Herbal medicine is the main modality in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is the world’s oldest continually practiced, professional medicine. Its written history stretches back to over 2,500 years and its practice is undoubtedly much older than that. Chinese herbal medicine is quickly establishing itself as one of the most popular and effective alternative therapies in the West.
When herbs are prescribed by a certified herbalist, it is very safe. In general the herbs used are put into a formula and not used by itself. A formula will consist about 6-12 herbs. Most of the herbs in the Chinese material medica have a very low level toxicity compared to even common over the counter Western drugs. The acupuncture needles are all sterile, stainless steel and disposable.
Western folk medicine primarily treats diseases or symptoms, such as headaches, runny nose, menstrual pain, etc. Chinese herbal medicine is based on an individualized pattern diagnosis as well as a disease diagnosis. This means the TCM patient receives a custom written herbal prescription designed to treat both the symptom or disease and also their individual pattern. Such a TCM pattern is made up of a person’s signs and symptoms as well as their emotional temperament and bodily constitution.
The most common method of taking Chinese herbal medicine is in a decoction. This means that the herbs are boiled for approximately 45 minutes and then strained and drunk 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 drinking traditional decoctions.
If you are pregnant you can take herbs that are prescribed by a professional TCM practitioner. Chinese herbal medicine has been used for over 2000 years to treat diseases and symptoms during pregnancy without any harm to the fetus. Likewise, lactating mothers can take Chinese herbal medicine as long as it is prescribed by a trained practitioner.
In acute conditions, results can be expected in a matter of minutes. In chronic conditions, some results should be seen within two weeks. Although chronic conditions may require taking Chinese herbal medicine for a long time, nonetheless, signs that the medicine is working should be apparent to patient and practitioner.
Moe Lam from The Healing Tree, visits with Mark Alyn on this edition of Late Night Health.
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