How To Use Chinese Herbs In Modern Life
If you’re familiar with the world of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), you’ve probably noticed the integral role Chinese herbal medicine plays in different types of TCM treatments and therapies. For instance, acupuncture practitioners use herbs to enhance and prolong the effects of acupuncture on the body, and herbalists prescribe herbs to combat issues like insomnia, depression, bodily pain, and anxiety.
Like most things in TCM, the ultimate goal of consuming these herbs is to bring your body an overall sense of balance and stability. That said, there’s a lot of ways you can take your herbs, from infusing them with hot water to swallowing them whole. To give you a better understanding of these herbs, we’ve covered everything below. Keep reading so you can get that qi flowing in no time!
7 Ways to Take Chinese Herbs
Chinese herbal medicine is typically prescribed with a combination of several herbs called a formula. How you consume this formula is up to you, or your TCM practitioner may give you specific instructions.
Either way, there are several options you should know:
- Simmering raw herbs: This method may seem overly simple, and that’s because it is. You just simmer the herbs and leaves to draw out their nutritional properties, then drink the “soup”. Purists claim that this is the best way to consume herbal medicine, but you may wince as you gulp it down.
- Mixing powder: For powders, raw herbs are first boiled, then dried and pulverized. The powder is then mixed with warm water and ready for consumption. Like boiling raw herbs, this method doesn’t yield the best flavor.
- Granules: Ok, what are granules? They are decocted herbal powder that’s mixed with an excipient to create a small particle. In layman’s terms, boiled herbs are pulverized into powder and mixed with an adhesive material, like potato starch, creating a small, rotund granule that easily dissolves in water. They are sometimes mixed with sugar so they taste better, and are a very common over-the-counter option at Asian grocery stores.
- Capsules: For those who can’t quite stomach the taste of raw herbs and granules, there are capsules. The herbal formula is finely ground and encapsulated in gelatin, eliminating the bitter taste. However, it should be noted that the taste primes your body to start secreting digestive juices and signaling receptors. Also, only so much of a formula can be packed into a capsule, which means you may need to take several depending on your dosage.
- Tablets: A formula served as a tablet means that that the herbs have been processed. Processed herbs are more concentrated, so you can take fewer tablets than you would capsules and still get your prescribed dosage. Tablets also are easy to swallow, since they lack the bitterness associated with drinking raw herbs and powders. But they work better if you chomp down on one to let the taste.
- Tea pills: Formulas served as a tea pill are another easy option for the faint of heart. For tea pills, herbs are cooked and rolled into tiny pills that are taken by the handful- usually 12 at a time. Since these pills are so small, you usually need to take them up to three times a day to get your dosage.
- Tinctures: This method is great for children and adults who want to avoid the bitterness of raw herbs. To make tinctures, herbs and cut up and soaked in ethanol, resulting in an herbal-alcohol base that is dispensed in droplets. You can apply these droplets directly on your tongue or mix them with water. Since tinctures are already diluted, mixing them with another liquid will mask the bitterness more, making it the better option.
What Are the Health Benefits of Chinese Herbal Medicine?
Chinese herbal medicine is used to enhance the effects of TCM treatments and to bring an overall sense of mental and physical balance. But it can also be used to target specific ailments and strengthen your resistance to disease, like:
- Colds and flus: Herbal medicine can help runny noses, coughs, and give an added boost your immune system.
- Fatigue: The right formula can stimulate your body to combat tiredness and drowsiness.
- Sinus infections: Herbal formulas can help to clear out your sinus so you can breathe better.
- Digestive issues: Certain herbs can help to improve your digestion and combat diarrhea and constipation.
- Insomnia: Trouble getting that beauty sleep? No worries. The right dosage of herbal medicine can help you snooze like a newborn.
- Hot flashes: Studies show, herbal treatments can reduce hot flashes experienced during menopause.
- Infertility: Herbs can help address infertility by bringing your body into healthier cycles and balancing your hormones.
- Cancer: Chinese herbal medicine is believed to reduce the effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
- Diabetes: Herbal formulas can also help you avoid diabetes by preventing prediabetes from escalating.
Chinese herbal medicine can deal with these conditions but we should remember that herbs are always combined in Chinese medicine in order to match your constitution and the pattern of the disease. If you have questions about an herbal treatment, consult an herbalist or your healthcare practitioner.
How Long Should You Take Chinese Herbs?
When it comes to dosage and how frequently you should consume herbs, there are some general best practices you should abide by.
- Light herbs after meals, heavy herbs before: “Light herbs” refers to herbs that address problems in your upper body, and vice versa.
- Tonics are taken in the morning: Tonics are considered a “quick-acting” supplement that should be consumed before breakfast.
- Take formulas multiple times a day: In general, adults should take smaller dosages than children. 2–4 times a day is recommended.
- Create a routine: Try to take your medicine before or after meals and throughout the day. However, be sure you are consistent and stick to the same times daily.
- Take medicine at room temperature: Room temperature water requires less of the body’s energy to digest, so it’s the optimal temperature to take your herbal medicine.
If you have more specific questions, it’s best for you to consult your herbalist or a healthcare practitioner. Once you’ve determined what’s best for, be consistent and reap the benefits of these life-changing supplements!
Have questions or comments about herbal Chinese medicine? Feel free to leave a comment below!