Drink them, swallow them or dissolve them, best ways to take Chinese Herbs

There are many options beyond taking capsules to consume Chinese herbal supplements.  Since capsules contain anywhere from 35%-50% filler  (inactive starch) you may want to check into other options for your herbal medicine.  Here are three you might want to consider.

Alcohol tinctures are made from herbs soaked in alcohol.  The cooking process varies with this modality.  This method has a not unpleasant taste, but Traditional Chinese Medicinal herbs were, and still are, cooked or decocted in water.  Clinical studies done in China for the past several decades reveal the proven effectiveness of herbs which have been cooked in a water decoction, not alcohol extracts.  The Traditional Chinese Medicine community does not have the research to back up alcohol tincture herb formulas.  Additionally, data such as herb to extract ratio is often not disclosed.  Since there is considerable difficultly in achieving a high concentration ratio through the alcohol extraction process,  along with the lack of research, it is presumptuous  to rely on the effectiveness of  this process of producing Chinese herb medicinals.

Another option when you are purchasing Chinese herbs is to take a ready-to-drink plastic pouch of vacuum-packed extracts.  This high-pressure cooking method pushes the decocted herbs into heat-resistant plastic pouches. This method is often referred to as the Korean system of herb extraction.  The cooking process for these pouches is similar to a home pressure cooker, otherwise known as a home herbal extractor.  This method is popular in both China and  the Koreas but is not very widespread with Americans.  The most likely reason this method has not gained popularity is that Americans generally do not like the taste of herbs.  These plastic pouches are equivalent to about one cup of liquid.  Drinking a brown herbal extract two or three times a day is simply beyond what most Americans will tolerate, even to benefit  their health.  This process of raw herb preparation is superior to the home stove top decoction process.  Yet the labor intensity of cooking and cleaning the machine, along with the overall expense of both the pressure cooker and packaging machine, limits its use.  The issue of volatile oil loss during the cooking process (same as the problem with the home stove top method) also limits the strength of the final products.  Another downside is that all raw herbs need to be added at the onset of cooking.  You are out of luck if you need to add aromatic herbs at the end of the cooking process, as there is simply no way to do this.

Another option for taking Chinese herbs is individual herb formula granules in individual packets.  The Chinese herbs in individual packets are fairly new to the US market but have been used in Asia for nearly ten years.  Chinese herb formula packets have the added benefit of  herbs which are cooked together.  This method preserves the proven efficacy of Chinese medicine.  Since the individual packets are air-tight, the herb granules stay fresh and do not clump, even without a starch or dextrin filler.  These Chinese herb formulas begin with a controlled low temperature cooking process which ensures that the maximum amount of beneficial active constituents are extracted from the herbs.  Volatile oils are captured with sophisticated equipment and reintroduced back into the finished products.  The decocted liquid is then dried into granules and packaged immediately for freshness.  No starch additives are needed in this type of packaging.  The major benefits are both the high concentration ratios of these products (as no filler is needed) and the ease of use.  These packets of granules can be carried easily and either poured on the tongue to swallow like a pill or mixed in water or juice to drink.  Formulas sold in packets can be easily used by the general public for many different conditions.

Taking the herbs on a daily basis is the most important thing.  So choose a mode of delivery that is convenient, yet effective.  Chinese herbal medicine is used by more than a billion people and has been used successfully for nearly two thousand years of recorded history.  You can improve your health and vitality with Chinese herbs, and sipping a cup of herb tea might be more enjoyable than popping all those capsules of filler.

Cathy Margolin is a Licensed Acupuncturist in CA and has been certified as a Diplomat in Oriental Medicine from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She has specialized in Chinese Herbs and her company PACHerbs.com carries high potency herbal products sold in individual packets for freshness. She has visited herb manufacturers in both China and Taiwan and has extensively researched Chinese herb processing. You have full permission to reprint this article provided this box is kept unchanged.

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