How to take your Chinese herbs

Chinese Medicine Ferntree Gully Acupuncture Ferntree Gully

Herbal pills, capsules or supplements


Chinese herbal pills, capsules or supplements should be taken at the recommended dosage by your practitioner. If you are unsure of the dosage please contact the clinic. Commonly the full adult dosage is prescribed unless your practitioner believes you need a particular dosage.


Why do I have to take so many pills?


Often a prescription will call for ten to twelve pills to be taken AM & PM, and people are sometimes surprised at the number, since they are used to pharmaceutical drug forms of one or two tablets. On the one hand, these pills are quite small compared to the usual drug tablet, and on the other, these pills are not concentrated chemicals, they are simply plants, and a certain amount of plant material is needed before there will be an effect.


Some people have trouble swallowing pills, however; if this is the case inform your practitioner and an alternative can easily be arranged.


Why does the label on my pills tell me they treat one thing, when you prescribed them to me for something else?!


Labelling for all packaged medicines in Australia is restricted by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, and Chinese herbal pills have to be labelled as if they were Western over-the-counter drugs.


This means that a traditional formula which treats a wide range of problems, all of which stem from (for example) a “Liver” imbalance in Chinese medicine terms, cannot say this on the label, because the TGA is afraid that someone with a serious liver disease will try to treat themselves with the Chinese herbal pills instead of obtaining more suitable Western medicine treatment.


Thus usually one or two ‘allowable’ symptoms are chosen to represent the wide range of what the formula actually does treat. It does make it hard to explain to a man, though, why the pills which suit him best say “for PMT”.


Powdered herbs


Granulated herbs are similar to instant coffee and are prepared in much a similar way. In most cases you will add the prescribed number of spoons into a mug then add 250mls of hot water, however the herbs taste bad, so feel free to adjust the water amount as needed. For example some clients find it easier to add a small amount of liquid, dissolving the herbs then shot the liquid while holding their nose until you wash out your mouth or eat something small like a biscuit or piece of fruit. I personally dissolve my herbs in a larger amount of liquid thus diluting the flavour. Feel free to go with what works for you.




Take the drops in water, either hot or cold. Be sure to notice that the dosage is not in ‘drops’, but ‘droppers’. To signal this we say “full droppers” but they don’t have to be full all the way to the top of the dropper, half or three quarters is sufficient.


Raw herbs


Instructions for cooking your Chinese herbs


  • Empty the contents of one packet into your cooking pot. Add 4 cups of warm water (or enough to cover the herbs), and soak for 20 minutes. Bring the herbs to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes with the lid ajar, or until 1 ½ cups liquid remains. It is easy to forget the simmering herbs, so use a timer. Strain the liquid into a container and set aside.
  • Add 3 ½ cups of boiling water to the herbs in the pot, and simmer for 30 minutes or until 1 ½ cups liquid remains. Strain the liquid into the container – there should now be approximately 3 cups of herbal liquid, mixed together to ensure even strength.
  • Keep the liquid in the fridge, but make sure to drink it warm or at room temperature, at the dosage advised during your appointment. Your herbs will stay fresh for approximately 5 days – if you haven’t finished them in this time then the remainder can be frozen.


Slow cooker instructions


In emergencies you can prepare your herbs in a slow cooker by adding 5 cups of water to each packet and cooking overnight. This is not idea but can be done if needed. See video here for more ideas.


Other important facts


At Balanced Life Health Care we only use top quality herbal medicines. Most of our raw herbs are Eurofins certified, which means they are batch-tested by an independent German lab and are free from heavy metals, chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Our prepared pills and capsules are TGA licensed, ensuring their quality and safety.


Chinese herbs are natural medicinal substances (plant materials including bark, leaves, seeds and roots; and minerals) that are individually blended into a formula to treat your unique presentation, and provide safe and effective treatment for a wide range of conditions with little to no side effects.


The herbs taste bad!


Cooking pots


Traditionally Chinese cooking pots for herbs are ceramic, as this provides the best heat without interacting with the herbs. You cannot use pots made from cast iron to cook your herbs, however, stainless steel and glass cooking pots can be used. Keep in mind that some herbs will stain your cooking pots.




The recommended dosage for you is specified on the cooking directions given at the appointment. However, as a general rule one should not try to force a larger dose than one feels comfortable with. If there is sediment at the bottom, do not stir it up before drinking. Let the sediment settle and just drink the more clear liquid above it.




Generally herbs are taken twice per day (see your cooking instructions for your own instructions) and may be taken whenever it is most convenient. For those with weak digestion, drinking the herbs after meals may be best.


Taking herbs during early pregnancy


In the nausea of early pregnancy, one should feel free to take as small a dose as needed to avoid vomiting. In most cases, pills are provided as an alternative if one simply cannot face the herbs on any given day.


Other tips


It is a good idea to hold your nose (seriously!) then keep holding your nose until you wash out your mouth or eat something small like a biscuit or piece of fruit. Strangely, some people find drinking the herbs through a straw avoids the taste.


When to stop taking your herbs


On the cooking instructions, many people notice that it says to stop your herbs if you catch a cold or ‘flu — but you only need to stop during the worst days, so probably only 3 or 4 days at the most. Also, if during the consultation you have already mentioned that you frequently catch colds, something will already have been added to your herbs to help with this, so you do not have to stop them at all (in fact you should not stop, but continue the herbs as usual in this case).

If your question isn’t listed here and you wanted to find out more email us [email protected] or call us on (03) 8719 7373

Visit Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine | Balanced Life Health Care | Ferntree Gully for more information or to Book Your Appointment Online