Chinese herbs work synergistically with acupuncture. Used safely and medically for over 5,000 years, Chinese herbs have minimal side effects when correctly prescribed by a trained herbalist. They are usually combined in classical formulas and customized as appropriate for each patient’s respective diagnosis and physical conditions. Typically, herbs are prescribed in two forms: as raw herbs used in tea decoctions and in pill form. In order to ingest raw herbs as decoctions, one must first simmer the dried herbs in water. (These may also be taken in pill form when the appropriate remedy is available). Although more convenient, especially for long-term use, pills are not as powerful or as easy to individualize for the patients conditions. Nourishing and harmonizing herbal remedies serve as excellent tonics, strengthening those weakened by stress, work, serious illness, childbirth, menopause or poor diet and irregular eating. They also promote smooth flow of energy, fluids and blood, and thus reduce pain and congestion. Herbs with a cooling action can counteract fevers, night sweating, hot flashes and other signs of overheating. Equally, herbs with a warming action can help those who are cold. They work on the mind as well as the body, reducing such negative states as anxiety, depression and insomnia. Herbs can be used for acute as well as chronic conditions, i.e. colds, chest infection, irritable bowel syndrome, discomfort with periods, and headaches.
The minimization of side effects while maintaining clinical efficacy is the chief benefit of Chinese herbal formulas. In isolating an acute ingredient (e.g., aspirin from willow bark, digoxin from fox glove) from the complete formula, Western medications or synthetic medicine destroy the balance between all ingredients, rendering them less safe to use. On the other hand, Chinese herbs or non-synthetic medications use the whole plant, root, or mineral to help rebalance the body and minimize the symptoms.