Many patients come to The Acupuncture Clinic – Hastings and ask for some Chinese herbs for a specific complaint and think it’s like going to a health food shop and asking the sales assistant to provide the latest supplement off the shelf. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
What training is required to become a practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine?
A practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine has trained for at least four years full time to obtain a bachelors of Chinese medicine or a two years masters program. They are then able to able to diagnose the cause of the patient’s problem and which guides them to prescribe a formula from over 300 different Chinese herbs.
How are the herbs taken?
The traditional way to take Chinese herbs is to get the original dried herbs and boil them with a large amount of water until a thick strong brew is left. The taste is very bitter and many people, including Chinese, find them very unpalatable. The cooking process is also quite time consuming as it can take up to an hour to simmer the herbal brew. Modern technology has now made it possible to process the herbs and freeze dry them so it’s a bit like instant coffee. The herbs are then taken as a spoonful of granules and washed down with water.
Where do the herbs come from?
The Acupuncture Clinic uses the KO DA brand of Chinese herbs, which are safely manufactured, and laboratory tested in Taiwan. Most of the raw materials are commercially grown and sourced from specialized herb farms in China which are harvested, dried and tested, then sent to the KO DA Pharmaceutical company in Taiwan for production into herbal granule concentrates. When sourcing raw materials, KO DA implements a strict Source Management system where the agricultural environments in China are assessed and formal contracts are enforced with farmers after the assessments. The contracted farmers are required to create detailed production records in accordance to Good Agricultural Practice (GAP). Additional requirements are to inspect and record water and soil conditions before and after harvest, confirm origin of herb by testing samples of species and its properties, and adhere to all other strict planting specifications. KO DA is a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) registered manufacturing company and is one of the only herbal manufacturers in the world with GAP (Good Agricultural Practice). Their herbal granule concentrates are exported and trusted all over the world including Australia.
Are the Chinese herb extract granules as strong as the raw herbs?
Yes. In fact, the ratio of granules to raw herbs is always stronger.
What sort of quality control is there?
The KO DA brand Chinese herbs are distributed in New Zealand by Materia Medica Ltd. The herbs have been laboratory tested to the nearest parts-per-million (PPM) to ensure safety and checked for possibilities of insecticides, heavy metals, microbials and other contaminants. Quality control also means to test for the strength, efficacy and consistency of the herbal granule concentrates through raw herb identification, product stability, market/active ingredients and essential oils content. Laboratory tests are conducted throughout KO DA’s strict quality control procedures from agricultural environment, raw material, during semi-finished to finished product. To read further about Ko Da’s quality controll and certificate of analysis, please go the Ko Da website here.
How often are the herbs taken?
Usually twice a day and taken at least half an hour before or after food.
Can you take the herbs if you concurrently taking western pharmaceutical medications?
Every day millions of people take Chinese herbs including those who are also concurrently taking western medications like diabetes or high blood pressure medications. During your consultation, your Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner will discuss with you which medicines you are on and in rare instances may exercise caution in prescribing certain herbs. For example, certain blood circulation improving herbs may work even better than drugs like warfarin and the combination of the two may need to be monitored.
What if I choose to stop taking my western medications?
This is not advisable. You should consult with your doctor and discuss the options of minimizing any medications under supervision from your GP whilst undertaking treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
Do I have to keep taking Chinese herbs forever?
No. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment is designed to rectify the imbalance causing the problem and then treatment is ceased.
How long is a course of treatment?
This can vary and many factors are taken into account such age of the patient and how chronic the problem is. Certain conditions are obviously easier to treat such as a simple acute case of hay fever as opposed to long standing case of Parkinson’s disease. For many chronic conditions it may be at least 3-6 months of treatment. For example in the treatment of infertility, modern research has shown that the average course of treatment should be between 6 -18 months to obtain the best results. Chinese herbs are also used for acute conditions such as colds and flu which may only require herbs for a few days or a week.
How many different herbs are in a formulation?
On average there are 6-15 different herbs in each formulation.
Do I keep taking the same formulation for the whole course of treatment?
No. As the treatment progresses and signs and symptoms change, the formula is changed. For example, a patient may have low back pain, tiredness, dizziness and tinnitus. After a month of treatment, the tiredness may have improved but the tinnitus has not changed, so the herbs are then modified.
If the formula worked to treat my condition, can the same formula be used to treat a friend with the same symptom?
Definitely not, they are likely to have a completely different cause to their problem and the herbs could aggravate the condition.
Do I have to have acupuncture when taking Chinese herbs?
No. Some patients prefer to only take Chinese herbs to treat their problem. Patients still need to come in and see the practitioner for a consultation, review the diagnosis and monitor signs and symptoms and then have a new herbal formulation prescribed for them.
How often do I need to come in for an herbal consultation?
Initially weekly appointments are recommended, then fortnightly and then monthly.
Can I be prescribed herbs to help my general health even though I may have no major complaints?
Yes. Chinese herbs are commonly used for example to improve health, increase energy, build immunity and prevent cold and flu. Chinese herbs are also used in conjunction
Are there any side effects from taking Chinese herbs?
When Chinese herbs are prescribed by a qualified practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine taking into account the diagnosis of the patient, unwanted reactions are rare. Occasionally reactions for example like bloating or loose stools have been recorded and then at the follow up consultation the formula will be reviewed by the practitioner and modified. Some Chinese herbs are difficult to digest if the patient has an underlying weak digestive system. The side effects of Chinese herbs are usually favorable! For instance, patients report that they feel better in many ways such as more energy, elevated mood, improved sleep and increased libido.