Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Clinic

About Chinese Herbal Medicine


Chinese herbal medicine has a long tradition going back to the 3rd century BC, and is one of the four foundations of a comprehensive system of health care that developed in China. This system includes acupuncture, herbs, tui-na (acupressure massage), and qi gong (therapeutic breathing exercises). Throughout its history, herbal medicine has continually developed in complexity and in response to the changing clinical conditions of the times. This process continues today with the development of modern medical diagnostic techniques and knowledge, and with information gained through research.

Because of its systematic approach and clinical efficacy, Chinese herbal medicine has had a great influence on the development of medical theory and practice throughout Asia for centuries. Besides its widespread use in China it is also practiced in many other countries such as Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Korea. In recent years, the practice of Chinese herbal medicine has increased rapidly in the West, enjoying widespread popularity in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and many European countries. Today it continues to be a major component of the healthcare system in China, and is offered in private clinics as well as government hospitals where it is practiced along side conventional Western medicine.

The Chinese herbal medicine system is capable of treating a wide range of conditions. It is based on the concepts of yin, yang, qi, and blood and the many ways in which the fundamental balance and vitality of these energetic substances may be depleted or blocked. Clinical strategies are based on patterns of signs and symptoms, and incorporate an approach to treatment that addresses both broad constitutional tendencies toward imbalance as well as the primary health complaint.

Traditional Chinese medicine as a whole, places great emphasis on the health of mind, body and spirit, and the importance of lifestyle management in order to prevent disease before it occurs. It recognizes that health is more than just the absence of disease and has a unique capacity to maintain and enhance our potential for well-being and happiness.


Herbal Medicine and Modern Pharmacology

There is a growing body of research indicating that traditional uses of plant remedies and the known pharmacological activity of plant constituents often coincide. However, herbal medicine is distinct from medicine based on pharmaceutical drugs in a variety of ways. First, because of the complex constituents of plant material, herbs are more balanced than medicine based on isolated active ingredients, and therefore far less likely to cause side effects. Second, because herbs are typically prescribed in combination, the different components of a formula tend to balance each other, creating a mutual synergy that increases efficacy and enhances safety. And third, herbal medicine seeks primarily to correct internal imbalances rather than to treat symptoms alone, and therapeutic intervention is designed to encourage the body's tendency toward homeostasis.

Safety and Quality Concerns

Chinese herbs are very safe when prescribed correctly by a properly trained practitioner. Over the centuries doctors of Chinese medicine have compiled detailed information in herbal pharmacopeias and placed great emphasis on the protection of the patient. Careful attention to dosage and the combination of herbs, as well as any known drug-herb interactions, are subjects covered in depth in the education of herbalists who have graduated from accredited Chinese herbal medicine training programs in the U.S.

Allergenic reactions are rare, and will cause no lasting damage if herbal treatment is discontinued as soon as symptoms appear. Occasionally digestive symptoms may occur due to the concentrated nature of herbs, but slight adjustments in an herbal formula will usually correct the problem. Your practitioner will encourage you to stay in touch if any unusual symptoms arise.

At the Jade Center we are committed to using only the best quality herbs rigorously tested for quality, authenticity and lack of contaminants. The herbal products we carry are regulated by strict GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) guidelines. We are also greatly concerned about the threat to wild and endangered animals and plants that has emerged as a result of the growing demand for traditional medicines. Following the recommendations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), we support strict prohibition of these herbal substances.

How Are Chinese Herbs Administered?

Herbs are available in a number of forms, both traditional and modern. Traditional methods include herbs in pill form, as well as boiling a mixture of dried herbs to make a tea. In the West, herbs are commonly prescribed as tinctures or freeze dried powders, both easily dissolvable in water and convenient to use. Chinese herbs typically taste somewhat bitter, but most people grow used to this and find that the taste is tolerable in light of the health benefits.