In my Lexington KY Clinic, I stock around 150 bulk herbs and a variety of prepared Chinese medicinals including pills, tablets, cough syrups, throat sprays, nose drops, burn ointments, herbal soaps, plasters, liniments, etc in my Chinese medical pharmacy. In the rare event that I do not carry something I feel you should have or that you want, I can special order it and usually receive it in a few days. I favor the traditional form of writing bulk herbal formula prescriptions for maximum therapeutic effect, customization of the formula to the individual, and the overall lower cost to the patient.
To know if someone is qualified to prescribe Chinese Herbal Medicine, look for the initials Dipl. O.M. or Dipl. C.H. after their name. This means they have passed the National Exam for Chinese Herbology as administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Herbal Pharmacy Service for other L.Ac.’s:
Other Licensed Acupuncturist in the area are welcome to make use of the pharmacy for their patients. After I verify your license I will send you the details and the costs regarding this service. You may send in your license information either by fax (859-286-9810) or the contact page.
What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?
Chinese Herbal Medicine is based on a Chinese Medical Diagnosis. We, as practitioners of Chinese Medicine, are looking for what is causing the problem according to Chinese Medical Theory. If you fix the cause, then there will be no re-occurrence of the problem. In other words, it is not simply a symptomatic treatment. For example, if a person has a headache, there is no specific “headache” herb in Chinese Medicine, although it can treat headaches quite effectively. In order to do this, we have to make a Chinese Medical Diagnosis (find the cause). We would need to know the location of the headache (temples, back, front, or top of head, etc.), the type of pain (dull, achy, sharp, etc.), whether or not the headache is constant or it comes and goes, what brings it on, is it better or worse at a certain time of the day, what makes it better or worse, etc. We would also look at the tongue and feel the pulse for clues as to what is causing the headache. We take these signs and symptoms and this leads us to a Chinese Medical Diagnosis. Once we have the Chinese Medical Diagnosis, then we do the appropriate treatment to correct the imbalance.
Understanding this, one can see why Chinese Herbal Medicine when prescribed properly is so effective. Randomly taking a Chinese Herb for a condition is not the practice of Chinese Herbal Medicine. The practice of taking a specific herb for a specific complaint is the practice of Western Herbalism, which is a symptomatic approach with no diagnosis involved. This is fine for Western Herbalism, but it should not be confused with the complexity of Chinese Herbal Medicine. Another contrast between these two practices is that in Western Herbalism, usually only one herb is taken for a condition. Whereas is Chinese Herbal Medical, a formula is created using any number of herbs to treat not only the presenting problem, but to also treat the whole person leading the body back into a state of balance.
Types of Chinese Herbal Medicine
The 3 most commonly used forms of Chinese Herbal Medicine are:
- Bulk Herbs (i.e. raw Chinese herbs one cooks into a tea to drink. These look like what you would see in nature – leaves, twigs, roots, berries, etc.)
- Granular Herbs (i.e. Chinese bulk herbs that have been cook and concentrated down into a powder form, which is then mixed with hot water and drunk. These look like instant coffee.)
- Chinese Prepared Medicinal’s (i.e. pills, tablets, cough syrups, etc. made out of Chinese Herbs.)
Each form of Chinese Herbal Medicine has advantages and disadvantages.
Bulk Herbs are the standard form of treatment in China. They allow a practitioner to effectively prescribe Chinese herbs that are tailored exactly to the individual. Noticeable effects are usually seen faster by taking Bulk Herbs and they are relatively inexpensive (about $2/day). Bulk Herb may also be used in making medicinal wines and can be applied topically for certain conditions. The downside is that they are not as convenient if one is planning on traveling and sometimes the taste of the tea made from the herbs is not pleasant.
Granular Herbs have been used for decades in several country effectively. They also allow a practitioner to effectively prescribe Chinese Herbs that are individually tailored to the individual and they are easy to travel with. The downside is that they are more expensive than other forms of Chinese Herbal Medicine and the taste may not be pleasant. However, Granular Herbs may be encapsulated easily and swallowed with water.
Chinese Prepared Medicinals
Chinese Prepared Medicinal’s are Chinese Herbal Formulas that are already packaged and made, so it is impossible to tailor them to the individual’s need. In many cases, the practitioner needs to prescribe 2 or more different Chinese Prepared Medicinal’s to effectively treat the condition. In addition, because of their low herbal concentration ratio, a large number of pills, tablets, etc. must be taken to elicit a therapeutic response. And of course, there will always be herbs in the product that one does not need and others that the practitioner would like to have in them. However, their convenience, ease of traveling, and relative low cost somewhat offset these drawbacks. For chronic conditions requiring long term treatment with Chinese Herbs, taking pills or tablets is a viable route. There are companies who will make customized formulas into pills and tablets. The cost and time to produce such customized formulas varies.
To get started on determining the right combination and form of Chinese Herbal Medicine for you, make an appointment for an initial consultation with our clinic’s licensed and certified herbalist, Robert Fueston. See our contact information and office hours at bottom of the page.