What is Chinese Herbal Medicine ?
- Written by Louise Stevens
What does Chinese Herbal Medicine treatment involve?
Treatment with CHM involves the use of combinations of herbs which are designed to correct the particular disharmony of the individual. The Chinese materia medica contains several hundred commonly used ingredients, including roots, stems, flowers, leaves and barks. The principle is that a number of ingredients, usually 8 - 14 different herbs, are used in combination to match the individual patient, thus we treat the person not just the disease. Herbal medicine is very good for maintaining health and well being throughout chronic illnesses by supporting the constitution and adapting to the patients' changing needs.
CHM may be administered in a variety of ways. Most commonly it is prescribed either as a tea, to be made up from raw herbs or from concentrated powders, or as ready-made formula in tablet form. External preparations are also used, including creams, ointments and washes for skin conditions, and compresses for traumatised tissue. Chinese herbal teas can taste unusual but most people get accustomed to them quickly. It is also possible to get some preparations as a tincture.
Although the herbs, roots and flowers may look a little eccentric and unusual to our clinical eye, it is important that the whole herb is ingested to gain its full potential. Many studies have found this to be true. Effectiveness drops dramatically once a substance is stripped down to its supposed 'active ingredients'. Each herb or substance contains a number of active ingredients and each enhances the others properties.
'Nature hangs in a delicate balance'
Are Chinese Herbs safe?
Serious adverse effects from CHM are very rare, and it has a very good safety record. However, ‘natural’ does not in itself mean safe. It is therefore essential that you are treated by a practitioner who is trained to a high standard, who complies with UK laws which have banned the use of certain toxic herbal ingredients, who monitors each case carefully to ensure that the patient has no unusual reactions to treatment, and uses suppliers with a proven record of reliability. It is also important that your practitioner takes note of any drug treatment that you may be receiving, in order to ensure that there is no incompatibility between such treatment and particular ingredients in the CHM prescription. RCHM demands high standards for admission, imposes stringent rules on its members, and is actively engaged in initiatives to ensure quality control of herbs and herbal products. The public is therefore well-advised to seek help from RCHM members.
All members of the BAcC must observe a Code of Practice which lays down stringent standards of hygiene of sterilisation for needles and other equipment. These procedures have been approved by the Department of Health and provide protection against the transmission of infectious diseases. Patients who have been treated by a BAcC member are not eligible to donate blood through the National Blood Service for 3 months after treatment has ended.