How Do You Take Chinese Herbs?
Chinese herbal medicine is a stronger form of treatment that can tackle chronic conditions and is sometimes better than having acupuncture treatment alone.
There are many clinical trials which prove Chinese herbs are effective for a wide range of health probems.
Chinese herbal formulas come in different forms depending on the country you live in and the herbalist prescribing them. There was five different ways you can take Chinese herbs:
- Original (raw) form
Original (raw) herbs
Traditionally, for thousands of years prescribed herbs come in their original dried form, for example bits of root, bark, leaves and seeds. Single herbs are never used. These would be cooked in a pot, drained and drank as an herbal tea. This traditional process takes hours and will leave a strong odour in your house.
Thankfully, there are more modern methods of taking Chinese herbs, for example in powder, capsule or tablet form.
How do you take Chinese herbs in powder form?
If you are taking the powders, then you put the powder in a mug and add boiling hot water (half way), some honey to help with the taste and give it a good stir. Wait for it to cool down, stir it again and then drink, preferably in one go. It's not a drink that you sip and dunk biscuits into. After you have drank all the liquid, have some fruit to clear your palate.
Capsules and tablets
How do you take Chinese herbs as capsules and tablets?
If you are taking Chinese herbs in tablet or capsule form, you will need to take 30 a day. Yes, 30! It sounds like an overdose, but as they are herbal, they are weaker than western medicine drugs so you need to take more of them.
The capsules can be a little heavy on the digestive system. You can take either 15 in the morning and 15 in the evening or take 10 three times a day. Always after food and with plenty of water.
Little black herbal pills are another form of Chinese herbal medicine. These are commonly available to health food stores in the USA. This is a weak dosage and can take months to build up strength and work. They are often taken 3 times a day after meals with water.
Little black pills are illegal to sell in the UK and Europe although some TCM practitioners still sell them.
Chinese herbs dosage
Chinese herbs have different dosages depending upon the format they are prescribed in and the herbalist.
The original (raw) form, capsules and tablets are all the same strength. The little black pills are a lot weaker, cannot be tailor-made and take longer to work.
The dosage for babies and children is between 50-75% less than the adult dose.
Like with any medication you should check for any side effects or allergic reactions to your body. These are rare, but if you believe you have any, you should consult your herbalist and doctor straight away and stop taking the herbs.
How often do I need to take Chinese herbs?
As Chinese herbs are natural, they need to be taken at regular intervals, often twice a day for several weeks at a time.
The Chinese herbs that I prescribe some in three ways; as powders, or in tablet and capsule form. If you are taking the powders, then I recommend taking them twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. If for some reason, you can't take the Chinese herbs in the morning, you can take them at lunch time.
If you are having the Chinese herbs in tablet or capsule form, you will need to take 30 a day. Yes, 30! You can take either 15 in the morning and 15 in the evening or take 10 three times a day. Always after food.
What do Chinese herbs taste like?
Chinese herbs taste like earthly, bitter roots and don't taste that great. Most herbal prescriptions take a bit like liquorice as it's added to almost every formula to make it taste better and bind all the plants together.
In East Asia they don't have a sweet tooth like in western cultures, so liquorice is enough. However, for western palates this is not enough, so people often add honey to make it taste better.
The herbs come as a powder. No need to cook up the bits of bark, twig or seed anymore! But the powder still tastes of herbs and isn't that nice.
Believe it or not, people do get use to the taste after a while. Some people even like the taste. Other people add hot milk instead of hot water, which takes away the bad taste and makes it taste more like Ovaltine.
If you find it really hard to drink, you can have the powder put into tablets or capsules, which has no taste.
Chinese herbal medicine St Margarets
Dr (TCM) Attilio D'Alberto graduated from Beijing University in China and has over 14 years of practicing Chinese herbal medicine in St Margarets.