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Herbal Medicine

Chinese herbal medicine is a major aspect of traditional Chinese medicine, which focuses on restoring a balance of energy, body, and spirit to maintain health rather than treating a particular disease or medical condition.  Most diseases or illnesses present with a core set of recognizable signs and symptoms, but the actual presentation of a particular disease or illness will vary from person to person. For this reason, people with similar health conditions may be prescribed a Chinese herbal formula that specifically matches and treats his/her individual health problem.  As your condition changes and improves with treatment, the Chinese herbal treatment is also adjusted and modified until the desired health outcome is achieved.


How is Chinese herbal medicine prescribed?

Chinese herbal medicines are prescribed either singly or made into formula which take into account the individual therapeutic action of each herb as well as the effects when combined together. A well constructed formula maximizes the effectiveness for treating a particular condition, while counteracting and minimizing the unwanted effects of an individual herb.


How are herbal medicines taken?

There are many different forms of herbal medicine you can administered: Tea – an infusion of dry herbs in boiling water;  Powders – grounded herbs that can be dissolved in warm water;  Congees – soups of herbs and rice;  Tinctures – herbs soaked in alcohol for few weeks, then extract the liquid out;  Pills/tablets/capsules made from herbs, which dissolve slowly in the body.  For some serious condition, we suggest you to get raw herbs, cook them for about 30 - 45 mins to make herbal tea.


Any side effect?

Most of the ingredient of herbal medicine have very low side effects. When they are prescribed according to a correct TCM pattern diagnosis, they should have very few, if any, side effects…only beneficial healing results. There are few traditional Chinese herbs that have been found toxic through research and treatments stopped by the FDA.  If you have any further questions, please discuss with your practitioners.


How are the qualities of Chinese herbal medicine?

We are carry Tier-One Qualiherb products which are the highest grade herbal medicines in the world, meeting pharmaceu-tical quality and manufacturing standards.  Tier One products are professional-grade, used in hospitals and herbal clinics around the world, while Tier 2 and 3 are more appropriate for public and retail use.  For raw herbs, we are carry brands that have quality assurance and control.  Their tests required may include physical and chemical tests such as testing for moisture content, active ingredients, microbial loads, heavy metals, certain pesticides, etc. We want to provide products of the highest quality to our patients.

Delivery Methods for herbal medicine


There are numerous methods of getting herbs into a patient, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.  Matching the delivery method to the patient and the type of disorder is an important aspect of correct practice and must be carefully considered when prescribing.



Decoction involves boiling various ingredients in water or a mixture of water and wine for a specific period of time.  Decoctions can be taken by mouth or delivered as an enema.  It is used most appropriate in acute or severe cases.



Swift alteration of prescription, rapid absorption, strong and direct effect, best for acute or severe cases.



Complexity, different cooking times for different ingredients, time consuming, bad smell and taste (for some formulas), poor patient compliance, cost.


Traditional Method

The pot used should be preferably ceramic, although stainless steel is also acceptable.  Aluminum, iron and copper pots should not be used.  A tight fitting lid is necessary to prevent the escape of volatile oils.  Plant materials should be soaked in cold water for at least 20-30 minutes before cooking.  This allows the plant cells to expand and to release their contents when boiled.  If the herbs are boiled before they are soaked, the boiling water can seal in the active components by toughening the cell walls.

One packet of herbs is usually decocted twice, although tonic herbs may be decocted three times.  The amount of water required will vary depending on the type of herbs used and the purpose of the formula, but in general, enough water to cover the herbs by about 1 cm is correct (usually about 3 - 4 cups) with the aim of providing ~2 cups of decoction per day.  Keep in mind that some dry ingredients are very absorbent and will soak up a considerable amount of the water, while others, like minerals and shells, will absorb none.  For the first boil the decoction is reduced to about one cup.  The decoction is strained and taken one hour either side of a meal.  For the second boil, 2.5 - 3 cups of water are added to the same herbs and reduced to 3/4 cup.  The results of the two boilings can be combined to maintain consistency of strength.  The dose is two cups daily.  In severe or emergency situations, the dose can be doubled and a cup can be taken every two hours.  For patients unable to ingest the medicine, the herbs may be give via a nasogastric tube or retention enema.  Diaphoretic and purgative formulae are generally discontinue once sweating or purgation occurs.


