Alternative Medicine Traditional Chinese Herbal

The use of herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) dates back several thousand years. Although Chinese herbal remedies often lack the validation of Western research, they’re becoming an increasingly popular alternative therapy in the West.

Basics of Chinese Herbal Medicine

The theory underlying Traditional Chinese Medicine is that energy called “qi” (or “chi”) circulates through the body on pathways called “meridians.” When this energy is interrupted or unbalanced, illness occurs. The purpose of Chinese herbs is to help the body return to a balanced state.

A qualified herbalist usually begins a session by examining different areas of your body, such as the tongue, skin, eyes, hair and different pulse points, and asking you about your lifestyle and symptoms. Chinese herbal remedies can take the form of:

  • Herbal tinctures
  • Pills
  • Powders
  • Syrups
  • Teas.

Herbalists use over 400 formulas that incorporate as many as 12 ingredients. These ingredients may include some of the 4,000 herbs or 300 animal and mineral extracts commonly used in Chinese herbal medicine. Sometimes herbalists recommend dietary changes to make the herbal remedies more effective.

Benefits of Chinese Herbs

People with a variety of ailments claim to have found help from herbal medicine. Some conditions that herbs may help include:

  • ADHD
  • Addiction problems, including alcoholism
  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Hair loss (alopecia)
  • Headaches
  • Personality disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Skin disorders, such as acne and rosacea.

Special treatments are available for children and pregnant women.

Finding an Herbalist

A qualified practitioner of Traditional Eastern Medicine is usually affiliated with an organization in his field. The American Board of Holistic Medicine maintains a helpful list of traditional medicine providers across the country. A nearby TCM school may also provide a list of locally practicing herbalists, while ensuring their accreditation at the same time. Investigate the qualifications of the individual provider you select.

Using Chinese Herbal Remedies

Chinese herbs can have side effects or dangerous interactions with prescription drugs. Before beginning a new medication or a new herb, check with both your doctor and herbalist about any potential interactions with medications that you already take.

Some Chinese herbs are available over-the-counter, without visiting an herbalist, which is where you should use the most caution. Herbal remedies don’t have to undergo rigorous safety testing and in the past, a few instances of unsafely manufactured herbal products have come to light.

Even though Chinese herbal medicine has been around for almost 2,000 years, some of the ingredients for the supplements are produced in different ways today than they were traditionally. That means that their effects can be different too. Make sure you understand the benefits and risks of using Chinese herbal remedies.


American Cancer Society. (2007). Chinese herbal medicine. Retrieved August 26, 2010, from

CVS Caremark. (n.d.). Traditional Chinese herbal medicine. Retrieved August 26, 2010, from