Forms of Chinese Herbal Medicine

Traditionally, herbal medicine would have been dispensed as raw leaves, twigs, bark, flowers, etc. This method is impractical, since the herbologist must keep hundreds of herbs in stock that must remain fresh and free of mold or insects. Preparation of formulas under these circumstances are labor-intensive both for the herbalist and the patient, who might be required to soak, boil, strain, re-boil, re-strain, etc. to get the resulting decoction. The pungent odors and bitter tastes of many herbs prepared in this manner would discourage patients from completing their treatments.

Here at Sage Wellness Center, we save our patients the trouble of preparing decoctions from raw herbs by providing a combination of effective, yet easy-to-use tea pills, pills, liquid extracts and granules. Tea pills come from a decoction of herbs that is boiled, leaving a powder that is rolled (usually with honey) into easy-to-store balls resembling peppercorns. Liquid extracts are made by combining the herbs, boiling them to extract the active ingredients and suspending them in alcohol. They are the most potent and most effective forms of herbal medicine. Granules are made by taking the powder from the formula preparation with the water boiled away and mixing in starch to form granules. Granules can be taken mixed with water or in a capsule. We use granules for formulas that are more beneficial when taken hot or warm.

The form that your herbal formula comes in is dependent on your diagnosis and the severity of your symptoms. For acute diseases, we give you either liquid extracts or granules because it is faster and easier for your body to absorb these forms. For subacute diseases, pills are more appropriate. For long term chronic diseases, tea pills are given because of their lower cost and mild action.

A History of Chinese Herbal Medicine

It is said that Chinese Herbal Medicine began thousands of years ago when a farmer found a snake near his hut, which he then beat with a hoe and left for dead. A few days later, the farmer found the snake slithering around and again tried to kill it. Another few days passed and the snake miraculously reappeared in the farmer’s plot. The farmer beat the snake again, but this time he followed it and watched the snake crawl into a clump of weeds that it began to eat. The next day the snake was already on the mend, its wounds healing. The clump of weeds is now the main ingredient of a Chinese Herbal formula YunNan BaiYao, which stops bleeding (internal or external) by bonding the edges of wounds and quickly healing torn tissue.

The actual origins of Chinese Herbal Medicine can be traced back to an ancient text written between 200 BCE and 100 ACE. This text, the Inner Classic, contains the earliest known mention of the theoretical and philosophical foundations of Chinese Medicine. Within the Inner Classic there is mention of 12 herbal prescriptions, with a total of 28 individual substances. The following 2000 years gave rise to an increase in the number of substances and a corresponding increase in the number of formulae. This increase is due in part to the inclusion of herbs from the Chinese Folk traditions, as well as the importation of herbs from other parts of the world.

How Herbs Work?

Herbs work internally to regulate and balance the body’s vital energy. Herbs are dispensed in various forms including pills, capsules, powders and decoctions. Boiling raw herbs into a tea is considered to be the strongest form and therefore has the greatest therapeutic effect which is also tailored to the individuals with different symptoms.