FAQ's about Chinese Herbal Medicine

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What is Chinese Herbal Medicine, and how does it work ? Here are the FAQ’s about Chinese Herbal Medicine, and all the questions you always wanted to ask.

How does Chinese Herbal medicine work?

Chinese Herbal Medicine uses herbs in combination, that is, one or a few main herb complemented by others in a planned structure. Every Chinese herbal formula has four main components that play an essential function within the formula;

  • The chief herb is used to address the direct cause of the disease or its main symptom. This is the essential ingredient of the formula and is used in a large dose to maximize the desired effect.
  • The deputy herb has two functions: it reinforces the effect of the chief herb to treat the main disease/symptom and it treats the associated or co-existing disease/symptom.
  • The assistant herb has three functions: it reinforces the effect of the chief herb or directly treats the secondary symptoms, it counteracts any toxicity of the chief herb or minimizes the drastic effects of the chief herb/deputy herb, or has the opposite effect as, but works in synergy with, the chief herb in order to treat the most complex and serious disorders.
  • The last component is the envoy herb. The envoy herb has two functions: it acts as the channel-guiding herb to direct the formula to the affected channel/areas of the body and it harmonizes all of the herbs within the formula. It is usually used in only small doses.


Chinese Herbal Medicine is considered an integral part of Chinese Medicine. Herbal medicine is the traditional use of most plants, seeds and minerals for health ailments. In the past many animal products were used. However are not commonly used in practise particularly in Australia.

History of Chinese Herbal Medicine

Chinese herbal medicine is consider one of the oldest and long standing healthcare systems in the world.


One of the first text books of Herbal Medicine the Huang Di-Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Cannon of Internal Medicine) dating back approximately to 300 BCE. It is believed that the Huang Di-Nei Jing existed far earlier in one form or another, parts probably being handed down by word of mouth, and is thus a compilation of much earlier material, with added commentaries. The “Nei Ching” as it is called, is a mixture of ideas and philosophies, some more ancient (i.e. Taoist philosophy) and some from the time it was written (3rd century BC), such as the Yin-Yang, Five elements and theories of the Zang Fu (Organs). It is considered the fundamental doctrine source for for Chinese Medicine for more than two millennia.


For more information of the development of Chinese Herbal Medicine through the dynasties see Article 

What are the forms of Chinese Herbal Medicine prescribed at Balanced Life Health Care?

At Balanced Life Health Care we use three different forms of herbal medicine:


  • Granule Powder
  • Pills
  • Raw herbs
  • Tinctures
Can I take Chinese Herbs while on other medications?

In most cases it is safe to take herbs while on medications. However you should always inform both your Chinese Medicine doctor and your GP of any medication/herbs you are taking so that they can avoid certain known clashes between the two treatments. Another reason to inform both of medication you are taking is to encourage effective, efficient care. Some herbal medicines act very similarly to biochemical medicines and so to be taking both would be unnecessary. For safest administration of herbal medicine we encourage patients to wait 1-2 hours between taking herbal medicine and your medication.

Are Chinese herbs safe?

Manufactured Chinese Herbal Medicine products imported into or sold in Australia are regulated by the Australian Therapeutic goods Administration (TGA). This regulation requires evidence of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) as well as other safety standards that must be met before these products can be made available. All of our patent pills used in Balanced Life Health Care are labeled AUSTL.

What is the difference between Chinese herbal medicine and Western Herbal medicine?

Firstly, Chinese Herbal Medicine and Western Herbal Medicine are prescribed based on a different set of diagnostic tools; Western Herbal Medicine uses similar diagnostic tools and understanding of the body as your doctor but prescribes Western herbs for treatment. Often Western herbs are prescribed as single herbs.

However, Chinese Herbal Medicine is based around a completely different set of diagnostic skills using pulse and tongue diagnosis as well as questioning. Chinese herbs are mostly prescribed in formulas of 5-15 herbs or groups of formulas.

Can I take Chinese Herbal Medicine while pregnant or breastfeeding?

Chinese herbal medicine can be safely taken while pregnant or breastfeeding however it is important that you inform you practitioner if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive as they will take this into account when prescribing particular substances.

Is Chinese Herbal medicine vegetarian or vegan friendly?

More information coming soon

Does Chinese herbal contain endangered species?

More information coming soon

How do I take my Chinese herbs?

Please see our Taking your Chinese Herbal medicine page for more details and cooking instructions