Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine

Are Chinese herbs safe to take?

Chinese Herbal Medicine prescriptions prescribed by a licensed, and board certified diplomat of Chinese herbal medicine are extremely safe compared to prescription drugs.  Diplomats are required to study Chinese herbal medicine for 3 years (in addition to acupuncture training) and then must sit for the national board certification exam provided by the national licensing body the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (http://www.nccaom.org) to practice in the state of Massachusetts.

How can Chinese Herbs help me get well?

Sourcing clean herbs

Unfortunately, some  herb growers in China & elsewhere are still not using organic and sustainable growing practices.  There are accounts of  Chinese herb companies that will add pharmaceutical ingredients to the “herb formulas” to increase their effectiveness.  In addition, many herbs which have been sprayed heavily with pesticides are contaminated with heavy metals, lead, arsenic and other toxic ingredients.

That being said, there are an increasing number of manufacturers that are using GMP (Good Manufacturing Processes) certification.  GMP is not as strict as the “USDA Organic” label here in the US, but it does test require testing for heavy metals, lead and other potentially toxic ingredients.  WE ARE VERY SPECIFIC TO USE ONLY HERB COMPANIES THAT FOLLOW GMP AND TRY TO GET OUR HERBS AS CLOSE TO ORGANIC (OR EVEN BETTER- BIODYNAMIC) AND WILDCRAFTED AS POSSIBLE.  As these are the herbs we take ourselves and give to our families- we make sure they are the highest quality and cleanest herbs available.

Sourcing correct herb species

Substitution of herbs in a Chinese herbal prescription has become a common practice in China.  While this is typically done in a raw herb prescription, in can also be done in a customized powder prescription.  However, there is a company called Spring Wind herb company founded by Andy Ellis Lic.Ac. who is not only an expert in Chinese herbal medicine, but also one of the few people in the country who is able to educate other herb companies about correct herb species identification.  In addition to the macroscopic evaluation of the commonly substitutions (usually for more expensive or hard to obtain herbal ingredients) he also knows how to identify herbs based on their microscopic identification.  This microscopic identification is important because sometimes it is impossible to tell the difference between two herbs based on how they look to the naked eye.  Therefore, through examination of the plant cell structure, proper identification can be deduced.

*** WE USE ONLY COMPANIES THAT HAVE BEEN EDUCATED ABOUT THESE IDENTIFICATION TECHNIQUES WHEN WE PRESCRIBE CUSTOM CHINESE HERBAL FORMULAS, BOTH IN POWDER AND RAW HERB FORM.

What about Herb-Drug interactions?

This is a question that we often get in the clinic when patients are already taking prescription medication.  It is a good question, and one worth addressing.  One main point to touch on is the difference on how each of these two substances (herbs & drugs) work on the body/mind.

Firstly, prescription drugs are typically an isolated chemical compound or “active ingredient” that is isolated from a substance (often a plant) and then concentrated into a pill or other drug delivery system (injection, suspension, inhaler, etc).  These drugs can be very powerful, and because they are usually just a single chemical ingredient, it often throws off the body’s biochemistry in the form of side effects.

Chinese herbs are usually plant ingredients that are not broken down and chemically isolated to remove the “active ingredient”.  Many times there are more than one ingredient in a single plant substance that have a therapeutic benefit.  However because the whole plant or plant part (root, bark ,leaf, seed, etc) is given, it contains hundreds if not thousands of individual chemical ingredients.  This combination of compounds not only creates a synergistic effect therapeutically, but also reduces potential side effects by giving a whole substance.  Therefore, Chinese herbal medicine acts much more like food in the body-mind than it does like a prescription medication.

How are the herbs prescribed?

Chinese herbal medicine is prescribed based on your current presentation of signs & symptoms, in addition to your overall constitutional picture.  So, the board certified (NCCAOM) herbal practitioner will evaluate your condition and customize an herbal formula for your unique needs.

Many people have the idea that “I need an herb for this” symptom.  However, a good herbalist understands that those symptoms are usually stemming from and underlying condition which caused the symptoms.  So, the “root” is the cause, and the “branch” is the symptom you are suffering from.

Do I have to take the herbs forever, just like medication?

NO! Chinese herbal medicine is designed to GET YOU WELL so you then don’t need the herbs anymore. This is the opposite of many medications which you are on for “life”. (i.e. cholesterol medication, etc.)

I was told that they taste horrible. Is that true?

It depends, there are different forms of the herbs:

1. Pills/capsules- they don’t taste bad at all- and my son was taking them in applesauce since  the age of 3.

2. Powders- these are herb concentrates that are usually mixed in hot water and taken as a “tea”.  These can vary in taste depending on what herbs are in them.

3. Raw- these are the actual roots,twigs, leaves, seeds, etc.  They have the most powerful effect, but also taste the strongest. These also can vary in taste depending on what herbs are in them.

Are there side effects from the herbs?

Usually there are not negative side effects from taking Chinese herbs when prescribed by a licensed, trained professional.  However, there are often POSITIVE SIDE EFFECTS that are associated with the herbs due to its ability to heal and strengthen the body/mind.  Some of these include:

  1. Improved sleep
  2. Better energy
  3. Proper bowel & digestion function
  4. Decrease in pain/stiffness
  5. General sense of wellbeing
  6. and many others

If you have other questions about Chinese herbal medicine & how they may help you please call and ask to speak to us 508-435-8184.  We look forward to helping you live a healthy, happy life!