Herbal medicine is the main modality in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is the world's oldest continually practiced, professional medicine. Over the millennia, Chinese herbal medicine has developed and matured to become what it is today: a natural and holistic system of primary health care used by people from a variety of backgrounds to effectively treat a range of chronic and acute health problems.
Many thousands of substances are in the Chinese herbal medicine formulary. Today, only a couple hundred of the most common ones are used. Most are of plant origin, though some animal and mineral substances are also used. Some, such as ginger, garlic and cinnamon, are common, but many of the substances may be unfamiliar to you, such as chai hu (bupleurum), di huang (rehmannia) and huang qi (astragalus). Some substances that were used traditionally are no longer part of the modern professional Chinese herbal medicine practice. For example, traditional remedies derived from endangered species have been replaced by other substances with similar actions.
Chinese herbal medicines consist of individual herbs made into formulae that take into account the individual therapeutic action of each herb and as well as the combined effects. A well-constructed formula maximizes the effectiveness for treating a particular condition, while counteracting and minimizing the unwanted effects of an individual herb.
Most illnesses present with a core set of recognizable signs and symptoms, but these symptoms can vary from person to person. For this reason, people with similar health conditions may be given quite different Chinese herbal medicine prescriptions. A qualified practitioner is able to prescribe an herbal formula that specifically matches and treats your individual health problem. As your condition changes and improves, the Chinese herbal treatment will be adjusted accordingly until the desired outcome is achieved. Chinese herbal medicine takes a holistic approach to understanding normal function and disease processes, and focuses as much on prevention as treatment. By strengthening and enhancing normal body functions, it works to boost the immune system and promote general wellness.
The most common method of taking Chinese herbal medicine is in a decoction. This means that the herbs are boiled for approximately 45 minutes and then strained and drunk 2-3 times per day. However, there are also herbal pills, tinctures, and powdered extracts for those who do not have the time or taste for drinking traditional decoctions.
With acute conditions, results may occur in a matter of minutes. With chronic conditions, results may take up to two weeks. Although treatment with Chinese herbal medicine may be for extended periods of time for chronic conditions, the medicine should help manage the condition with real results before completion of the treatment.
Herbal Chinese Medicine for Pregnant Women and Children:
Chinese herbal medicine is also completely safe during pregnancy, causing absolutely no harm to the fetus. Likewise, lactating mothers can take Chinese herbal medicine as long as it is prescribed by a trained practitioner.
Pediatrics is a specialty within TCM and children can be given reduced dosages. There are also prepared pediatric medicine in pill and powder form. Chinese herbal medicine can treat colic, the fussiness of teething, earache, diarrhea, cough and fever in babies and children.