The essence of Chinese herbal medicine lies in the skill of the practitioner in modifying and fine tuning herbal formula in order to match the characteristics and variations in a patient’s disharmony-in the same way that an acupuncturist selects an appropriate set of points on the body.
Chinese herbal medicine, alongside acupuncture, is an integral part of the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine. These medicines are prescribed as decoctions or teas. There are also topical applications or ointments. These formulas are carefully chosen and their dosages administered according to the individual’s condition and set of symptoms and complaints. They are safe, effective and inexpensive and give the patient the opportunity to be actively involved in their healing regimen.
Traditional Chinese herbs are not dangerous and have no side effects when correctly prescribed. If a side effect such as digestive discomfort should occur, the formula can be modified so that there are no side effects. The most regularly used Chinese herbs have a very low toxicity compared to even common, over-the-counter Western drugs.
There are few problems that cannot be helped by Chinese herbalism, although there are some contraindications. With herbal medicine, more attention needs to be paid to situations where caution must be exercised and/or contraindications noted. The experienced herbal practitioner has to bear in mind the following points:
- Certain herbs are contraindicated in pregnancy.
- Certain herbs are toxic.
- Herbs may be totally contraindicated in patients who have a liver function problem. Liver function tests are sometimes performed as a matter of course before prescribing.