Why Chinese Herbal Medicine is a Formula for Success


You have probably used herbs to treat anything from a common cold to anxiety to insomnia. Most will go into a health food store, ask the salesperson for a recommendation, and then buy a single herb, like Echinacea, or a formula of 2 or 3 herbs. The same herbs are recommended to everyone with the same complaint. And indeed, you were probably helped. There is a better way, though, and I will explain. With Chinese Herbal Formulas, your chances of success are greater.

Single herbs are rarely taken. They are combined in sophisticated formulas tailored to the specific needs of the individual patient. Take the common cold. There is no such thing as a simple cold. One person will have symptoms different from another. Or a weaker immune system than another. Or a different constitution. A large number of formulas exist to treat the subtle variations of the so-called common cold. Or take insomnia, mentioned above. According to Chinese medical texts, there are 5 different kinds. All 5 have sleeplessness in common. Each type requires a different herbal formula.

When I was in China, I spent 1½ months working full-time with a doctor of herbal medicine. Each formula was fine-tuned for each individual patient. Raw herbs were mixed and boiled into decoctions in the hospital or at home by the patient. In the American clinic, this rarely happens. It is not convenient, and patients will not boil their own herbs. We use patent medicines instead—formulas in pill form. Patient compliance is increased, and the formulas are still fairly closely matched to the patient’s specific needs.

Again, it is the strategic combination of herbs that makes Chinese herbal medicine successful. The system evolved over centuries and involved the observation and treatment of countless millions of people.

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