Here at our clinic, we maintain a full herbal dispensary. Plants are powerful healing allies! When taken properly, they can alleviate health disharmonies and disease. Whenever possible, we purchase organic, wild-crafted and sulfur-free herbs. All Chinese herbs are of the highest quality and are extensively tested for contaminants, heavy metals and pesticides.
What is an herb? Herbs are plants, minerals, shells, mushrooms and animal parts that are used for medicinal purposes. From plants, parts used are: leaf, flower, root, stems, bark, rootbark, vine, berry, seed, fruit, peels, saps and resins. Minerals include gypsum and talc. Examples of shells are abalone and oyster. There are many medicinal mushrooms that serve human health and vitality: reishi, shiitake, poria and akebia are a few examples. Animal parts include chicken gizzards, deer musk, antler, ox or bear gallbladder, turtle shell, and some insect parts such as cicada shell and earthworm. Our clinic stocks very few animal products and opposes the use of endangered / threatened species and products that are obtained by animal cruelty practices.
Our dispensary holds bulk herbs, granular herbs, tinctured herbs, and tablets/pills. Most of the time, a custom formula is written up and blended just for you to match your needs at the time of your visit.
Bulk or Raw herbs are herbs that are dried and unprocessed. Once your custom formula is blended, you take the packets of herbs home to boil into a "tang" - the chinese word for tea or decoction. Your herbs are generally cooked and strained twice - the two batches of tea are blended and drunk 2-3 times per day. This can be very strong medicine! Some herbs in your formula may need to cook longer, and must boil before the rest of the formula is added (herbs such as shells, minerals) and other herbs need a shorter cook and should be added at the end of the second boiling (herbs such as catnip or peppermint).
Our bulk herbs are all stored in glass jars and a meticulous inventory is kept up to ensure the herbs are replaced as needed. Herbs are handled with scoopers and/or gloved hands at all times.
Granules are a recent innovation in Chinese herbal medicine - they have only been in use for the past 20 years or so. They truly are convenient in that they do not need to be boiled for a long period of time. The manufacturers have decocted the herbs and then removed the water content. The herbs you receive look like a powder which you add to hot water and reconstitute into a medicinal tea. Granules are usually concentrated at a ratio of 1:5. For more info on the granules we stock, visit the manufacturer websites:
Tinctures are liquid extracts of herbs. The herbs have been steeped in alcohol and then extracted. The alcohol can remove many constituents that are not soluble in water and therefore the resultant extract is more concentrated. When taking a tincture, the dose is much lower than a cup of tea, the tincture bottle is easily portable and therefore it is easier and more convenient to take regularly. Your tincture dose can be added to a cup of tea or some hot water to evaporate off some of the alcohol. A typical tincture dose (1 tsp/5 ml) has the alcohol equivalent of 1/6th of a glass of wine.
These are convenient, easy to take, and very effective but have less ability for customization. All tablets, pills & capsules are from reputable companies that begin with very high quality herbs and abide by the most stringent GMP guidelines in the manufacturing process. For more info on the tablets, pills & capsules that we stock, visit the manufacturers websites:
Can I take herbs if I am on medication?
It depends on the medication you are taking, and the herbs that are properly suited for your condition. It is best to bring a complete list of your medication in with your first visit. Acupuncturists are required by the state of California to receive 8 hours of training in herb-drug interactions every 2 years to get license renewal. Cindy fulfills this requirement by attending seminars by John Chen, L.Ac., PharmD who is a licensed acupuncturist and pharmacist.
I heard on the news that herbs are dangerous. Is this true?
The media tends to hype things up a bit, and some herbs have gotten some bad press lately. Most of these reports are taken out of context and/or the herb was not used properly.
For example, traditional herbalists would never use ma-huang for weight loss! It is used in a safe dose for asthma and respiratory disorders. In addition, the manufacturer of that ma-huang product had taken out only one compound found in the ma-huang plant and concentrated it in a capsule. In its natural, raw form, ma-huang has hundreds of other chemicals and natural buffers to help mitigate possible side effects.
In one report where an herb was blamed for liver failure, the patient was also taking liver toxic medication! The safest and most effective way to use herbs is to seek guidance from someone who is experienced and knowledgable about how to use them.
See Dr. Duke's list in the next column for some perspective!
Chances of death from:
Herbs: 1 in 1 million
Supplements: 1 in 1 million
Poisonous Mushrooms: 1 in 100,000
Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatories: 1 in 10,000
Murder: 1 in 10,000
Hospital Surgery: 1 in 10,000
Car accident: 1 in 5,000
Improper use of medication: 1 in 2,000
Angiogram: 1 in 1,000
Alcohol: 1 in 500
Cigarettes: 1 in 500
Properly prescribed medication: 1 in 333
Medical mishap: 1 in 250
Iatrogenic hospital infection: 1 in 80
Bypass Surgery: 1 in 20
This list was compiled by researcher Dr. Jim Duke, PhD. (he calls it 'Dr. Duke's death list) to put the safety of herbs in perspective.