What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?
Chinese Herbal Medicine forms the backbone of and is the core practice within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). With an evolution spanning 2000 years, Chinese Herbal Medicine has developed as a powerful, accurate tool for regulating the body’s functions, in order to treat and prevent illnesses. Today, over 80% of TCM treatments in China are herbal in nature.
Over the past four decades, Chinese and Japanese scientists have been able to prove that the herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine contain components which effectively regulate physical, mental, and emotional imbalances. Many of today’s modern drugs have been developed from such herbs, including medications used to treat asthma, hay fever, hepatitis, the common cold, sore throat, influenza, menstrual pain, and general low energy. Over 500 single herbs and thousands of herbal formulas make up the core of Traditional Chinese Herbology. All of the ingredients used in Mulberry Leaf’s formulas come from the natural flora of China. We do not use any endangered plant or animal species in our formulas, and all of our herbs are pure, without any pharmaceutical additives or heavy metals.
What diseases can Chinese Herbal Medicine treat?
Chinese Herbal Medicine balances the human body, allowing us to maintain day-to-day health. Chinese Herbal Medicine effectively treats:
acute diseases and conditions (by killing the bacteria or virus and reducing inflammation)
chronic illnesses, such as gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory disorders, gynecological disorders, infertility, allergies, and immune system deficiencies (by strengthening the body, through supplementing and balancing the functions of internal organs)
How are the herbs used?
Chinese herbs are rarely used individually. Instead, the herbs are usually combined into an herbal formula, which typically consists of 2-15 herbs. Herbs are mainly combined for three reasons, including:
reinforcing the effect of the chief ingredients,
managing side effects of some of the herbs in the formula, and
addressing additional symptoms.
These balancing reasons make Chinese herbal formulas a powerful, yet safe, choice of medicine.
How does the doctor determine which formula to prescribe?
After a thorough examination, including a diagnosis of the tongue and pulse, the doctor is able to choose the appropriate herbs to combine in an herbal formula, so that the combination is specifically tailored to the individual. One of the key principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine is this individual approach; each formula is chosen/prescribed specifically for you, as there are no two patients alike. In some cases, a practitioner of Chinese medicine will design a specific formula for an individual patient, which will then change, over the course of treatment. In other cases, one or more formulas already prepared for ingestion are selected for use, without needing modifications. The doctor will monitor the effects of the formula on the individual and then determine whether to continue the current formula, change to another formula, or discontinue use of herbs.
What are the benefits of Chinese Herbal Medicine comparing to Western Pharmaceuticals?
When it comes to providing urgent relief from acute conditions, or saving someone from a life-threatening condition, Western Medicine is very useful. Unfortunately, Western Medications, which are designed and tested for short-term use, frequently end up as part of a daily regimen over the course of several years, often bringing negative effects that are not evident until years later. In the case of chronic diseases, Western Medicine is limited to managing the symptoms, without delivering an overall improvement in the long run. TCM in general, including Traditional Chinese Herbology, is ideally suited to treat chronic or long-term disorders, without posing such risks or producing negative side effects.
Instead of just curbing symptoms, TCM addresses the root causes of the condition being treated. For example, TCM not only treats the headache a patient complains about; it also treats the nervous and vascular system imbalances responsible for the headache. Due to its holistic, “mind, body, and spirit” approach, Chinese Medicine addresses internal organ imbalances and psychological issues, making it possible to completely eradicate conditions like insomnia, anxiety, and/ or depression, instead of simply relying on “numbing” or “sedative” Western Drugs for an entire lifespan.
Western and Chinese Medicine are not interchangeable. They work best when used appropriately, and they can do miracles when combined together. According to Chinese clinical studies, Chinese herbs can greatly increase the effectiveness of modern drug treatments, reduce their side effects, and sometimes replace them completely. The use of integrative medicine aims to reduce or eliminate a patient’s need for some medications.
How are Herbal Formulas taken?
There are many different forms of herbal medicine, including decoctions, powders, granules, capsules, tablets, tea pills (boluses) and tinctures. The two most popular forms are extract powders (or granules) and smooth, easy-to-swallow capsules. Extracts are made by producing a large batch of tea, removing the water, and producing a powder or tiny pellets. Capsules are usually taken with some warm water, while powders/granules are mixed with hot water and consumed as a tea. One must take a substantial quantity of these prepared forms (compared to the amount of drugs one takes) to achieve results. Even in their concentrated form, herbs remain a natural, almost food-like substance, and do not have the same concentrated potency as a chemical.
How long does it take to see results with Chinese Herbal Medicine?
As a general rule, acute ailments are treated for a period of 1-30 days. If an outbreak of influenza or a skin rash is caught early enough, a one- or two-day treatment will prevent further development of the disease. For chronic diseases, the treatment time is often dependent on the severity and the age of the condition treated. Most chronic ailments can be brought under control (and some are cured) by a treatment of approximately three months. However, in some cases, herbs are taken daily, for an indefinite period, just as some drugs are taken daily. This is typically the case when there are genetic disorders, permanent damage that cannot be entirely reversed, aging problems, and/ or ailments that have been left for too long without effective treatment.
How do I know if a practitioner is professionally trained in Chinese Herbal Medicine?
American practitioners usually train at one of the approximately 45 universities in the U.S., with a four-year series of courses that include Chinese medical classes, Western medical classes, Acupuncture, and Herbology. Certification is then offered at the state or national level, and licensing is now required by most states. Continuing education is required by state boards and focuses on the treatment of specific diseases, advanced training in the use of a specialized acupuncture technique, or valuable herbal formulas.
Is it safe to combine Herbal Formulas with Western Medications?
Negative interactions with Western drugs have not been noted for any of the common herb materials when used in the normal dosage range. However, it is advised to take herbs and Western medications at different times (at least two hours apart), to avoid any minor interactions. Also, Herbal formulas may have a synergistic effect when taking with western medications, thus inducing the effects of western pills. For example, some blood-invigorating herbs should be used with caution by patients taking Aspirin or Coumadin, as both are blood-thinners. Make sure to inform your Chinese Medical Doctor of all the medications, vitamins, and supplements you are currently taking. Additionally, consult with your Western Medical Doctor about whether or not you need to adjust the dosages of your western medications.
Do Chinese herbal medicines have side effects?
When prescribed according to a correct TCM pattern diagnosis, Chinese herbs should have few, if any, side effects. If mild side effects do occur, those side effects can be easily counteracted with other herbs, under the direction of your practitioner. If you experience discomfort during or after taking Chinese herbal medicine, tell your practitioner, who can then modify the formula, so that there are no side effects. Pregnant women should consult with their Chinese Medical Doctor prior to taking Herbal Medicine.