Q&A – Chinese Herbal Medicine

What is the difference between Western Herbal Medicine & Chinese Herbal Medicine?

Western Herbal medicine primarily uses single herb remedies or groups of herbs that treat the same symptom or disease for everyone. Chinese Herbal formulas usually include 6-20 herbs and include herbs addressing a person’s main symptoms, as well as, their particular, individual pattern, thus, Chinese herbal formulas will be different for everyone. Chinese herbal medicine, when practiced as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is based on an individualized pattern diagnosis, as well as, disease diagnosis. This means the TCM patient receives a custom-written herbal prescription designed to treat both the symptoms and disease, and also their individual pattern. A TCM pattern identifies a person’s emotional temperament and bodily constitution, as well as, their signs and symptoms.

Are all the “herbs” vegetable in origin?

Although called “Chinese Herbal Medicine”, TCM practitioners use ingredients from all three kingdoms: vegetable, animal, and mineral. However, the majority are from vegetable sources. Leaves, flowers, twigs, stems, roots, tubers, rhizomes, and barks are some of the many vegetable parts used. Also, if a patient is vegetarian, the TCM practitioner will adjust their formulas accordingly avoiding the use of any ingredients from the animal kingdom.

Do All herbs come from China?

15-20% of the standard Chinese repertoire of 500 ingredients originated outside China. The Chinese have adopted and incorporated into their Materia Medica herbs from all over the world. What makes these herbs “Chinese herbs” is that they are prescribed according to Chinese medical theory and a TCM pattern Diagnosis.

Do Chinese Herbs work for Western patients?

Yes, empirical evidence has proven that Chinese herbal medicine works for Westerners just as well as for Chinese. Chinese herbal medicine has been used successfully in North and South America, Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and throughout Asia.

How are Chinese Herbs Taken?

The most common method of taking Chinese herbal medicine is as a decoction. This means that the dried herbs & medicinal substances are needed to be boiled for anywhere from 5-45 minutes or possibly even for an hour. The required amount of time needed for boiling will depend on the “form” of bulk herbs dispensed. If the Bulk Herbs are dispensed in a ‘powdered form’, then the herbs only need to be boiled for 5-10 minutes. If however, the bulk herbs are dispensed in their ‘whole, dried form’ (‘whole’, dried form is pictured above), then these ‘whole’ bulk herbs will require 45 minutes to an hour worth of boiling. After the herbs are boiled, the water the herbs were cooking in is then strained and drank 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 traditional decoctions.

What are the benefits of drinking Chinese herbs in decoction form?

This method allows the practitioner maximum flexibility in writing a prescription. They can put in what is necessary in just the right amounts. The formula can be changed even on a daily basis if necessary, and decoctions tend to be more potent than other means of administration.

Formulas that are given in powdered ‘extract’ form (aka – “granules”), also allow for the practitioner to make a custom herbal formula. The powdered ‘extract’ form is however, less potent than herbal decoctions made with either whole or powdered bulk herbs, but does not require cooking. Powdered ‘extract’ herbal formulas can be immediately mixed into hot water and drank.

Why do herbal decoctions & or powdered herbal extracts taste so bad?

Chinese herbal teas tend to taste very bitter because they are made mostly from roots and barks where the strongest medicinal ingredients are found. If the formula is correctly written, the bad taste should go away after 1-2 days. After that time, the patient may even crave the taste. This shows that the medicine is working.

What are the benefits of Pills and Powdered Extracts?

Pills and powdered extracts are good for prolonged administration in the case of chronic disease where formulas do not have to be very potent nor changed on a frequent basis. Pills and powdered extracts are also commonly used to consolidate therapeutic results after a successful course of therapy with decoctions.

What are “Pao Zhi” Herbs?

“Pao Zhi” herbs & medicinal substances are dried bulk herbs/substances that have undergone elaborate and sometimes complex methods of preparation (ie: stir-fried in rice wine, honey-baked fried, salt-stir fried, vinegar stir-fried, charred, etc…) in addition to the standard, elementary treatments, such as washing, sterilizing, drying and chopping/sliced. The different methods of preparing Chinese Herbal Medicinals, known as “Pao Zhi”, enables the medicinal substances and herbs to take on different characteristics, thus, giving the medicinal substances and herbs distinct actions and indications different from their “unprepared” counterpart. As a practitioner of Chinese Herbal Medicine, it is important to know and understand the distinctions between the “prepared versions” and “unprepared versions” of the medicinal substances of Chinese Medicine when composing a formula in order to achieve the desired and intended results of a particular formula. 

The pharmacy at Healing Traditions Integrated Wellness stocks over 360 bulk and granule medicinals with several “Pao Zhi” options (herbs/medicinal substances that have undergone elaborate and sometimes complex methods of preparation ie: stir-fried in rice wine, honey-baked fried, salt-stir fried, vinegar stir-fried, charred, etc…).

Does Chinese herbal medicine have side effects?

No, not if the formula has been correctly chosen and written. Most of the medicinals in the Chinese Materia Medica have a very low toxicity compared to common, over-the-counter Western drugs. When they are prescribed according to a correct TCM pattern diagnosis, they should have no side effects, only beneficial healing results. If a patient experiences any significant discomfort while taking Chinese herbs, they should tell their practitioner, who will then modify their formula until there are no side effects.

What is Chinese Medicine Good For?

