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About Herbal Medicine
Over the course of the past three thousand years, practitioners have developed many ways in which to administer herbal medicine to patients. Matching the appropriate type of herbal preparation to the patient and health concern is one of the most important aspects to good practice.
The most effective method of using herbal medicine is in the form of a decoction or herbal tea. Decoction is the ancient art of cooking herbs in water as a means of concentrating the active ingredients within the plants. (You will find easy to follow cooking instructions with your supply of herbs.) Traditionally, a special glazed clay herb cooker is used but a glass or stainless steel pot will do. The liquid is strained and taken as a tea two or three times a day.
One of the primary advantages of a decoction is that the body rapidly absorbs it; its effects are strong and immediate. In addition, it is easy to modify the recipe to customize the treatment of a particular patient. Although herbal teas are strong and powerful, they may have an unpleasant odor and taste that many people find unpalatable. More convenient methods of taking Chinese herbs are available.
These are made by soaking the herbs in a solvent (usually alcohol) to extract the active ingredients, and then heating the liquid to evaporate some of the alcohol. The benefit of a liquid extract is that the bottle is convenient to take with you where ever you go and the recommended dosage is minimal; usually 3-9 droppers full a day. Approximately 1ml of a liquid extract contains the active ingredients of 1g of a normal ingredient.
Tablets and Capsules:
This is the usual method that Chinese prepared medicines are processed. A combination of Chinese herbs is finely ground and rolled into pills or put into capsules. In general, tablets and capsules are absorbed slowly and over a long period of time. The benefit of tablets and capsules is that they are more easily stored and ingested than teas, and are inexpensive.
They are most commonly used for treating chronic disorders, but can also be kept in your medicine cabinet for quick use in acute disorders such as the common cold, indigestion, or mild constipation. Chinese prepared medicines are available over the counter, but they are nevertheless medicines and should be treated as such. It is important to consult with a qualified practitioner of Chinese medicine before taking Chinese prepared medicine.
This is the most modern method of processing herbs. The herbs are boiled until thick syrup remains and then dried. After decoctions, granules are considered to have the highest effectiveness of all the preparations. Granules can retain their potency for long periods of time. They are stronger-acting than most pills, and require less medicine per volume than liquid extracts.
Lotions, Creams, Salves and Poultices:
Lotions, creams, salves and poultices are generally applied to sore or inflamed areas of the body to relieve pain and inflammation. They are traditionally called “hit medicines” because of their origination in the martial arts. Over the past two thousand years, masters of the martial arts have discovered that many herbs have a remarkable effect on the healing process of bruises, cuts and broken bones.
A poultice is prepared by combining powdered herbs with a moistening agent such as honey or egg white. The paste is than spread on muslin or cloth and applied for one to eight hours to the sore or inflamed area of the body.
Always be sure to ask for easy to follow preparation and dosage instructions when you purchase medicinal herbs
What is a Chinese herbal formula?
Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine consists of 5,767 substances derived from plant, animal, and mineral sources. The use of these substances can be traced back to 1,000 BC. Over the past 3000 years, an incredibly rich and powerful system has medicine has been created. During this time, classical herbal formulas that are effective for many health concerns have been developed. The herbs are available in the form of herbal teas, liquid extracts, tablets, capsules, granules, lotions, creams, salves, or poultices.
Individual substances are rarely prescribed alone in Traditional Chinese Medicine. A carefully balanced recipe of several different herbs is specifically tailored for each person’s entire health condition. Each herb is chosen for its own specific functions. In addition, herbs can enhance the strengths and reduce the side effects of each other. The combination of substances in a formula creates a new therapeutic agent that can treat much more effectively and completely that a single substance.
What is the difference between Western herbs and Chinese herbs?
Western Herbal Medicine tends to use one or two herbs to treat just a specific symptom. A Chinese Herbal formula has as many as 20 different herbs. The herbs are selected to work synergistically to treat the whole person. In Chinese medicine, due to our diagnostic system, we are able to assess a persons whole constitution (the health of their whole body) and treat the root (or cause) of a health concern along with a branch (or the symptoms) of a health concern. It is in this way that we are able to treat a person’s whole body and mind, rather than just a symptom.
Are Chinese herbs safe?
One of the most appealing qualities of Chinese Herbal Medicine is the low risk of adverse reaction or side effects. Herbal medicine uses all the constituents of the plant, including the cellulose. The herb is completely balanced, and therefore has minimal side effects.
The most commonly reported adverse reaction is minor gastrointestinal upset. Modifying the herbal formula or adding herbs to strengthen the digestive system can remedy this. If you do notice any side effects, please stop taking your herbs and consult your herbalist right away.
How can I be sure of getting the best?
To be confident that the herbs that you use are of the highest potency, quality, and safety; only use herbs from manufacturers that are certified by the Therapeutic Goods Administration of the Australian government as having Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) – a hygiene guideline even more strict than in the United States.
Do not use endangered species (plant or animal), and promote wildlife conservation through the use of surrogate natural substances.