AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine

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Frequently Asked Questions

Herbal Medicine Frequently Asked Questions

What conditions are appropriately treated by Chinese herbal medicine?
What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?
What types of substances are used in Chinese medicine?
How does Chinese herbal medicine differ from pharmaceutical drugs?
I take pharmaceutical drugs—can I still take Chinese herbs?
What can Chinese herbal medicine help with?
How long will I need to take Chinese herbs?
What forms do the herbs come in?
Where do you get your herbs?
How much do the herbs cost?
Is it safe for children to take herbs?
Can I refill my herbal prescription?
How do I refill my herbal prescription?
Why do most bulk herbs at AOMA Herbal Medicine require a prescription?

What conditions are appropriately treated by Chinese herbal medicine?
Chinese herbal medicine treats the full range of human disease such as acute illness--like flu and the common cold--to chronic disease, such as allergies, gynecological disorders, autoimmune diseases, chronic viral diseases, and degenerative diseases due to aging. Herbal medicine can also help to maintain or create balance and health before disease sets in.

What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?
Chinese Herbal Medicine is one of the great herbal systems of the world. The literate tradition of case histories extends back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). Therapeutic categories include digestives, materials that improve circulation, nervous system calming agents, antimicrobials and more. 

What types of substances are used in Chinese medicine?
Traditional Chinese herbal medicine consists of over 11,500 substances derived from plant, animal, and mineral sources. If you are opposed to the use of animal products in your treatment, please let your practitioner know. AOMA practitioners do not use substances from endangered species.

How does Chinese herbal medicine differ from pharmaceutical drugs?
Many pharmaceuticals are derived from herbal medicine. However, drugs usually rely on singular molecular compounds, many of which are isolated extracts of the plants’ active ingredients. Using the whole plant in herbal medicine is more balanced and less likely to cause side effects. Chinese herbs are usually prescribed in combination to increase the efficacy of the formula and help decrease any possible side effects. Most importantly, for an herbalist, the goal of treatment is not to simply relieve symptoms but to treat the internal imbalance at the root of the problem.

I take pharmaceutical drugs—can I still take Chinese herbs?
It is very important to let your practitioner know about any pharmaceuticals that you are currently taking. In most cases, taking Chinese herbs is not contraindicated for people who are also taking pharmaceutical drugs. There are some exceptions to this, however, so it is very important to only take herbs that have been prescribed by a licensed practitioner.

What can Chinese herbal medicine help with?
Chinese herbal medicine can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including, but not limited to:

  • Skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, and hives,
  • Gastrointestinal disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, and ulcerative colitis,
  • Gynecological conditions, including pre-menstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, and infertility,
  • Respiratory conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, chronic coughs, and allergies,
  • Rheumatological conditions (e.g. osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis),
  • Urinary conditions including chronic cystitis,
  • Psychological issues (e.g. depression, stress, and anxiety).

How long will I need to take Chinese herbs?
This can vary on a case-by-case basis. Generally, if an acute condition is being treated, you can expect to see results fairly quickly using herbs. If the condition is more chronic, you may need to take the herbs for a longer period of time before you achieve lasting results. It is important to keep your practitioner informed of any changes in your condition so that s/he can modify your treatment accordingly.

What forms do the herbs come in?
The four basic forms of Chinese herbs are pills, powders, tinctures, and teas made from bulk herbs. All of the forms are effective, but you should discuss with your practitioner which will work best for you.

Bulk herbs are the most potent, but they also require the most work. You will need to boil the herbs at home to make a tea. Usually, a new batch of herbs will need to be boiled every two days.  

Powdered herbs have already been processed, so you just need to measure them out and dissolve them in hot water.  The advantage of both the bulk and powdered herbs is that your practitioner is able to make a customized formula based on your specific symptoms. The drawback is that many herbs have a strong flavor that you may or may not find pleasant. Both the bulk and powdered herbs can be used in topical applications to treat various skin conditions or traumatic injuries with bruising or swelling.

The pills are the most convenient form, and are a good choice for people who may need to be on a formula for an extended period of time. The disadvantage of the pills is that they aren’t able to be customized. You may need to take more than one formula at a time to address your symptoms.

Herbal tinctures are made by soaking the bulk herbs in an alcohol base to extract the herbs’ active components. They are also a very convenient and portable method of taking the herbs, but are not suitable for people who cannot tolerate alcohol.

Where do you get your herbs?
The AOMA dispensary carries herbal products from sources that comply with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). These standards require that the medicinals receive rigorous testing for heavy metals, bacteria, pesticides, and other contaminants. Further, all materials can be traced to their source and have batch number controls consistent with best practices. The vast majority of the herbs sold through our dispensary are grown in China and distributed through American companies that also comply with GMP.

How much do the herbs cost?
The cost will vary depending on what form of the herbs you have been prescribed. Prices can range anywhere from $10 to around $30 for one week’s worth of herbs.

Is it safe for children to take herbs?
In China, pediatrics is a Traditional Chinese Medicine specialty that includes the use of herbal medicine. Your practitioner will modify your child’s dosage based on age and weight.

Can I refill my herbal prescription?
In most cases, yes. Some formulas are only meant to be taken short-term. Ask your practitioner how long you should expect to be on a particular formula. Often, formulas will be modified over time as your condition or symptoms change.

How do I refill my herbal prescription?
Call AOMA Herbal Medicine and one of the staff members will verify whether refills are available. If none are listed, we will ask your practitioner for authorization to refill your prescription. We will then call and let you know if the refill has been approved or if your practitioner would like you to come in for another appointment. We ask that you give the dispensary at least 24 hours to process a refill request.

Why do most bulk herbs at AOMA Herbal Medicine require a prescription?
Patient safety is paramount. A practitioner will be able to recommend the most appropriate herbal prescription to address your specific concerns. We do sell some bulk herbs to the general public that do not require a prescription. These are herbs that are considered to be foods and are often used in congees (Chinese porridges).