What are Chinese Herbs? The books on Chinese Materia Medica list more than 400 herbs, but they are not all “strictly” herbs. The collection includes, in addition to plants: fungi, minerals, animals and their byproducts, seashells. Some are rare and foreign to people of the western hemisphere.
I am often asked: are Chinese herbs effective? Are they better for treating diseases than western allopathic medication? Are Chinese herbs safe?
First, Chinese Herbs should be “prescribed” by a knowledgeable person. A Chinese doctor will examine the patient; evaluate the condition by looking at the tongue, checking the pulses, observing the patient, palpating and asking appropriate questions. Then the doctor will then determine the herbal formula that is adequate and the proper dosage; therefore, the prescription is “costume-made” for each patient.
Modern testing has proven the effectiveness of Chinese herbs (visit Medline for more information). Publications have surfaced that show the ingredients of the herbs and explain why they work. Some herbs contain immunity-building molecules such as flavonoids, others present saponins, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, natural steroids, and the list goes on. Aside from the biochemistry, Chinese herbs work in the context of energetics. Chinese Herbs regulate the flow of vital energy or Qi in our body, the quality and the quantity of that qi.
Now on safety: in China, there are no animal studies; PEOPLE have used these herbs for thousands of years. If an herb or a formula was found not to be effective or to be damaging, that herb or formula was simply discarded and not used again. Nobody was interested in keeping a product in the market that would hurt people (there are no pharmaceutical companies that own patents of Chinese herbs or formulas, no conflict of interest between health and profits).
Why do I use Chinese herbs? When prescribed by a knowledgeable herbologist, they are extremely efficient and rarely produce the long list of side effects often seen with many western medications. Certainly, there is a time for the western medications as well; in many occasions they are life saving. My philosophy is to use “medical common sense and knowledge”, and seek a well-educated practitioner.