How does herbal medicine work?
HerbChinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) is a powerful and major part of TCM. Herbs are either ingested or applied externally to regulate physical disorders and revitalize cells or tissues, like some food products, have healing properties. For more than 5,000 years. Chinese herbal medicine has helped people live longer and healthier They work using the same principle as acupuncture, which is to restore the energy flow within the body. While acupuncture works by influencing the flow of body energies, herbal medicine works on a more material level. For example, in cases of severe anemia, a practitioner may choose to use herbal medicine to nourish the patient's blood and stimulate the body to produce more blood cells, before or while using acupuncture. Herbs are more effective when used in a formula. Some prescribed herbal formulas have been passed from generation to generation. Some formulas used have been tested repeatedly. Clinical results using herbs have been outstanding.
How to use herbal medicine?
Practitioners traditionally prescribe raw herbs for brewing in water to make an herbal drink (tang). Other forms for herbs are powder (shen) or teas (cha). Herbs can be extracted in water or water/alcohol to form liquid or dry syrup (kao or wan) or an alcohol-based liquid (jui). Herbal liquids are most effective because active ingredients in herbs can be assimilated most efficiently by the body when they are in a soluble form.
The best container is ceramic. Glass is acceptable. It is important that your teapot has a lid. Materials to avoid include cast iron or metals. Chinese herbs can interact with these metals causing chemical reactions that can alter the therapeutic qualities of your herbs, or worse yet, have an unhealthy effect on whoever drinks the tea. Stainless steel is better than the other metals Teflon coatings are not as good as ceramic coatings.
Use a pot made of glass, pottery or porcelain, aluminum or iron pots interfere with the action of herbs. Do not add honey, sugar, other sweeteners (unless told to do) or anything else to the decoction because they may change the properties of the herbs.
Empty one bag of herbs into the pot and add 3 or more cups of water or enough to cover The herbs. Soak the herbs for 30 minutes. Bring the herbs to a boil in high heat, then lower to a medium/ low heat (enough to simmer) for 3o minutes or until down to one cup. Strain the liquid into a glass container (not iron or aluminum).
For the second boiling add 2 cups of water to the wet herbs. Bring to a boil again and simmer again for 30 minutes or until one cup remains. Strain the decoction and ADD To the first batch Combine the two.
Strain the tea
Drink it. If you find the taste disagreeable, then your tongue is working right. However, if you find the taste so unpalatable that you don't drink it, then you need to do something to make it more drinkable. We suggest watering it down a bit. This helps a great deal. Also, it seems that after time, the body begins to crave a certain formula, especially one that is well suited. The Taste will become more and more attractive. Some people add a little honey to sweeten it. This should only be done with the consent of your herbalist. Honey can adversely affect the therapeutic qualities of the formula and so it should only be added when appropriate
Re-cook the same herbs a second time During the first steeping, the temperature energies are released from the herb. This affects the patient mostly at the Qi level. It is more superficial, more Yang in nature. During the second steeping, the taste energies are released from the herb. This affects the patient more on the Blood level. These energies have more of an internal impact. The Yin is affected more It is a good idea to mix the tea from both batches for drinking.
There are exceptions to the above rules Some herbs are made from substances that require more time to leach out their therapeutic ingredients. Examples of these herbs are Bie Jia (Turtle Shell) and Ci Shi (Magnetite). These herbs need to be cooked 20 to 30 minutes longer. Simply place them in the water and steep for 20 to 30 minutes, then add the rest of the herbs and cook for another 20 minutes.
Some herbs are cooked for periods shorter than 20 minutes. Aromatic herbs are often used to relieve the patient of what we, in the West, call the ''common cold" and stuffed nose. Examples of aromatic herbs include Bo He (Peppermint) and Mu Xiang. These herbs contain volatile oils that come out very quickly, and evaporate out of the decoction if steeped too long. Hence, they should be cooked only for the last five minutes.
If you cook your herb packets twice, be sure to add a fresh portion of your aromatics to the second batch of tea in the last five minutes to get the oils out again.
Sometimes, herbs are made of very small substances and they will appear to make your water dirty if they are let loose into the decoction. A good analogy would be coffee grounds. They are too small to strain out, so an herb of that size would be steeped wrapped up in cheesecloth or a tied up coffee filter.
An example of this kind of herb is Xin Yi Hua. The fine hairs on this flower come off and float around in the tea. When drunk, it is harmless, but very irritating to the back of the throat.
Expensive herbs such as fine Ginseng can be cooked separately for longer periods of time. This allows one to get the maximum amount of therapeutic effect from the herb without overcooking the other herbs in the formula.
Some herbs are not supposed to be steeped for 20 minutes. One would simply add such an herb to hot water and let it melt. A good example of this is E Jiao.
Soaked Herbs that are very aromatic or volatile can be decocted by placing them in hot water without cooking on the fire. Just boil some water, take it off the fire, and let the herb steep. Hong Hua is an example of an herb in this category.
Some herbs come in powdered form. With these herbs, you simply add the appropriate amount to hot water, stir, and drink. Some herbs that are especially expensive are powdered to make more efficient use of their properties with the minimum cost.
When to take your herbs?
Generally, as a rule, it is best to take your herb tea one hour before eating, on an empty stomach. This provides The best absorption of the ingredients of the herbs.
If the herbs cause a little stomach upset, drink the herb tea one hour after eating or drink some fresh ginger juice before taking the formula, or eat some fresh ginger before the formula. Fresh ginger is the sweet little slices of root often served with sushi.
Tonification formulas are best taken on an empty stomach.
Shen calming formulas (for insomnia) are best taken two hours before sleeping. Formulas treating ailments above the diaphragm are best taken one hour after eating. The food in the stomach provides The energy To the herbs from which to rise up to the upper part of the body.
Formulas treating ailments below the diaphragm are best taken one hour before eating so the energy can descend unimpeded by contents in the stomach.
Formulas for heat syndromes can be taken at room temperature or chilled. If the herbs taste bad at room temperature, they may be consumed warm. It is more important to drink the tea than to add to its function by drinking it cold.
Formulas for cold syndromes can be taken warm or hot.
Mixing herbs with Western Pharmaceuticals is not something we can comment on without knowing the specifics of what you're taking and why. It js a personal choice. Generally, it never hurts to get everybody s opinion including your M.D. and your herbalist to better decide which therapies to mix, and which not to mix.