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Chinese Herbal Medicine Frequently Asked Questions


‚ÄčWhat is the difference between Western herbalism and Chinese herbal medicine?

There are two main differences between Chinese and Western herbalism.  Western herbalism primarily treats diseases or symptoms, such as headaches, runny nose, stomach pain, etc.  Chinese herbal medicine is based on an individualized pattern diagnosis as well as disease diagnosis.  A patient receives a custom written formula to treat the symptoms, the disease, and also their individual pattern.  The specific pattern is made up of signs and symptoms as well as a person's emotional well-being, and body constitution.  

Western herbalism primarily uses single herbs or groups of herbs which treat the same symptom or disease.  Chinese medicine formulas range between 5-15 herbs carefully crafted to include herbs to treat the person's main symptoms while using other herbs to treat the entire pattern and underlying cause of disease or constitution. 

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What do herbs consist of?  Are they all vegetable in origin?

Chinese herbs are vegetable, animal, and minerals.  The majority of Chinese herbs are vegetable based such as foods, fruits, roots, berries, leaves, flowers, stems, rhizomes, and barks are some of the many vegetable parts used. 

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How are Chinese herbs taken?

We prescribe herbs in both granular and pill form.  Granule or powder herbs are mixed with a small amount of warm water.

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What are the benefits of patent pills vs granules?

Granules are very effective because they are easy to use and easily modified for your specific condition.  Pills are commonly used to consolidate therapeutic results after a successful course of therapy with granules.  Patent pills are less potent pre-designed formulas to treat a variety of conditions.  They are often a good choice for patients because of their ease of use, and gentle taste.

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Do Chinese herbs have side effects?

No, not if the formula has been chosen and written correctly.  Most of the Chinese herbs used have very low toxicity compared to even common, over-the-counter Western drugs.  When they are prescribed according to correct TCM pattern diagnosis, they should have virtually no side effects, only beneficial healing results. 

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Can pregnant women use Chinese herbs?

Yes, if prescribed by a professional TCM practitioner, Chinese herbal medicine has been used for thousands of years to treat many diseases and symptoms that arise during pregnancy without harm to the fetus.  As well, lactating mothers can take Chinese herbal medicine safely as long as they are prescribed by a certified Chinese medicine herbalist.

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Can children take Chinese herbal medicine?

Yes, pediatrics is a specialty within TCM and children have to be given reduced doses.  There are specially prepared pediatric medicines in pill and granular form.  Chinese medicine can treat colic, teething issues, earache, diarrhea, and fever in babies and children.

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How long does it take to see results with Chinese herbal medicine?

In acute cases, some results can be seen the same day the formula is taken.  In chronic conditions, results should begin to be seen within 2-3 weeks.  Although many chronic conditions may require taking Chinese herbal medicine for a longer period of time, signs should be apparent to you and the practitioner from the initial stages of treatment. 

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

The National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists & Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) has created a certification process for Chinese herbal medicine.  Practitioners who have passed this certification process are entitled to add the abbreviation Dipl. C.H. for Diplomate of Chinese Herbal Medicine after their name.  A prospective patient should feel free to ask about the training and credentials of the practitioner. 

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Has your question about Chinese herbal medicine been answered?

If you have any further questions that have not been addressed feel free to get in touch.
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