All Things Chinese Medicine:

What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?

Chinese herbal medicine is the prescription of natural substances to fight disease, nourish, regulate and balance bodily functions to restore or support health.

Over 400 different substances are regularly used in Chinese herbal medicine in Australia. The majority of the substances are plant products like leaves, seeds, roots, flowers and fruits. Many are common herbs and foods, such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, dates and mint. A few substances used are derived from minerals, and occasionally some animal products are used.

Different types of Chinese herbal medicines:

Chinese herbal medicines are commonly taken raw, granulated or in pill form. Herbal medicines can also be prescribed as a tincture or used externally in the form of a cream, paste or douche.

At Gardenvale Traditional Chinese Medicine (GTCM) we prefer to use concentrated granule herbal extracts. The granules pass stringent quality control systems and offer both a convenient delivery form and the best consistency, efficacy and safety.

Granule herbs patent pills
Raw herbs Granulated herbs Patent pills

How to take Chinese herbal medicine:

Granule herbs are mixed into your own individual prescription by your Chinese medicine practitioner and are easy for you to prepare at home by dissolving them in boiled water before drinking. Although the taste of herbal medicine can be rather ‘earthy’ or bitter, preparing and taking granulated Chinese herbs is as easy as making a cup of instant coffee.

Chinese herbal medicines should generally be taken 2-3 times a day. Depending on the complaint herbs may be prescribed for a few days or for several months.

At GTCM we stock a range of Chinese patent medicines such as pills, cough syrups, oils, herbal teas and other products.

Does Chinese herbal medicine contain animal products or endangered species?

As registered Chinese medicine practitioners we do not use or support the illegal use of any substances derived from endangered species.
Chinese medicine is highly regulated in Australia. We adhere to the strict laws and guidelines relating to the use of animal and plant products that are in place here and only use and prescribe herbal products approved by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

At GTCM we use substances derived from accepted animal products only very occasionally. These substances can have great therapeutic effects for certain conditions and may be deemed necessary for satisfactory treatment outcomes. We never include any animal products in your Chinese herbal medicine mix if you are vegetarian or otherwise opposed to ingesting animal products.

Is it safe to take Chinese herbs when taking other medications?

In most cases Chinese herbal medicines can safely be taken in conjunction with other medications. It is usually sufficient to take the herbal medicine a couple of hours away from drugs or supplements.

Chinese herbs can have strong pharmacological effects and should only be taken as prescribed by a qualified practitioner to minimise any risk of adverse effects or possible drug interactions. It is very important you inform your Chinese medicine practitioner of any medications and supplements (prescribed AND non-prescribed) you are taking, as well as any allergies you have.

Can children take Chinese herbal medicine?

Yes, it’s generally safe for children to take prescribed Chinese herbal medicines. Dosages will vary according to the age and size of the child.

For more information on Chinese medicine for children read here.

Is it safe to take Chinese herbs during pregnancy & when breastfeeding?

While some herbal medicines should not be taken during pregnancy or when breastfeeding, a qualified practitioner will always take the individual’s circumstances into account and prescribe herbal medicines that can be taken safely during these times. In fact, Chinese herbs can be used in the treatment of many complaints experienced during pregnancy such as nausea, fluid retention, headaches and constipation. Chinese herbal medicine can also help with conditions relating to breastfeeding such as mastitis, lack of milk or to help weaning.

What is the cost of Chinese herbal medicine?

The cost will depend on the type of herbs and the dosage prescribed. Generally raw and granulated herbs cost more up front than patent pills. For quicker and stronger effects it is often an advantage paying a bit more for a personalised granulated herb mix as opposed to a patent pill. However, the pills can also work well and are at times more convenient, for instance when travelling.

For an adult on a ‘standard’ dose of herbs the weekly cost of pills would be approximately $18 and granules $30-50*. Most people spend a lot more than that on their daily coffees, smoothies or soft drinks!

You can read more about Chinese herbal medicine here or check our FAQ for answers to commonly asked questions.

Christina Tolstrupby Christina Tolstrup

Qualified Chinese Medicine Practitioner @Gardenvale Traditional Chinese Medicine

See practitioner Nick Conquest do a quick mix of granulated herbs for one of his clients here…