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Safety of Chinese Herbal Medicine

There are about 300 Chinese herbs used in a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor’s clinic, although there are more than 11,000 medicinal herbs documented in official Chinese medical records.  Of the 300 Chinese herbs, about 100 are foods or fruits;  another 100 or so herbs are food supplements, commonly used in ‘herbal teas’ or spicy supplements used in Asian foods found in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other Asian countries like India, Japan, Malaysia, etc.  The remaining 100 or more are true medicinal herbs.  These herbs have been in use for more than 6,000 years without adverse effects so long as the doctor follows Traditional Chinese Medicine principles. 

Most of these herbs have already passed ‘scientific safety’ examination and tests; a number of published herbology books attest to this fact.  Very small amounts of each herb is used — generally about 3-15 grams (.1 oz-.5 oz) for dried raw herb, and 0.3-2 grams (.01 oz-.07 oz) for the herbal extract, so the possibility of adverse effects is very little.  A well-trained doctor or herbalist uses individualized herbal formula to maximize medicinal effects and minimized potential side effects.

How to Make Chinese Herbal Tea

Making Chinese herbal tea is almost like making coffee the old style way – on the stove.

Choose a proper-sized pot for the stove – a 3 quart stainless steel, glass, or ceramic pot will do.  Do not use aluminum or iron

Place the herbs in the pot.

Before cooking, pour about 2 1/2 cups of fresh water over the herbs; make sure that the water covers all of the herbs. Let the herbs sit for 30 minutes to an hour, and they will absorb some of the water. After the time elapses, cook the herbs on a high stove setting until it boils. When it boils, lower the setting and continue to cook the herbs for another 20 to 30 minutes.

There should be about 8 ounces or one cup (200ml-300ml) of liquid from the cooked herbs.  Pour the liquid into a glass container, but keep the cooked herbs for reusage.  You may use a paper filter to filter the liquid, if you wish.  This cup is one dose of herbal tea (decoction).

Re-cook the herbs using 2 cups of water. Immerse the herbs and let the mixture sit for about 5-10 minutes. Cook again on a high stove setting until it boils, then lower the setting and continue to cook the herbs for another 20 to 30 minutes. 

Once again, there should be about 8 ounces or one cup (200ml-300ml) of liquid from the cooked herbs.  Pour the liquid into the glass container containing the first cup and mix well.  Use a paper filter, if you wish.  Combining the two cups dilutes the tea somewhat.

Drink one cup of tea in the morning and one cup in the evening.  If needed, you can add some sugar. If you have some stomach discomfort, eat some food after drinking the tea.  However, don’t eat too spicy or cold foods.

You can make the tea in advance and keep it in a refrigerator, but do not drink the tea cold– heat it up before drinking.

Another option is to cook using the Automatic Herbal Tea Cooker, which is available in some oriental stores or online stores. This method is much easier compared the way mentioned above.

For some special herbs, such as those containing a large amount essential oils or Da Huang, cooking time should be reduced. Some other herbs (such as Shi Gao, Mu Li, Long Gu), maybe need longer cooking time, the practitioner should give patient special suggestions.

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