About Chinese Herbs

Chinese Herbal Medicine

Inger uses herbs extensively in her clinic, and focuses much of her continued studies on the complex art of herbal formulating.


Chinese herbs in bulk form

Chinese herbs in bulk form

Herbs have been used in China to maintain and restore health for thousands of years.  Before the advent of acupuncture, about 2,000 years ago, the herbs were the only form of medicine available, and were so effective that they enabled China’s population to stay healthy and to become the largest now on earth.  Herbs continue to be a big part of medical treatment today.

For some conditions, there will be no substitute for acupuncture treatment.  But for many women’s health & internal medical issues — the very things that Inger specializes in — herbs can be a powerful, and even necessary adjunct to the acupuncture treatment.

Chinese herbs are prescribed very differently from western herbs or drugs.  They are combined in herbal “formulas”, with anywhere from 3 or 4 herbs being used, to as many as 20.  These formulas are traditionally customized for each person individually, and administered in bulk form, powders, or liquid.  Pre-formulated mixes called “patents”, given in pill form, are also commonly used.  Read on to discover more about each of these methods

Customized Herbal Formulas

Bulk/Customized herbs are traditionally given to the patient in paper bags that they then take home and cook, to drink as tea. However, in  modern day it is becoming more and more common for pharmacies to pre-“cook”/extract the formulas into either a liquid or powder, which the patient just needs to heat up or add to a little hot water. This drastically increases the convenience and therefore the patient-compliance in taking their herbs.

Benefits of Customized Herbal Formulas

There are definitely benefits of taking herbs this way.  First, the herbalist is able to pick and choose the exact herbs in the exact dosage that each patient needs.  As the condition changes, some herbs can be removed, and others added.  This allows for incredibly precise and flexible prescribing.  Also, customized herbs tend to be the most powerful and fast acting; so for acute cases, they are the first, and maybe the only, method of choice.  The down side is they tend to be more expensive, and depending on if patients have to cook them, are time consuming to prepare. 

Inger prescribes the powdered form of customized herbs for almost all her patients. She has found this to be a great compromise between effectiveness as well as patient convenience.

Patent herbal formulas

chinese herbs

Chinese herb “patent”, or, pills

Patents are herbal formulas that have already been combined to treat many common imbalances.  They are in pill form, so patent herbs provide a much more convenient method of taking herbs — they are very easy for the patient to carry with them and require no preparation time.  They also tend to be much less expensive. 

The downside is that because they can’t be customized for exactly what a patient needs, that impacts their effectiveness. They are also not as fast-acting or strong, so are usually not suitable for acute or severe conditions. The big exception for this is with several types of the common cold, for which I commonly prescribe herbs in pill form. When taken in the first few hours of symptoms, they literally act like magic, making the symptoms completely disappear within just a couple hours!

For chronic conditions which are already in maintenance mode, they can also be an excellent choice IF there is a pre-mixed patent that very closely matches a patient’s imbalances.

Quality of Chinese Herbs

There have been many concerns over recent years as to the purity and quality of Chinese Herbs.  This is a very real concern, and it is absolutely necessary that an herbalist know where their products come from, and that they have done extensive checks to make sure that the product they are offering is of the highest quality.  They should be able to list the steps that each manufacturer and grower has taken to ensure the quality of their herbs.