One of the important methods within traditional Chinese medicine is dietary therapy including herbal medicine. In this practice, a careful diagnostic assessment is made and food and herbs are recommended for the patient’s current condition, as well as long term health patterns. The herbs we use originate in China, and there are about 2000 total herbs and other materials in the Chinese medicinals group. In our clinic, we have a pharmacy of about 375 herbs in granual form, and 150 in whole form. The herbs are almost always used in groups or formulas of from 3 to 20 or so. For 1500 years or more, formulas have been developed, refined, and documented in the medical literature of China. For a given patient, one formula may be used for a while, and it may then be modified or changed as the patient’s condition changes. We often take well-known formulas and modify them for a patient.
Chinese medicinal materials are screened to assure correct species of plant, and are tested for contamination by pesticides, heavy metals, or drugs. The Chinese herbal manufacturing plants that source the herb products we use meet GMP (good manufacturing practices) standards, just as is required by American pharmaceutical and food production companies. The primary vendors we use for herbs are Spring Wind, KPC, Brion/Sun Ten, Golden Flower, and Evergreen, as well as May Way. These are all US companies which have years of good service and experts running them.
Professional oriental herbalists are trained in acupuncture programs and may take an herbal diplomate exam from the NCCAOM, the same national body which certifies acupuncturists and oriental bodywork therapists.
The herbs can be taken in a number of forms:
- Decoction: This basic method is to boil the materials in water for an hour, strain, and drink the tea one to four times daily.
- Granular concentrate powder: The powders are either dissolved in water, taken dry in the mouth, or placed into capsules for use. Many American patients appreciate the convenience of this form of herbs over the home-boiled tea. Acupuncture of Iowa has a complete granular pharmacy of 350 herbs extracts.
- Tablets or Pills: In this form, the herbs are cooked together at the factory and then formed into tablets or pills. Many times the dose of these pills can seem high, but as they are fairly weak in function, it is normal to take as many as 24 to 50 pills per day to have an effective treatment.
- Other methods of use: Herbs can be additionally used as a wash for the skin, poultice or plaster on the skin, suppository, liniment, or steam bath.
Warning: A patient should never try to self-diagnose or self-prescribe Asian medicinals. Many people are now acquiring chinese herb formulas from the internet or other vendors to try to treat themselves. However, the professional assessment process is critical to the choice of the correct materials. We have seen many cases of patients’ who became ill after taking the wrong remedy or taking something by a poorly trained practitioner. At best, the patient does not improve from the herbs and wastes their money, at worst, the condition gets worse or the patient becomes ill in some way. We have treated a few people in the clinic who took Chinese herbs without professional supervision and got sick.