Chinese herbal medicine treats a full range of human disease. It treats acute diseases, like intestinal flu and the common cold, as well as, chronic diseases, such as allergies, gynecological disorders, autoimmune diseases, chronic viral diseases, and degenerative diseases due to aging. In particular, Chinese herbal medicine is especially good for promoting the body’s ability to heal and recuperate.

Can pregnant women take Chinese Herbs?

Yes, if prescribed by a professional Oriental Medical practitioner. Chinese herbal medicine has been used for more than 2,500 years to treat greater than forty diseases and symptoms occurring during pregnancy without harm to the fetus. Likewise, lactating mothers can take Chinese herbal medicine safely as long as they are prescribed by a trained practitioner.

Can Children take Chinese herbal medicine?

Yes. Pediatrics is a specialty within TCM, and children are given smaller doses. There are also specially prepared pediatric medicines in pill, powder and liquid form. Chinese herbal medicine can treat colic, the fussiness of teething, earache, diarrhea, cough, and fever in babies and children.

How do I know if a practitioner is professionally trained in Chinese Herbal medicine?

In some states, such as California, all acupuncturists must pass a licensing test that includes Chinese Herbal medicine. In addition, the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists & Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) has created a rigorous certification process for Chinese Herbal medicine. Practitioners who have passed that certification process are entitled to add the abbreviation Dipl. C.H. for Diplomate of Chinese Herbology after their name. If they have been certified in both acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine, in some states they may append Dipl. O.M. after their name. Although Chinese herbs are safe when professionally prescribed by a trained, knowledgeable practitioner, they are strong medicine nevertheless. Therefore, it is important that a practitioner be adequately schooled and experienced in their use. A prospective patient should feel free to ask about the training and credentials of a potential practitioner.

Are The Chinese Herbs Healing Traditions Integrated Wellness carries tested for contaminants?

Yes. All Bulk and granule herbs carried and sold by Healing Traditions Integrated Wellness clinic are purchased from the following companies:

Raw Herbs Testing

Both at Kamwo & Spring Wind, providing high quality herbs is their top priority.

Kamwo Herbal Pharmacy Quality Assurance:

  • Bulk Herbs:All herbs are manufacturer-tested using Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC) and High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) to confirm identification, ensure potency and to test for active constituents when necessary. Kamwo also employs Eurofins Central Analytical Laboratories, an independent US testing facility in New Orleans, to test our herbs for microbes, heavy metals (such as Arsenic, Lead, Mercury, and Cadmium), as well as for over 60 pesticide residues, including DDT and BHC. Eurofins is a worldwide leader in the bio-analytical market, with 40 state-of-the-art laboratories across the globe. They employ over 10,000 reliable analytical methods to ensure herb, food and pharmaceutical safety. Through voluntary testing and sourcing sulfur-free medicinals whenever possible, we are helping to raise the industry standard in ensuring that patients receive only the finest quality herbs.
  • Granule Herbs:All raw materials are carefully selected and laboratory tested using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) to verify standardization of all herb identification. Each granule is tested by our GMP-certified manufacturer for microbes and heavy metals such as Lead, Cadmium, Mercury and Arsenic. Our granules are also tested for organochlorine pesticides such as DDT and BHC using only the most stringent, certified testing techniques. All testing standards exceed the required standards of China, Taiwan, and the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) for heavy metals. Certificates of Analysis are provided to us by the manufacturer. Through the exclusive sourcing of sulfur-free herbs for our granules we are helping to raise the industry standard, ensuring that patients receive only the finest quality herbs.

Granule Herb Quality and Testing Standards:

  • The brand of granule herbs which Healing Traditions Oriental Medicine clinic carries is “Treasure of the East” either being distributed by “New Meridian Granules”, from Kamwo Herbal Pharmacy or from “Legendary Herbs”“Treasure of the East” granules are manufactured by Tian Jiang Pharmaceuticals in Jian Yin, China or Taiwan. It is an internationally certified GMP granular manufacturing facility. All raw materials are carefully selected and laboratory tested employing the latest versions of TLC (thin layer chromatography) and HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) to confirm identification, ensure potency and to test for sufficient levels of active constituents.
  • Further, Tian Jiang has one of the newest manufacturing facilities in China, employing the latest technology and testing standards that is so important in the granule manufacturing process. Each batch of finished product is tested for moisture content, dissolution, and heavy metals such as: Lead, Cadmium, Mercury and Arsenic. Further, microbial testing is done to ensure that harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E. Coli are not present. Treasure of the East Granules are also tested for pesticides such as Organochlorine Pesticides using only the most stringent certified testing techniques. Following extensive in-house testing, heavy metal testing is conducted again at third party labs to confirm results and to ensure that Treasure of the East’s standards of purity and safety are met. All testing standards exceeds the required standards of China, Taiwan, and the United States USP for heavy metals. Both Kamwo Herbal Pharmacy and Legendary Herbs recognizes the utmost importance of quality and safety.
  • Certificates of analysis are provided to both “Kamwo Herbal Pharmacy” & “Legendary Herbs” by the manufacturer (Tian Jiang Pharmaceuticals), and they confirm these findings with independent laboratories in Hong Kong. While most other herb suppliers rely only on manufacturer’s lab reports,Kamwo Herbs is the only pharmacy that routinely conducts its own third party independent testing for heavy metals and pesticides to ensure quality to their customers. Both Kamwo Herbal Pharmacy & Legendary Herbs backs-up their pledge of quality.

Premade Herbal Formulas Carried at Healing Traditions Integrated Wellness:

All Premade Herbal Formulas carried and sold by Healing Traditions Integrated Wellness are from the following herbal companies: