways herbs may be prepared. A tea may be made by pouring water over raw herbs and cooking the herbs. This is called a “decoction” and is the most traditional way of taking herbs. It is time consuming to cook your herbs and some people do not enjoy the taste of the raw herbs. However, if someone has the time to cook their herbs and can stomach the taste, this method is preferable in many situations. If you take raw herbs, please download the instructions for cooking your herbs under Patient Forms.
Another way herbs are prepared is by pouring alcohol over the herbs. The herbs are allowed to steep in the alcohol for a period of time. The alcohol extracts the chemicals containing medicinal value within the herbs. After the herbs are removed, the remaining liquid is bottled as a “tincture.” This is also a very effective way of taking herbs and much less time consuming than cooking herbs because most tinctures are pre-made – most people do not make their own. The tincture usually has a strong taste as well.
Capsules or pills are by far the most convenient way of taking herbs and they do not have a bad taste. The raw herbs are decocted, and the extract then goes through a low heat, high pressure process to remove the water. What is left over is a highly concentrated powder that is then put into capsule form. Due to their excellent reputation for high quality, laboratory tested herbal medicines, Jacksonville Acupuncture Wellness, PA chooses to prescribe Evergreen Chinese Herbs.