Welcome class, take a seat and get comfortable! Today, we're going to talk about Chinese herbal formulas. There are three forms of herbs that you can take, each has its benefits and drawbacks.
Let's start with the simplest: Tea pills.
Teapills are little pills (about the size of BBs) that are pre-made in standard formulas. Because the herbs are already mixed and put together into these pills, there is no room for customizing the formula EXACTLY for each patient. Don't worry, though. Tea pills are often a pretty darn good match for many people, and most people won't experience any side effects from them. The best thing about tea pills is their convenience. You can take them with you, they're not messy and there's no preparation. There have been problems with tea pill formulas coming from China that include pharmaceuticals or heavy metals so make sure that the formula you are given is made in a Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) Certified factory.
The next step is the granular formula.
Granules are a substrate (a grain of some sort) that has been ground finely and had a Chinese herb decoction sprayed onto it. These granules can be single herbs or whole formulas. Because you can mix and match granules, you can customize the formula to each patient allowing for an exact match and no side effects. Granules are either dissolved in water and then swallowed, or some people prefer to place them on their tongue and "chase" the formula with water or their favorite juice. Granules are pretty convenient. You can bring them with you so that you can take them at the prescribed times. Granule formulas tend to have an "earthy" taste to them, with the exact flavor depending, of course, on the particular herbs used in the formula. A caution for those with food sensitivities: the substrate may be an allergenic grain (corn, wheat, rye, barley) so be sure to ask your practitioner if this is a concern.
The final type of herbal formula is a decoction.
A decoction is kind of like a tea that's made by boiling the actual dried herbs yourself at home. When I cook my herbs, I often find myself saying "Double, double toil, and trouble..." (and cackling. But hey, I'm an herb nerd!) However, you won't find eye of newt or toe of frog here - you'll usually find sticks, twigs, leaves, flowers, seeds, roots and berries. The ingredients are boiled for usually around 30 minutes, the herbs are scooped out and the liquid is what is consumed. Herbal decoctions are by far the strongest preparation of Chinese herbs, but they can take some time since you'll need to boil up a new batch of herbs everyday for the duration of the treatment. If you're vegetarian or vegan, and would prefer to not have animal products used in your formula, make sure to inform your practitioner, because there are occasionally animal products used in extreme cases.
No matter the type of Chinese herbal formula, make sure to talk with your practitioner about what will work the best for you. Remember, if you don't take your herbal formula because you didn't have the time to make it, that's not only money wasted, but health wasted!