When we speak of Chinese herbs, we are technically referring to herbs sourced straight from China. Chinese herbs are commonly employed for Chinese cooking but may also have medicinal properties that make them ideal to use in Traditional Chinese Medicine too. There are a mind-boggling number of the known Chinese herbs (more than three hundred, at last count) which have reputedly been used in various ways for around 2000 years or so.
Generally, Chinese herbs might either be boiled as a hot tea for at least an hour for the patient to sip, or the Chinese herbs could be incorporated into honey bound pills. The most common purpose for using Chinese herbs is for their health benefits, since these Chinese herbs can reportedly make the human body stronger when the herbs are consumed. Chinese herbs which have developed a strong following are Ginseng, salvia, rhubarb, rehmannia, peony, ephedra sinica, licorice, hoelen, ginger, coptis, cinnamon bark, cinnamon, bupleurum, atractylodes, astragalus, and Dong Quai. Among this list of commonly used Chinese herbs, the one which many might be very familiar with is Ginseng (because of the many commercial products that claim to use this herb as an ingredient.) Much of the Ginseng being used for these commercial products would be made up of the Red Panax ginseng variety which is more affordable than the more highly prized Wild Ginseng variety.
Though not technically part of the Chinese herbs category, there is what is known as American ginseng too, which was employed by Native Americans for their own type of health care treatments.
Are Chinese herbs safe to use? Those who strongly believe in Traditional Chinese Medicine would probably be very convinced that Chinese herbs are very effective, but anyone who is trying out Chinese herbs for the first time (as part of Chinese cuisine or as part of a Traditional Chinese Medicine program of treatment) should always practice caution before ingesting any Chinese herbs. This is because the Chinese herbs that might work for one person might not necessarily work for another. More alarming is the prospect that certain Chinese herbs might even be dangerous for some individuals to use, especially if they happen to be allergic to those Chinese herbs, or if the person is on some commercial drug preparation that might contraindicate with some Chinese herbs. If you are planning to use Traditional Chinese Medicine to complement your conventional medical treatment program, you should always consult your physician first before taking any Chinese herbs on your own. This is for your own protection. Though admittedly various Chinese herbs (like ginger which even Westerners are very familiar with in these modern times) are probably safe to consume on a regular basis, many Chinese herbs are unfamiliar to Western medical practitioners so it is prudent to incorporate such Chinese herbs into your diet and medical treatment slowly - maybe even one at a time - to observe the effects on your body.
By Xiang Lin