A client came in today asking, “Do you offer Chinese herbs? Do you guarantee that there are no side effects?” Unfortunately, there are no guarantees when it comes to side effects. Chinese herbs are just a different method of curing an ailment compared to Western medicine. It's like climbing a mountain; there are different ways of getting to the peak. There is a short but risky way and there is a longer but safe way. Drugs are like taking the short way - they are quick and effective, but with more side effects. Chinese herbs are like taking the longer way - it takes some time and is safer, but this doesn’t mean there are no side effects.
There are more than 500 Chinese herbs used which include roots, grass, woods, furs, animals and stones. We classify them into three categories:
· The first category called "superior" includes herbs effective for multiple diseases and are mostly responsible for maintaining and restoring the body’s balance. They have almost no unfavorable side-effects. Examples are black date, Chinese yam, sesame seed, and ginger. Some are consumed the same way regular food is.
· The second category is comprised of tonics, boosters and detoxifiers for which their consumption must not be prolonged.
· The third category are toxic, usually taken in small doses and used only for the treatment of specific ailments.
In China, herbal medicine is considered the primary therapeutic mode of internal medicine. Of the approximately 500 Chinese herbs that are in use today, 250 or so are very commonly used. Rather than being prescribed individually, single herbs are combined into formulas that are designed to adapt to the specific needs of individual patients. A herbal formula can contain anywhere from 3 to 25 herbs. As with diet therapy, each herb has one or more of the five flavors/functions and one of five "temperatures" ("Qi") (hot, warm, neutral, cool, cold). After we determine the energetic temperature and functional state of the patient's body, we prescribe a mixture of herbs tailored to balance disharmony. And also because of the combination, each herb can just be used in small doses with less side effects.