For centuries, China and other Asian countries have embraced herbal therapy. Now America is beginning to see the value of combining Chinese herbs with Western medicine.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
In 2012, Ohio joined an increasing number of states that license Oriental Medicine practitioners to prescribe herbs like Ginseng, reishi mushroom and astragalus.
This is good news for the many patients and physicians who have asked about Chinese herbs over the years.
Herbal therapy: Who benefits
Chinese herbs can help if:
- You haven’t responded to acupuncture treatments
- You’ve tried all conventional medical options
- You want to decrease medication side effects
How Chinese herbs restore balance
Like acupuncture, herbal therapy addresses unhealthy body patterns. Doing so can restore balance and strengthen your resistance to disease. Here is how Chinese herbs can help:
- Cold and flu: They can reduce runny nose and cough and build immunity.
- Persistent fatigue: They can increase energy.
- Sinusitis: They can reduce nasal congestion and improve breathing.
- Diarrhea and constipation: They can improve digestion and regulate bowel movements.
- Insomnia: They can improve sleep quality.
- Menopause: They can help relieve hot flashes.
- Infertility: They can balance hormones to promote healthy cycles.
- Cancer treatment: They can reduce side effects from chemotherapy and radiation.
- Diabetes: They can help keep prediabetes from becoming diabetes.
Why talking to your doctor is important
If you’re interested in trying Chinese herbs, start by consulting your doctor. If your doctor clears you, look for an herbalist who is trained and licensed. Then make sure the herbalist is willing to work with your physician.
Your herbalist will ask for a detailed health history, including past and current illnesses. He or she will want to know which medications you’re taking too. This is important because herbs and drugs may not interact well together.
Prescribing herbs, monitoring therapy
Herbalists work from a traditional Chinese medicine text called Materia Medica that lists thousands of plant and other extracts. Your herbalist may prescribe a traditional formula or create a custom-compounded formula for you.
Chinese herbs often take the form of easy-to-digest capsules. But herbal therapy may also involve teas, liquid extracts, granules or powders. Whatever the form, make sure your herbalist uses only the highest-quality products.
It’s important that your herbalist and doctor follow your progress. Checking liver and kidney function regularly will ensure that you’re metabolizing herbs correctly.
Chinese herbs are an important component of holistic therapy. In trained hands and with medical supervision, herbal therapy is good medicine.
Center for Integrative Medicine: Chinese Herbal Therapy Fact Sheet