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About Chinese Herbal Medicine & FAQs

About Chinese Herbal Medicine & FAQs

Chinese Medicine (CM) uses plants- berries, leaves,roots and bark and minerals to treat disease, These medicinals are mixed together and used in combinations called formulas, These can be tailored to fit an individual’s health, The aim is to treat the underlying cause of ill health while also addressing the main symptom,
To prescribe the correct herbal formula the practitioner must gain a thorough understanding of the main symptom(s) and the overall pattern of a patient’s health, This requires an analysis of how the body systems are functioning-ie sleep,regularity of bowels/ bladder, physical sensations of hot/cold, digestion etc as well as emotional and mental health.
The pulse and tongue are also examined as these give a clear and immediate reflection of the interior landscape.
In CM patterns of health are analysed in detail ie
  • Excess / fullness eg inflammation, phlegm
  • Deficiency / emptiness eg fatigue, asthma
  • Heat / Cold eg night sweats, cold extremities
  • Dryness / Rheum eg dry skin, puss
  • Interior /Exterior eg an internal organ problem, a skin issue
  • Pathogenic Factor Remaining eg post viral fatigue
This helps draw up a diagnosis that can describe the interior landscape of the body in a precise manner ie Heat above/cold below with an accumulation of damp (this is drying up of body fluids) in the lower body, Herbs are then prescribed accordingly: in most cases there is an underlying deficiency that has caused an accumulation / excess to occur: thus it is often necessary to use herbs to help clear the excess and then strengthening the deficiency.

Are Animal Products used in Chinese Medicine?

Alex Wood only uses plant and mineral ingredients to make up the majority of herbal prescriptions. Different parts of a plant can have different uses eg the flowers can affect fertility while roots can aid absorption. Minerals - such as ground up shells are occasionally used as these have specific properties and actions that cannot be found in plants. Rarely animal bones are used from cattle- as bones can have a greater mineral /vitamin content and more restorative actions than minerals or plants. Otherwise no animal products are used.

Are there side effects?

There are seldom any side effects - just the bad taste! Herbal medicine will only make your symptoms worse if the herbalist gets the formula completely wrong- which seldom happens.

Everyone is different and so every formula is different - the more suited a formula is to your body the less likelihood of side effects.

If you have a high number of allergies to reduce the risk of a reaction to a formula the ingredients are usually simplified and one can take a small teaspoon of a herb formula as a tester first.

Pharmaceutical drugs are concentrated -so are fast acting but the downside is they will cause side effects.

Where are they sourced from? Are they safe?

All herbs prescribed by Alex Wood are purchased from suppliers approved by the Royal College of Chinese Herbal Medicine and the British Herbal Medicine Association. Both of these organisations promote high standards of quality and safety within all herbal medicines. The majority are grown in Asia and China grown without pesticides and man made fertilisers wherever possible.

This ensures the safety of all herbs and formulas prescribed.

Herbalists use a yellow card system to alert the Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee of (HMAC) any problems with a possible herb. Researchers are constantly looking at herbs and their effect on humans. This committee has the same ranking as the Committee of the Safety of Medicines and will decide on whether certain herbs are safe or not. The HMAC are made up of leading practitioners of Chinese Medicine, Pharmacologists, Ayurveda and Western Herbalists.

Are Herbs Safe to Take for Fertility?

Yes-certain herbs can help improve fertility for both men and women.

Is it safe to take Herbal Medicine when pregnant or breastfeeding?

Yes- however it is important to see a qualified herbalist: some herbs can support a growing baby to thrive throughout pregnancy and help with various pregnancy related problems.

How do I take the herbs? & which companies supply them?

Herbs are usually prescribed as tablets or granules. The latter is the most powerful and effective way of taking herbs .A prescription is given in daily sachets for a week approx. The sachet is added to half a mug of boiling water, left to steep and drunk. These are called Full Composition Granules FCG and have been developed over a decade of intensive research by the leading Chinese herbal pharmaceutical company called Kang Ren Tang. This avoids the need for patients to boil raw herbs but ensures the herbs do not lose any of their benefits and quality. For more information visit

Some prescriptions are in tablet form: these are a lower dose format and are usually prescribed for chronic conditions to help strengthen underlying deficiency. The formulas are purchased from:

How long do I take herbs for? & when will I feel their benefits?

Usually the effects of herbs take around 2-3 weeks as they build up strength in the body. Some prescriptions are to be taken in a few days while others are more long term i.e. months even years: this is because some formulas may be clearing an infection while others may be acting as a supplement.

Some of the improvements seen after taking herbs can be quite subtle while others may be more noticeable depending on what is being treated. Herbs treat the whole body, clearing up problems that may have been hindering the body’s ability to function efficiently. Consequently people tend to feel more energy, sleep better, their digestion improves and they have a greater sense of overall well being and health.

Can herbs be used alongside pharmaceutical medication?

Yes- in the majority of cases a herbal formula will actually help the pharmaceutical medication achieve its goal as the body starts to function better. Occasionally there are contraindications but a trained herbalist will know these.

"Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go everything that isn’t you etc"