Anyone who has visited a Chinese Herbalist will know the smell instantly and any one who has tried some will easily trade war stories about the unique flavour experience however what exactly is Chinese Herbal Medicine and is it beneficial to your health?
Although we label it as Chinese Herbal Medicine what you are essentially cooking and consuming are (mostly) common plants and vegetables that would be used in cooking within the Asian community. This in no way undermines the effectiveness of the medicine after all we as humans have always used food as medicine, the actual term for such a theory is Shi Liao (translation: food therapy) where as herbal medicine is known as Cao Yao (translated as grass medicine).
Chinese herbalist refer to the process of cooking the herbs as making tea or making soup. The more common issues a patient can suffer from (including cold and flu) will see a formula that contains very common ingredients such as ginger or peppermint (called Sheng Jiang and Bohe respectively); Chinese names for common herbs or vegetables used in cooking. That being said, though they are of common origin – there has been an exceptional number of research articles that show the benefits of the formulas prescribed by a registered herbalist.
So is the use of Chinese herbs beneficial?
Very much so.
Using a herbal formula is how the seemingly common herbs end up creating a medicinal effect on the body – it is a process of synergy. A registered practitioner will know which herbs can be combined to ensure the maximum effect required while adding herbs to nullify any possible side effects. Using pain medication as an example, a known active component will be enhanced a thousand times, turned into a tablet and consumed to help with pain. This means when you ingest it, you are consuming one thousand times the natural dose of something. A Chinese herbal formula can achieve similar effects without needing to enhance a single component as other herbs boost the intended effect therefore you only take what the body can naturally process, obtain and handle.
In Australia, Chinese herbs can only be prescribed and dispensed by a registered practitioner. All herbal products sold are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) which monitor all manner of health related products for safe public consumption. Any formula prescribed is created specifically for you regarding symptoms and dosage so never share or try a formula created for someone else, despite the humble origins – it is still a form of medicine.
Herbs can come in several different varieties. There are raw herbs, granules (powdered form) and pills. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages usually regarding taste and ease of preparation.
Not every patient requires herbs for a successful treatment outcome though the ones who are prescribed a formula and adhere to it tend to have the faster and more successful recovery rate.
As always please speak to your registered practitioner about whether or not herbal medicine is suitable for you and always inform them if you are on any biomedicine before taking herbs.