Chinese herbs can help you heal from many types of illness. They can be used in conjunction with acupuncture or by themselves. Herbs are very useful in the treatment of chronic conditions, such as fertility and menstrual issues, and mood disorders; they can also be used for more short-term or acute conditions, such as bronchitis or seasonal allergies.
What are the herbs that are used in Chinese medicine formulas?
Chinese herbs are primarily plant-based materials (roots, leaves, berries, bark, and twigs). There are also mineral products and shells, and a few animal products. Some of the substances used in Chinese medicine may be familiar to you, such as cinnamon twig, peony root, angelica root, and goji berries. Typically, herbs are combined into a formula consisting of many different substances. There are classical formulas, which have been used for thousands of years, as well as customized formulas which are designed by your practitioner to suit your specific needs.
Herbs can be taken in pill form. Jessica keeps some commonly used formulas in stock in the office.
The raw herbs in this picture are all plant-based materials. Raw herbs also include minerals, shells, and some animal products.
Are Chinese herbs safe?
Jessica is a board-certified herbalist and has studied Chinese herbs, and their use and safety, extensively. There has been some debate about the safety of Chinese herbs, most famously about ephedra (ma huang). It is important to remember that Chinese herbs should be taken as directed by a certified Chinese herbalist, or someone who is educated about herbs, and their side effects and interactions. Herbs are powerful - just because something is "natural" does not automatically mean it is safe, but when taken properly, Chinese herbs can be a safe and effective addition to your treatment plan.
Please be sure to tell your practitioner about any medication you take, including prescriptions, over the counter medication, and even medications only taken occasionally.
In addition, some herbs are not safe during pregnancy, so it important that your practitioner knows if you are pregnant or if you are trying to conceive.
How are the herbs taken?
Herbs come in a few different forms, and Jessica will help you decide which form is most appropriate for you.
Raw herbs are leaves, berries, bark, and other substances in a dried form. These herbs must be cooked down and strained to make a tea. They can be totally customized, with changes made to ingredients and dosage from week to week as needed. Raw herbs tend to be more expensive and more potent than other forms of herbs. They also sometimes have a stronger and more bitter flavor, which some people find objectionable.
Granules are herbs that have been pulverized into a fine powder. This powder is stirred into warm or hot water and consumed like a tea. Granules can also be customized. They are a little less expensive than raw herbs, and sometimes have a slightly milder flavor than raw herbs. They are also convenient since they come in a bottle and can easily be made at work or at home, as long as you have access to hot water. Granules can also be made into customized capsules for an additional charge.
Pills or teapills are standardized or classical formulas and are pre-made, so they cannot be customized. They are usually the least expensive option, and don't have a strong flavor. They are generally a little less potent than the other forms of herbs. Pills are very convenient, since they can be taken anywhere and don't require any preparation.
Jessica will discuss the different forms of herbs with you to decide what makes the most sense. People who travel a lot or who are really averse to strong flavors may have better success taking pills, while someone who is home a lot and loves to cook might enjoy making tea from raw herbs. The granules and granule capsules are a good compromise in terms of cost, convenience, flavor and ability to customize.
Jessica keeps a limited stock of commonly used Chinese herbal pills in the office. For raw and granule customized formulas, Jessica will order your herbs from Kamwo Pharmacy in New York's Chinatown. Herbs from Kamwo can be picked up in person, or shipped to your home or office.