Chinese Herbal Medicine FAQs
Chinese herbal medicine is typically a mixture of natural herbs, minerals and in some cases animal products (non-endangered species) tailored to treat certain conditions. Chinese herbology recognizes that each herb has its unique taste (pungent, sweet, sour, bitter or salty) and nature (cold, cool, warm or hot). The mixture of a number of different herbs within a herbal formula integrates the taste and nature of each individual herbs, guiding the therapeutic effect of the formula to target organs or meridians. Some formulas aim to strengthen energy and enhance body function, some replenish vital substances, while others might have been designed to relieve pain, remove blockages and metabolic wastes.
Chinese herbal medicine is safe and effective for management of chronic disease in conjunction with conventional Western medicine. It is very commonly used to counter the side effects of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and chemotherapies. In some debilitating cases where conventional Western medicine offer only symptomatic relief, Chinese herbal medicine is used as an alternative therapy and provides lasting resolution of disease-causing mechanism. More and more people are beginning to consider Chinese herbal medicine as a form of preventative therapies. Taken regularly over a long period of time, some herbal formulas can slow down the ageing process.
Chinese herbal medicine is slower in achieving noticeable effect, but gentler and less irritating to the digestive system making it suitable for long term use. The therapeutic emphasis of each herbal formula can be adjusted through manipulation of dosages and herb choices. When treating acute conditions, symptomatic relief outweighs rebalancing of disharmony in terms of therapeutic focus. Chronic conditions call for gentle formulas targeting the root of disharmony while offering certain degree of discomfort relief. Under no circumstances does Chinese herbal medicine compromises immunity and mask symptoms. Herbal formulas can be constantly modified to meet changing needs of the patient during a prolonged and difficult course of recovery.
The suitability of using Chinese herbal medicine in conjunction with Western medicine should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Some herbs interact with Western medication causing undesirable effects. It is always important to show your physician a list of Western medication and herbal supplements you are currently taking.
Depending on how the medicine is being administered. Herbal tea decocted from raw herbs generally does not taste nice because it is a mixture of all flavours of the herbs within the formula. One flavour (be it bitter, sweet, sour or salty) usually dominates, indicating the therapeutic action of that particular tea. Herbal tea can also be prescribed in granulated form to be taken after dissolving in hot water. Granulated tea still tastes a bit unpleasant, but it is easier to prepare and take compared to the decocted ones. In cases of less complex conditions being treated, Chinese herbal medicine can be prescribed in the form of patent pills/tablets/capsules. Though less ‘tailor-made’ than the teas, pills/tablets/capsules usually taste better.
Always bear in mind that the benefit you derive from herbal medicine outweighs the difficulty in taking it. Better not let the potential ‘yucky’ taste dictate your choice of medication.
Though Chinese herbal medicine generally works slower than conventional Western medicine, there are fast acting herbs/formulas that deliver relief within hours. Examples are teas prescribed for treating acute cold, flu, stomach pain etc.
For more complex conditions, especially those chronic ones developed over many years, at least 3 to 4 weeks of medicine taking is needed before noticeable changes occur. Reason being more organs or body systems are involved in chronic disorders. Imagine the disease being ‘peeled away’ in stages during the treatment program. Herbal formulas for patients with chronic conditions need to be progressively adjusted to suit different stages of the recovery process. When the healing momentums of all involved organs are in tandem with each other, patients start feeling heaps better.
In Australia, the prescribing and dispensing of Chinese herbal formulas are carried out by qualified Chinese Herbal Medicine Practitioners. The granulated herbal extracts which we use in the herbal formulas are Australia GMP certified products and only for dispensing by a practitioner.
Chinese medicine therapies are not just for eliminating symptoms. A well balanced herbal formula targets the client’s presenting symptoms and treats the root cause of the condition. The process of recovery is gradual, but the benefit to overall physical and emotional health is more sustained. To practise the holistic Chinese medicine healing approach, an herbalist not only requires in-depth knowledge of classical herbal formulas, also needs to demonstrate necessary skills and experience in combining formulas and single herbs, in order to create the desired therapeutic synergy.