Practical considerations

For busy people, the traditional decoction method can be time consuming and inconvenient.  To increase patient compliance, variations to the traditional decoction regime can be made.  Several packets of herbs can be decocted at one time and the second boiling avoided be beginning with more water and boiling for longer (other than for those exceptions listed below).  For example, two packets of herbs can be cooked with 8 - 10 cups of water and reduced to around 4 cups, yielding 2 days doses (at 2 cups daily).  The strained decoction can be stored in a covered plastic container in the refrigerator and warmed by the addition of boiling water before ingestion.  Stored in this way, the herbs will keep for up to a week.


Cooking time

Most general formulae can be cooked for 20 - 30 minutes.  Formulae for common cold, fever or those containing ingredients with volatile oils should be simmered in a lidded pot for a relatively short time, 10 - 15 minutes.  Tonics, minerals and shells can stand long slow simmering (one hour +) to extract all their goodness.  Certain groups of herbs (very hard or very delicate herbs) will require different treatment than the bulk of the ingredients and can be packaged separately for convenience.



Pills are finely ground up herbs that are bound with honey, water or some other sticky medium.  Depending on the binding medium and the size of the pill, their ingredients are released and absorbed slowly and at a constant rate.


Pills are best for chronic problems that require lengthy therapy and are particularly good at long term tonification.  Pills are also useful for emergency or first aid situations such as chest pain, fever and delirium, or convulsions.  They are also the preferred method when a formula requires herbs that should not be decocted.



Pills are easy to store and take than decoctions.  They are generally cheaper and more convenient for traveling or when decocting is impractical.  A wide variety of pills are available as prepared patents.



The ingredients of pills are fixed, so modifications to the prescription are not possible.  The amount of pills required in order to achieve a therapeutic result is often large (8-16 pills three times per day for some varieties).



Powders are finely ground herbs sifted through a uniform mesh.  They can be taken directly chased with a liquid or boiled and the resulting liquid taken.  Powders are useful for long term administration in the treatment of chronic disorders.  They can be applied externally for skin diseases.  They can be blown into the nose or throat for local disorders, or to resuscitate patients from unconsciousness.



Powders are easy to store and take than decoctions, can be stored for long periods and can be formulated specifically for individual patients.  They can provide a cheaper alternative to traditional decoction, as much less herb is required (due to the greatly increased surface area) to provide a dose.  For patients unable to take the powder directly, it can be packed in to gelatin capsules.



Once powdered, ingredients can not be deleted.  If taken directly the possible enhancements to the formula gained by boiling are absent.  Raw powders can irritate the gut in some patients.



Concentrated granules are a relatively recent and very popular method of herb preparation that was developed in Japan in the 1950s.  It has since become a major method of providing herbs in Japan, Taiwan and the West.  Concentrated granules are produced by making large batches of herb formulae as decoctions and then draining the liquid from the dregs.  The liquid is then evaporated and concentrated by gentle heating  and exposure to a vacuum.  The concentrate is added to a corn starch filler or the dregs of the decoction to form a paste.  The paste is then spray dried and the remaining water evaporated, leaving a dry powder.


The concentration factor varies from one herb to another and from one formula to another, but on average is around a 6:1 concentration of the ingredients of the crude herbs.  what this means is that about 600 grams of raw herbs go into 100 grams of concentrated powder.  The typical dose for these granules is from 6 - 12 grams per day, which is equivalent to about 40 - 80 grams of raw herb.



Because the herbs are concentrated, the daily dose is relatively small and easily tolerated.  The production process for the major manufacturers (located in China, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States) is regulated by Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), which ensures quality control, consistency and the presence of active ingredients across batches.  Concentrated powders can be packed into gelatin capsules.


Patient compliance is high, and as the powders are often quite bland they are excellent for children.  The extraction technology is improving all the time and the quality of these products is usually very high.  In Chinese hospitals, concentrated granules are gradually replacing decoctions.



The formulae are fixed and ingredients cannot be deleted.  Generally not as good as decoctions for acute or severe disorders (but improving all the time).  Products originating from Japan, while of the highest quality may vary significantly from the original prescription.  Dosage regimes specified in Japan are often at odds with those preferred in China.  The Japanese are fond of smaller doses and frequently change the dose of individual herbs, possibly altering the hierarchy of the formula.



Syrups are composed of herbs that have been decocted, then concentrated by further cooking or thickened with the addition of honey or malt sugar.  Syrups are good for children and most commonly used for coughs and moistening the Lungs.


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