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Frequently Asked Questions - Chinese Herbs:

What are Chinese Herbs?
In China, people have been using natural herbs to treat a wide variety of diseases and conditions. This form of therapy is called herbal medicine. The herbs are composed of roots, bark, flowers, seeds, fruits, leaves and branches. There are over 3000 different herbs that can be used for medicinal purposes. However, only about 300 to 500 of these herbs are commonly used. It is important to use the herbs grown in their native environment to acquire their full benefit.

Have the herbs been processed before use and why?
Yes. The processing can reduce the occurrence of side effects by detoxification. The processing also filters out impurities, such as dirt and sand, and soften the strong taste or smell of herbs. Finally, processing can enhance the therapeutic effects of herbs.

Are concentrated herbs as good as the raw herbs in prescriptions?
Yes, since concentrated herbs are made from raw herbs. To produce concentrated herbs, the best herbal sources are slected, purfied, processed and condensed into fine granular particles. Thus, they are easily dissolved and absorbed.

Why are Chinese herbs mixed in a formula for use?
Chinese herbalists usually do not prescribe single herbs for patients, but in mixtures of 8 to 15 herbs. There are two major reasons to support the use of herbal mixtures. First, combinations of similar herbs can enhance their therapeutic effects. Second, the use of one herb can reduce or eliminate the side effects of another herb. Consequently, the herbalist should be experienced and knowledgable about herbs before attempting to combine them, since a wrong combination can reduce the efficacy of the herbs.

What are some precautions when taking herbal medicine?
Like all forms of medication, you should always exercise a certain amount of caution before using them. For instance, some herbs are too strong during pregnancy and may increase the risk for miscarriage. Additionally, certain foods can affect herbal therapy. Generally, one should avoid raw foods (fruits are fine, but all vegetables should be cooked), greasy, strong tasting or smelling, difficult to digest or irritating to the digestive ystem. It is always a good idea to get advice from a herbalist before taking herbal medicine.

What can Chinese Herbs do for me?
Chinese herbal medicine can fulfill three purposes:

1. Treat acute diseases and conditions, including bacterial and viral infections.
2. Heal chronic illnesses, including GI disorders and respiratory disorders, by strengthening the body.
3. Maintain balance in the body and prevent diseases.

Compared to pharmaceuticals, Chinese herbal medicine is much gentler and safer because the herbs are naturally occurring. For the herbs that may have side effects, these side effects may be counteracted with other herbs. More and more people are relying on herbal medicine after pharmaceuticals have failed.

What is the difference between Chinese patent herbs and prescription herbs?
Patent herbs are premixed combinations by traditional formulas developed by experts in Traditional chinese Medicine. They are similar to over-the-counter medications and are usually pill, capsule or liquid formulations. The patent herbs are more convenient and less expensive. However, the patient's clinical presentation must fit the patent herb's narrow set of indications.

Prescribed herbs are mixed by an herbalist according to the patient's clinical presentation and diagnosis. Generally, prescribed herbs are more effective than patent herbs.

Can I purchase Chinese patent herbs from herb stores directly?
Although Chinese patent herbs are relatively safe with few side effects, I would not recommend purchasing them directly without obtaining advice from a certified herbalist.

How are Chinese herbs taken?
Prescribed herbal medicine is usually taken in tea form, since the human body absorbs tea easily and quickly. Sometimes, if the smell or taste of the herbal medicine is unpleasant, a capsule or tablet form of the herbal medicine is recommended. The tea should always be warm and the capsule/tablet should be taken with warm water. You should consult a herbalist for specific instructions on taking herbs. For instance, tonic herbs, which promote health, are best taken before meals. Purgative herbs, which cleanse the body, are best taken on an empty stomach.