Dr Joanne Vidich is a qualified Chinese Herbal Medicine Practitioner and Acupuncturist registered with the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia (CMBA). The Board is under the governance of Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Joanne is passionate in the Chinese medicine art of healing, and during her professional life, continues to attend training and workshops both in Australia and abroad.
Chinese herbal formulas can be taken for 3 main purposes: promoting health, maintaining a treatment outcome, and overcome diseases.
- Initial consultation: We need to see you either in person or via Skype. You can either visit the clinic for a consultation, or you can have an online consultation with the practitioner. Your herbal medicine can be picked up at the clinic or delivered to you by post.
- Ongoing herbal treatment: You can either visit the clinic, have a skype consultation or correspond with Joanne via email. Repeat consultations will enable us to find out your response to the herbal formula, whether you are continually getting better or that your recovery has plateaued. Most importantly, we need to adjust your herbal prescription if you feel any discomfort while taking the formula. Chinese herbal formulas are balanced and usually do not cause side effects. However, clients who have impaired digestion may need the dosage adjusted, to ensure that certain rich and tonifying herbs do not cause any discomfort.
- Refill of herbal script: You can either ring or send us an email.
Fill up an intake form – either at the clinic or online.
- We will have a discussion about your primary health concern. A detailed consultation help us work out the root cause of your condition, in the context of your medical history, emotions and lifestyle.
- Examine your tongue to find out your internal condition. If you are in the clinic, we will also feel your pulse as part of the diagnostic process.
Finally we will discuss your treatment goals, the course and duration of treatment, as well as costs involved.
At Joanne Vidich Chinese Medicine, we prescribe customised herbal formulas in granule form. Granulated extracts of single herb and compound formula are mixed together in accordance to a client-specific prescription.
Frequency of herbs taking
- For acute disorders, we generally dispense a formula for use over 5 to 7 days. The initial herbal formula are required to be taken 2 to 3 times per day until finish. We will re-book the client for a review consultation either in the clinic, online or by phone, to assess whether a repeat or modification to the initial herbal formula is required. If the condition is not completely resolved, clients have a choice to either continue their herbal therapies, or visit the clinic for acupuncture therapies, or both.
- For the active treatment of chronic disorders, we dispense granulated formulas for use over 10 days per fortnight. Clients are advised to take the herbs on a regular basis for 5 days per week. Most clients prefer to have the herbs during Monday to Friday, and have a break during the weekend. Maintenance treatment or health booster formulas only need to be taken 3 times per week on a continual basis, or for 10 to 12 days every month.
Preparation of the herbal tea
- The granulated herbal formulas are easy to prepare at home or at your workplace. Using the herbs at regular intervals preferably around meal time on a daily basis ensures optimum therapeutic effect. Simply dissolved 2 to 3 spoons of granules in a small amount of boiled water to make it into a herbal tea. If your herbal formula contain granules that are richer in nature, leave the mixture for 5 minutes until all the granules are completely dissolved. Drink the herbal tea while it is warm.
The combination of acupuncture treatment and Chinese herbal medicine is highly recommended because the synergy itself creates better and sustainable clinical results. The advantages of combined therapies using both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are:
- Time saving and cost-effectiveness:
To bring the symptoms of acute and sub-acute illnesses under control, frequent and regular treatments need to be administered within a short time frame. The objective is to effect rapid relief to pain and discomfort, also prevent development of complications or the progression into chronic health disorders.
Acupuncture works by bringing blood flow to the painful areas and restoring the balance of bodily functions. The treatment outcome of acupuncture is the cumulative effect of a series of regular treatments. In China, patients attend the acupuncture clinic multiple times per week during the active treatment phase of an illness. However, this type of treatment program is not practical in the Australian clinical setting.
Expedited healing through concentrated treatments can be achieved by receiving regular acupuncture treatments at the clinic, combined with the taking of herbal medicine at home during the interval between acupuncture treatments. Less visits to the clinic means saving of time, and a shorter course of treatments brings about cost-effectiveness.
- Better management to provided targeted treatment approach
- – complement each other
- Complicated and chronic pathology need both modalities to see effect.