Chinese herbal medicine

What is Traditional Chinese herbal medicine?

Chinese herbal medicine combines various herbs, minerals, and sometimes animal products that are recorded in Chinese Materia Medica for therapeutic effects. Herbal medicine is used like any other tool in Traditional Chinese Medicine which aims to correct the disharmony or imbalance within the body to treat the person as a whole rather than treating one symptom at a time. 

What is the cost of Chinese herbal medicine?

Herbal medicine cost varies according to the amount and the duration that it is prescribed for. In addition to the consultation themselves, every individual will have different needs and the herbal medicine is personalized to each patient. The cost can vary between $4 to $15 per day. Herbal medicines are mostly prescribed in intervals of one week at minimum at a time.

What are the benefits of Chinese herbal medicine?

First of all, its therapeutic effect. Secondly, the minimization of side effects. This is possible because multiple ingredients are used to balance each other and also to achieve the therapeutic effect in more than one way. Another reason why side effects are less likely with prescribed Chinese herbal medicine is because the practitioner compounds the medicine specific to the patient’s condition and accompanying symptoms. Prescribed herbal medicine is not a generic medicine that is universally used.  

How long should you take Chinese herbal medicine for?

Duration of the consumption depends on the condition being treated and how long the condition has been present for. The general rule is that the more acute the condition it is, the less time it takes to treat it and therefore shorter you have to consume the herbal medicine for. For instance, you would only have to take herbal medicine for 3 days to resolve the runny nose and congestion associated with common cold. However, to treat long-term sinusitis, it may take 30 days of herbal medicine. The practitioner will usually gauge the approximate treatment duration in the beginning. However, they may change their opinion on required treatment duration upon reassessment during the treatment course.  

What does Chinese herbal medicine taste like?

Most people think that Chinese herbal medicines are bitter but that is not true! The taste of Chinese herbal medicine varies greatly depending on the content. Chinese herbs can have any one or combination of five different tastes. These are sour, bitter, sweet, pungent (spicy), and salty. In fact, one may even find the taste to be sweet for a herbal medicine that is intended to be more nourishing or tonifying (i.e., refilling what is lacking). 

What should I expect when taking a Chinese herbal medicine?

You will see fluctuations in your symptoms while you are on herbal medicine. There may be times when the symptoms improve, but other times when they return. This is a normal response. What should happen however, is overall improvement of the symptoms (in severity, frequency, etc.) in the long term. Think of it as drawing a positive trendline for a graph or a scatter plot. 

In addition, there will be specific expected effects for each herbal medicine, such as increase in urinary frequency or amount, looser stools, etc. This information will be given to you by the prescribing TCM practitioner. 

In some cases, you may experience a Herxheimer reaction upon taking herbal medicine, which is a temporary flu-like symptom that comes with the die-off of fungal microbes and yeast in the body. The symptoms can include nausea & vomiting, headache, possible fever, body aches, and a sense of malaise. Appearance of a Herxheimer reaction upon taking Chinese herbal medicine could be a sign that there was an intestinal dysbiosis. Herxheimer reaction resolves within 6 hours to 3 days. It is not a sign that the practitioner has prescribed the wrong Chinese medicinal formula, and rather, this specific reaction should be taken as a healing crisis. In fact, the signs and symptoms that you were experiencing prior to the treatment will markedly improve after the abatement of the reaction.  

What Chinese herbal medicine clinic services are available?

Aurum Medicine & Wellness offers virtual and in-person Chinese herbal medicine consultations. Initial herbal consultation (virtual or in-person) will take 45 minutes to complete. Follow-up consultations will last for 30 minutes.

You also have the option of coming in for an Initial Comprehensive Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine session, which takes 75 minutes to complete and includes and acupuncture treatment.   

What are the different types of Chinese herbal medicine?

Chinese herbal medicine comes in a variety of forms from raw herbs, pills, tablets, concentrated granules (or dried decoctions), and topical creams. Raw herbs require decoction, straining, and sometimes dissolving specific herbs prior to consumption in  accordance with the prescribing practitioner’s instructions. Pills are traditionally made with powders of raw herbs. In this case, powders are rolled into boluses by mixing in honey. Sometimes the mix of honey and powders are also sliced into tablets. Powders may also be made into a tea or ingested directly (swallowed with some water or tea). Many practitioners in Canada, US, Taiwan, Japan, and China use a mixture of concentrated granules nowadays due to the safety, hygiene, and high compliance of the patients. Concentrated granules are formed by distilling decoctions of the raw herb or a herbal formula and spray-locking this content into a carrier (usually starch or the dried, powdered, herb dregs). As these dried decoctions are made in large batches under the guidance of experts, it minimizes the losses that arise from cooking materials incorrectly. 

They are deemed to be safer and more hygienic because companies that manufacture the concentrated granules are monitored by GMP when importing to Canada. This process includes heavy-metal and pesticide remnant detections. Patient compliance for the concentrated granules tends to be higher than that for the raw herb decoctions due to the ease of preparation (usually prepared by dissolving the mixture into hot water).    

What team members specialize in Chinese herbal medicine?

Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner (R.TCMP) specializes in the prescription of Chinese herbal medicine. Upon completion of the herbal medicine consultation with the patient, they will research and contemplate on the condition and the appropriate herbal formula, its modifications, dosage, and the length of treatment. In addition, if you are taking multiple pharmaceuticals/drugs, there are pharmacist and naturopathic doctors within Aurum’s team that can offer consultations on interactions between the medicines you are taking and the herbal medicine.   

Does Chinese herbal medicine help with hormonal imbalance or menstrual disorders?

Yes, definitely. Hormonal imbalances such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that ranges from irritability, acne, changes in appetite, changes in bowel movement, pains in specific locations can be treated by Chinese herbal medicines. Herbal medicine can help a whole host of hormonal disorders other than that, such as irregular menstruation, uterine bleeding, menorrhagia and metrorrhagia, and thyroid dysfunctions. The medicine will work to restore the balance that you specifically need, and while some of the medicinal ingredients can have modulations on your hormones, the medicine does not mean to treat you by just feeding your body the hormone it needs.

What the medicine intends to do is to restore the function of the body so that you can effectively control the production of the hormone and other necessary biochemicals without needing to depend on the medication in future.  


  1. Decoctions, Dried Decoctions, Powders, Pills, Etc.

Essay by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon

  1. The Treatment of Modern WM Diseases with Chinese Medicine by Flaws & Sionneau