What You Need to Know About Chinese Herbal Medicine

chinese medicine digestive health herbal medicine

If you do a quick google search about Chinese herbal medicine you’re likely to find that it’s toxic, contaminated and not “safe.” Well, I’m here to break down for you why this is just not true.


Of course, any product can be adulterated or sourced from a less than ideal place; however, with the proper sourcing of herbs (which often includes testing when coming from China) Chinese herbal medicine is not only a robust 2000+ year old tradition but it’s also “safe” and effective.

Note: I won’t be using the term safe in this post because safety is objective and what determines safety for one person is very different from safety for someone else. Life is inherently risky and safe depending on your unique perspective and life experience. 


What is Chinese Herbal Medicine? 

Chinese herbal medicine includes over 500 single herbs. Through observation of the herbs in nature and how the herbs interact with the body, these herbs have been categorized based on various properties. These properties include taste; such as bitter, sweet or bland, as well as temperature. 

There are many categories of Chinese herbs, such as Qi tonics, Blood tonics, Yin tonics, Yang tonics, Qi regulators, Blood movers, and so on. These herbs have a long history of use and have now been rigorously studied for their biochemical constituents as well.  

Chinese herbal medicine includes everything from the simple use of ginger or cinnamon in cooking to the use of complex formulas that have been used for centuries. 


How are herbs used? 

Chinese herbs are most commonly used in combinations known as formulas. Each formula is balanced in a way to reduce any negative side effects and enhance the actions of the herbs, all while addressing the individual’s unique disposition.

Herbs are traditionally decocted, meaning they are cooked at a low simmer for 20 or more minutes. Typically herbs that are barks or roots require a longer cook time while herbs that are flowers or possess an aromatic quality require a shorter cook time.

You can also use Chinese herbs to make pastes for external use, powders to be rolled with honey or medicinal wines that are more like how we use tinctures in the western world. All of these methods of taking herbs can be beneficial. 

What’s most common now for easier use are granules, also known as extract powders. This is a process of decocting the herbs on a large scale and dehydrating them for a more concentrated herbal powder that can be mixed with water. This allows you to receive the benefit of decocting the plant material, which extracts important constituents like polysaccharides, without actually needing to cook your herbs on a daily basis. 

Chinese herbs, especially tonics, require consistent use to experience the lasting benefits so it’s not always reasonable or desirable to decoct herbs daily! 

As more people gain access and awareness around the benefits of Chinese herbal medicine, you will also find tinctures becoming more popular.  The products that we make at Womb Medicine are dual extract tinctures, meaning they combine a process of decoction and alcohol extraction for the benefit of a shelf-stable herbal product while maintaining potency! This makes it even easier than granules to dose herbs consistently.


Common Benefits of Using Chinese Herbal Medicine 

 As you can imagine with over 500 single herbs there are countless formulas and combinations of herbs for a variety of ailments and overall vitality support. 


Chinese herbs have been shown in research to
  •  Be anti-inflammatory
  •  Regulate the immune response.  
  •  Be antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal
  •  Benefit red blood cell production
  •  Positively benefit hormone production and clearance
  •  Improve microcirculation to the ovaries
  •  Improve blood flow to the womb and uterine lining 
  •  Improve brain function
  •  Benefit the gut microbiome
  •  Reduce the impacts of stress and benefit cortisol production 
  •  And so much more! 


Whether you’re considering using Chinese herbal medicine for a common cold (hello popular Yin Qiao San!), try a few new herbs in your weekly broth or completely revitalize your womb and hormone health, there is something here for you! 


How I use herbs professionally

Besides crafting all the formulas sold through Womb Medicine, I also offer custom formulas for women who work with me one on one. These are often granules or granules that have been encapsulated. Chinese herbal medicine is dynamic and can be used in different ways.

For example, for an acute situation like a common cold, you might need a few different formulas as the cold progresses. So don’t assume that Chinese herbal medicine doesn’t work if you try something without noticing a change! It’s likely that you just didn’t have the right formula for your stage of illness. 

For more chronic or ongoing challenges, I often use more complex formulas that address both the underlying “root” issue and the “branch” or the manifestation of current symptoms. It’s important to attend to both.

For example, you might be experiencing period pain that requires some blood moving herbs but the cause of the period pain is lack of nourishment and long term stress. So the formula would also need some Blood and Qi tonics to support long term healing.

When using herbs for ongoing issues, you might not notice an immediate shift but with consistent use for 3-6 months you can see big shifts! 


A few parting tips for getting started 

The Womb Medicine shop makes it easy for you to choose something based on your needs. I recommend starting with Support Your Spleen. It’s a great tonic formula that benefits digestion, mental health, blood sugar regulation and overall vitality. 

 Not convinced? Then start by adding some astragalus, shiitake or reishi to your broths, soups and stews. These are all great Qi tonics for increasing your root level vitality. 

Also check out these chinese herbal medicine suppliers that I just love: 


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