Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, uses thousands of years of knowledge of the benefits of herbs — some of which we already commonly include in our diets — to support and enhance the body’s natural healing abilities. Through a careful and thorough diagnosis performed by your TCM physician or licensed acupuncturist, you’ll receive a prescription for specific herbs or formulas, tailored specifically for you, that can help improve many common health concerns.
If you’re new to TCM, you’ll probably have a lot of questions. You also may not know where to get information about adding the benefits of TCM to your current wellness program. The best place to start is a consultation with a local TCM practitioner, otherwise known as an acupuncturist who is trained and certified in Chinese herbs and formulas, who can examine you and prescribe herbs based on many unique personal factors. However, learning more about the herbs and how they are commonly used can also help guide your questions and get you started on improving your health.
Common Herbs Used in TCM
Many herbs frequently found in traditional TCM formulas may likely already have a place in your kitchen, diet and wellness regimen. In TCM, however, these all-natural ingredients, used alone or in formulas, are specially cultivated and prepared to maximize their benefits to your body’s natural function.
Consider the powerful effects of ginger, for example. Besides enhancing meals, ginger in TCM has been known and is used to calm nausea, vomiting and cold symptoms. Additionally, recent studies demonstrate its anti-inflammation, anti-oxidation and anti-cancer effects.
Similarly, licorice root — the root of the plant used to make candies and beverages — can help relieve coughs, sore throat, spasms and chronic pain and even has anti-viral and anti-tumor properties. However, it is important to avoid it in cases of hypertension and some other conditions, which is an example of why you would need to see your trained TCM practitioner to get the right herbs and formulas for you.
Fruit forms an essential part of any healthy diet, but certain fruits, such as jujube dates, also help promote healing and wellness. Jujube dates have long been prepared in soups and used for their gastrointestinal health benefits and, more recently, their positive impact on the immune system.
Other herbs which are commonly used in TCM and which may sound very familiar to you include ginseng, turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg, fennel, dandelion, kelp, and Goji berries. It’s more than likely you have half of these items in your pantry now or have tried them recently in a juice or even a tea at your favorite juice bar or coffee shop.
The majority of herbs used in TCM formulas are plant-based and are combinations of herbs, flowers, roots, branches, leaves and mushrooms, with ample case study evidence and growing scientific evidence supporting the intended use in TCM.
A complete list of herbs used in TCM would fill many volumes, so finding the right herbs to help improve whatever you’re experiencing would be quite difficult to do on your own. In addition, formulas, which we will talk about in a moment, can often do more for your health than a single herb alone, so speaking with a knowledgeable and experienced acupuncturist who is well trained in Chinese herbal medicine is the best first step.
What makes herbal formulas different than herbs?
Formulas multiply the benefits of the herbs used since preparing and taking the herbs in combination often enhances their overall effects and advantages, much the way certain foods prepared together offer higher nutritional value.
Herbal formulas come from generations of observing the cause and effect and documenting the benefits of herb combinations when taken together. A number of factors are considered to determine which formula will be prescribed for a patient, including their unique constitution, lifestyle, diet and pattern of symptoms. As symptoms changes, so, too, will the formula prescribed.
You might receive prescriptions for more than one herbal formula depending on your unique circumstances. As with any prescribed medication, you should ensure you take your TCM herbs as directed by your practitioner.
How To Use TCM Herbs
Under the guidance of your licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, you will take your TCM herbs and formulas in capsular, granular or tablet form, much like you would ordinary medications, in quantities carefully prescribed for you.
TCM herbs and formulas can help patients with a wide variety of concerns including:
- Symptoms related to colds and flu (cough, congestion, runny nose, sore throat, etc.)
- Sleep problems
- Digestive health
- Joint pain
- PMS and Fertility
- Balancing Blood Pressure
- Strengthening of the immune system
- Thyroid problems
- Menopause symptoms
Patients can find relief for these and many other problems through acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
The key to finding the right herbs or formulas for you will be visiting a licensed acupuncturist who is trained in Chinese herbal medicine and having an open discussion of your concern and past medical history. While complications are rare, some herbs should be avoided under certain circumstances, for example, if you have specific allergies or hypertension, or during pregnancy. Because so many herbs with known benefits exist, your practitioner can substitute another herb or formula to help with your concern in these instances.
You can achieve natural health now — harnessing the power of your own body — through TCM
Traditional Chinese Medicine offers men and women of every age an opportunity to improve their health in the most natural way possible — aiding their own body’s innate healing powers. These herbs and formulas do more than nourish; they support the body to aid in the healing process. Because of their potent effects on the body, patients should seek the guidance of a licensed acupuncturist who is certified in herbal medicine to get the full benefits of Chinese herbs and formulas safely.
A TCM practitioner can provide those interested in Chinese herbal medicine with more information about the long history of TCM and, more importantly, how Chinese herbal medicine can help them feel better now. We hope you will take some time to explore TCM in more detail, and, as always, we wish you good health!