Herbal Medicines

Chinese herbal medicines can really help to boost the effect of treatment, particularly if you can only come in for acupuncture once a week. Chinese herbs are actually not all leaves of a plant, but all are natural medicines as a wide variety of plant, mineral and animal products are used, with plant based products being in the majority - typically leaves, roots, berries and even barks are used.

Many Chinese herbs are also familiar herbs in the west, with plants such as mint, dandelion, ginger, licorice root and honeysuckle all frequently used. Other Chinese herbs are more famous in their own right, such as ginseng and astragalus. Other plants you may never have heard of.

Typically, herbal medicines are prescribed in a formula, which is a mixture of herbs. Chinese medicine rarely uses herbs individually, because it was found over many hundreds of years of practice that mixtures of herbs produce better results. Sometimes two ingredients will cooperate together to produce a stronger effect, or sometimes one herb can modify any side effects that another herb might have if taken on its own.

Traditionally in China, a patient would be given raw herbs to take home and boil up together to make a decoction to drink. I tend to use capsules of granulated herbs as these are easier for us westerners to deal with! Many of the more modern capsule formulas also include herbs from other traditions such as Ayurvedic, Russian and Native American herbs, which gives us the best of different traditional medicine systems.

I typically also recommend some vitamins and other supplements to patients, either in additional to herbal medicines, or on their own.