What is herbal medicine?
Any herb that can help promote healing in the body is considered a medicinal herb. You may already be familiar with some of them because we use them in daily cooking such as culinary herbs and spices like thyme, rosemary, basil, cinnamon and cardamom.
Different parts of the plants can be used for medicine, such as the roots, stems, leaves, flowers or seeds. Each herb has a scent, flavor, therapeutic and energetic property.
Herbal medicine is used to prevent and treat disease; and to improve and maintain health.
Herbal medicine has been used for millennia in different parts of the world and in different cultures.
Why use herbal medicine and how does it work?
Herbs as medicine have been used by many cultures throughout history. The main purpose of using herbal medicine is to bring the body back into balance to treat and prevent disease.
Herbal medicines have active constituents that have a certain effect on the body. Herbalists believe the effect of the whole plant is greater than its parts. Herbs are often used in combination in formulas to address specific conditions.
Chinese herbal medicine is one of the oldest systems of medicine with the longest history of use, effectiveness, and safety with minimal side effects when prescribed correctly by a trained herbalist.
Herbal medicine works by supporting your body’s innate ability to heal. In Chinese medicine, we identify the imbalance in the body, diagnose what pattern you have and prescribe the appropriate herbal formula.
Chinese Herbal Medicine is one of the most important parts of Chinese Medicine treatment. Each herb has a specific interaction with the body and when combined, the synergistic effect of the herbs can be profound and provide long-lasting changes to improve your health.
What is the history of Chinese herbal medicine?
Here is a brief history of Chinese herbal medicine, which has been around for more than a millennia.
The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica or Shennong Ben Cao is the earliest Chinese medicine herbal book with over 360 herbs identified and classified. Shennong, known as the divine farmer, was said to have tasted hundreds of herbs and found which had medicinal properties. As a result of his work, many herbs began to be used for its medicinal properties and the knowledge passed down over the centuries. Shennong lived more than 5,000 years ago.
Zhang Zhongjing, one of the most famous Chinese physicians who defined the canon of Chinese medicine, lived 1,772 years ago. He was one of the most important and influential herbalists in Chinese herbal medicine history. His works were recorded in the Shan Han Lun (Discussion of Cold Damage) and the Jingui Yaolue (Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Cabinet). Many of his formulas are still used by modern herbalists today.
Are Chinese herbs safe?
Prescribed by a trained practitioner, herbal medicine is very effective, gentle and safe to use. If needed, herbal medicine can be used for any age and constitution, including children and pregnant women.
One of the benefits of Chinese herbal medicine preparations is the sophisticated art of combining individual herbs into a formula. Formulas are specifically created to increase the clinical efficacy of each herb and reduce its potential side effects.
Many of the formulas and herbal traditions used more than a thousand years ago are still used by modern practitioners today. These formulas have been tried and tested for thousands of years of clinical use and are modified based on the individual patient’s needs.
What quality assurances are there for herbal medicines?
At Little Sage, we carry only the highest quality of herbs available from suppliers that are the most reputable and test herbs to make sure they are free of pesticides (insecticides, herbicides and fungicides) and are free from sulphur, chlorine and aluminum phosphate. Our main herb supplier is one of the best in the industry and has a close relationship with the growers of the herbs. They make sure that Chinese herbs are correctly identified and are the right species; they are clean, fresh and of good color and sapor to meet rigorous inspection. Rigorous testing is conducted for each herb and our herb supplier has the most rigorous pesticide testing program in the industry.
We also carry ready made patent herbs in granule, capsule, tablet and tincture from the most reputable and established herbal companies that rigorously test their products to make sure they meet the highest standards and that there are no microbes and heavy metals.
How do you find a qualified herbalist?
Most clinical herbalists that practice in a professional setting would have gone through an accredited program of herbal studies that require supervision training and an examination. When looking for a qualified herbalist, ask about their education and clinical experience.
For Chinese herbal medicine in particular, Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners are required to go through a minimum of 4 years of didactic and practical training at an accredited school to study acupuncture and herbal medicine, and pass a national board examination. In California, you are also required to qualify for and pass the California Acupuncture Licensing Exam (CALE) administered by the California Acupuncture Board (CAB).
There is also a national certification examination administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). The Licensing requirements will differ in each state.
Most Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners specializing in a particular area of medicine, like women’s health, dermatology or pediatrics, often get additional training to deepen their knowledge about a particular specialty.