Different Uses of Herbal Tea and Pills in TCM

In the medical field, it looks like all the procedures make us uncomfortable. Medicine-wise, if we don’t swallow quickly enough, it also makes us uneasy.  Chinese medicine in particular can make us feel even more uncomfortable than that. Chinese herbal tea generally helps people, so people tolerate the temporary discomfort and bad taste. That’s why the Chinese have a common saying “liang yao ku kou li yu bing” meaning generally “good medicine tastes bitter but it helps with your illness.” What if good medicine helps our problem but doesn’t taste bad? Wouldn’t that be great?

In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), there are many ways to deal with diseases like using Chinese herbs, acupuncture, massage, qi gong, diet, etc. Acupuncture with needles may be uncomfortable for most people at the beginning, a healing massage for medical purposes often hurts, with qi gong you feel very awkward at the beginning,  and sometimes we need to sacrifice our favorite foods for medical reasons. People try to avoid having these treatment if they don’t need them. That is why there are many ways to administer herbal medicine that can best fit the patient’s needs and preferences. For acute diseases or situations, herbal tea or acupuncture are the best choices. For chronic diseases or situations, herbal pills or powder are the better choices because patients need to take the herbs for long term on a consistent basis. It is convenient and they don’t need to boil the herbs everyday. The taste of the pills is much better than the tea. This means that the medicine that is supposed to help us does not have to taste bitter like the saying says. For kids or people who just don’t like the taste of herbs, honey is added to the herbal base for a better flavor and texture of a syrup.

For most Chinese herbs, they are not harmful to our bodies when taken for a long time. However, some of them are important to pay attention to the effects on our bodies. For example, ephedra is not supposed to be taken for a long time. If it is, the user will end up sweating profusely. Even though some other herbs can make us stronger, that doesn’t mean we should take them for longer or even at all.  Another example is licorice.  It is not a good idea to have it consistently for a long time, especially if you don’t have any medical issues. Otherwise, it could cause palpitation, sweating, anxiety, etc.

It is always a good idea to consult a Chinese herbologist about herbs you’re considering taking, either for medical purposes, beverages, or other purposes. This is because even a small dosage of some herbs can be very harmful. Herbal or so-called natural healing products do not mean they are without side effects.

Acupuncture for Acid Reflux

Reflux is a common complaint people have when it comes to their stomach and digestive system; related diseases or other diseases can affect the digestive system or CNS. In Chinese medicine and acupuncture the nature of the reflux, nausea, even vomiting is about the same. Therefore, the treatment used is very similar. Here, mainly, we will focus on the condition associated primarily with digestive problems.

Generally speaking, it is very beneficial to use Chinese medicine including acupuncture for reflux, such as for GERD, digestive ulcers, stress, nerves, and associated bad food consumption. China is one of the biggest countries with the largest population in the world. Historically, fighting for food was common in the Chinese nation. In the past, Chinese people did not have enough to eat. Some people only ate one or two meals per day, most foods were so scarce that a person would eat the bark and flowers of an elm tree, Chinese grasses, and even soil. Chinese doctors realized that stress, anxiety, an irregular diet, overeating or starvation, etc. can really cause digestive and nutritional problems or diseases that include: nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, etc. That is why one of the main tasks for Ancient Chinese doctors was to develop a good system to treat these problems.

Chinese medicine and acupuncture treat reflux, nausea, vomiting, etc. differently according to the accompanying symptoms. This is called Pattern Differentiation/Individual-Based-Fit-Treatment, which is a unique part of Chinese medicine and acupuncture. In this case, the pattern-differentiations could be 1. Stomach Cold – patients do not like to take anything cold, if they consume cold things, it can worsen the complaint. The patient will also feel cold easily – 2. Stomach Heat/Fire – patient does not like to take anything warm, spicy, or hot if they do the complaint will get worse. The patient may feel warm easily – 3. Liver Stagnation – frustration or stress can make the situation worse, happy and easy situations will make the complaint better. Patients may also become irritated easily with no reason – 4. Spleen Deficiency – patients may feel tired easily, especially their extremities, or tiredness will make the situation worse. Patients even have no energy to talk. – 5. Stomach Yin Deficiency – this is similar to stomach fire/heat, except that the body is much weaker than those within the stomach fire/heat category. – There are other pattern differentiations too but the above 5 patterned categories are the main ones and they can appear separately, or at times there can be a combination of two of them or more.

For the treatment, it completely depends on the pattern-differentiation. If anyone has the same or a similar situation as the above patterns, it is a good idea for them to go to a Chinese medicine and acupuncture specialist for a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. They can help you accordingly, especially if you’ve been dealing with this situation for a while.

If your situation is far less complex, then there are some simple ways to deal with this for temporary relief. For example, a diet change will help. If you do not want to visit a specialist, you can take the following suggestions and see if they help: 1. Fresh ginger root juice – this is typically good for any stomach problems, but especially for nausea, vomiting, and reflux – 2. Avoid sweets, greasy, or very dry food 3. Avoid food that is difficult to digest such as beans, nuts, etc. 4. Eat food that is well done and not raw, with the exception of salads and juice or fruits 5. Avoid cold food, since you don’t want your stomach to serve as a stove to heat the food 6. Avoid hot/spicy food and drinks, this includes alcohol too.

In regards to acupuncture, there are many points that can help as well, even if you put pressure on them. This can sometimes give you relief too. An example of an acupoint is Pericardium 6 (PC 6, Neiguan) which is 2 units above the wrist crease between the tendons of palmaris longus and flexor carpi radialis (these are based upon the 12 units between the crease of the wrist and the inside of the elbow). Another acupoint is Spleen 4 (SP 4, Gongsun) located at the median aspect of the foot, in the depression distal and inferior to the base of the first metatarsal bone. These are major acupuncture points that help the digestive problems we have described. Once in a while, you can put pressure on these points and it should give you some relief. Of course, there are many more acupoints that can help too.

If nausea and vomiting are due to morning sickness, then acupuncture and Chinese herbs will definitely help. If these symptoms are caused by a tumor, CNS, etc, it would be best to go to a correspondent specialist such as an Oncologist or Neurologist instead of first visiting a Chinese medicine and acupuncture specialist, even though acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help relieve symptoms too.