Using Traditional Chinese Herbs

Herbs and herbal mixtures have been used in China for centuries. Traditional Chinese herbs for weight loss, treatment of medical and emotional conditions, pain relief, and other purposes have been gaining popularity around the world in recent years. For some, wary of the overuse of pharmaceuticals prescribed by Western physicians, traditional Chinese herbs may offer a more palatable and holistic alternative. However, traditional Chinese herbs sometimes need to be approached with caution, especially by those who are unfamiliar with their properties and with the specific liabilities that can sometimes be associated with their use. Let’s take a look at some uses of traditional Chinese herbs and some things you need to know if this is a topic of interest to you.

Traditional Chinese Medicine – Traditional Chinese Herbs

Traditional Chinese Medicine (sometimes abbreviated as “TCM”) is a complex body of knowledge that has evolved over many centuries. It encompasses various subdisciplines, including acupuncture, medicinal herb use, various heat and cold therapies, massage, dietary guidelines, and other techniques. With the increased interest in “natural” healing techniques and holistic medicine during the past several decades, TCM adherents in the United States and other Western countries are increasing in number. Many users claim success with weight loss, depression, and other conditions through the use of traditional Chinese herbal remedies.

Using Traditional Chinese Herbs: Some Cautions

Because herbal extracts are usually marketed in the U.S. as “dietary supplements,” they are not subject to the same testing, labeling, and quality control regimens as Western medicines, either over-the-counter or prescribed pharmaceuticals. For this reason, you should be careful when using traditional Chinese herbs or any other herbal or animal product being sold as a “dietary supplement.” Potencies, purity levels, and even the precise type of substance can vary greatly from one source to another. In some instances, foreign contaminants or impurities can even introduce potentially dangerous substances into the body. For these reasons, you should exercise caution, especially if you are considering the use of traditional Chinese herbs that you have not used before, or are using products obtained from a different source. Any adverse reactions should be noted and reported to your doctor.

Chinese Herbs and Western Medicine

Interestingly, some traditional Chinese herbs have been adapted for use in Western medicine. For example, artemisinin, a compound used worldwide to treat resistant strains of malaria, is derived from Chinese wormwood (qinghao), a traditional Chinese herbal medicine. Other uses for artemisinin, including its potential for being an anti-carcinogen, are currently under research and clinical trial.