Traditional Chinese Herbal Prescriptions:
Standard Formulas & Custom Prescriptions
Although the written history of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine dates back over 4,000 years, most people are unfamiliar with how the Chinese derived the standard formulas still used today, and even more unfamiliar with the concept of polypharmacy and custom prescriptions. Herbology is just one of the modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine (combined with acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, tui na massage, therapeutic exercise, and medicated diet) that has been employed successfully in the treatment of a wide variety of chronic conditions, some of which defy modern medical diagnosis, and some for which modern medicine has yet to derive a suitable, effective treatment.
The Chinese recognized the potential for single herbs to have side effects, so they arrived at the concept of polypharmacy — combinations of several herbs — to counteract side effects of the “king” or main herb in the formula, as well as to modify the formula’s action by directing it to certain parts of the body, or treating health problems that often arise together. By writing formulas the Chinese could accommodate the age and gender of the patient, the climate in which they lived, the constellation of symptoms they reported along with their main complaint, and even emotional or mental symptoms such as worry or grief and create a prescription that brought the patient’s body back into balance — in the same way an acupuncture points prescription is used during an acupuncture treatment.
While there is some concern about the contamination of Chinese patent remedies with heavy metals, Oriental Medicine organizations in the US have recently tested major brands of patent pills for contamination and/or for use of Western pharmaceutical ingredients. While some brands are on this list, others are not. Additionally, several manufacturers in the US obtain high quality Chinese herbs and make tablets or capsules for sale in the US. American-based companies that prepare raw herbs in China before shipping powdered or freeze-dried stock to the US not only screen their sources for contaminants, they also avoid the irradiation of raw herbs which the USDA requires for import of some raw herbal products into the US to prevent cultivation.
Sample herbs used in Oriental medicine
are shown on the linked page
Herbal remedies, like pharmaceuticals, are allopathic remedies — they treat a condition with its opposite; this is different than homeopathy. However, herbs are more natural, and this is their attraction for many. Formulas are most effective and safe when written and prescribed for a patient specifically; this can also be a more economical path by shortcutting the need to combine two pill preparations for one person.
If you are interested in seeking correctly prescribed Chinese herbal formulas for your own health complaints, contact Isabeau Vollhardt, L.Ac. for an office consultation or for referral to a qualified TCM practitioner in your area.