Based on thousands of years of observation and practice, Chinese medical literature has systematically documented more than 5,000 medicinal herbs. These substances are normally prepared from the whole or part of a plant in natural forms: seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark or flowers. An herb can contain a huge complex of organic and inorganic compounds that, as a whole, make up its unique medicinal profile. Although a single herb can be administered, typical Chinese herbal formulas contain from 2-15 different herbs. These formulas can be cooked and served as tea, or prepared in the form of pills or granules.

Chinese herbal medicines function as a whole food rather than as an extracted and purified single ingredient. Modern research has revealed that many Chinese herbs act through one or more pharmacological mechanisms. Many active components have been isolated from herbs used in Chinese medicine and some are used in modern pharmaceutical drugs. They include ephedrine for hypotension (ephedra sinica stapf), artemisinin for malaria (artemisia annua l.), and berberine, an antibacterial component from Chinese goldthread (optis chinensis franch). When administered by an educated and experienced practitioner, Chinese herbs have shown little or no adverse side effects.

Please note that in the state of New York, prescribing herbs does not require a license. However, herbs can have powerful effects on the body, and it is advisable to seek a licensed and experienced practitioner when choosing herbal medications. Remember, every body has a unique makeup, so something you read in a magazine, or that works for a friend, may not be the best option for your body.