HERB SAFETY The media often reports about the possible dangers of taking herbs including herb/drug interactions. These reports have surfaced as a reaction to the realization that millions of Americans are taking herbs and other supplements with little or no professional advice. There is a great difference between someone self-medicating with herbs and someone who has had herbs prescribed by a trained and licensed professional. As a Licensed Acupuncturist, Matthew Bauer is trained to know the potential risks of the herbs he prescribes just as a medical doctor is trained to know the potential risk of the drugs they prescribe.
While it is true that a very small number of the hundreds of Chinese herbs pose potential health risks, over time the Chinese learned how to distinguish between these and the herbs that pose no risk. They further learned how to utilize the higher risk herbs safely. Most herbs are combined with other herbs to enhance their positive effects and reduce potential side effects. The Chinese may be the only culture on earth that learned to combine ingredients in this way. Some herbs are also processed in a manner that greatly reduces their potential toxicity. And finally, dosages are carefully regulated so as to reduce the chance of side effects. When taken as prescribed by a trained professional, Chinese herbs are far safer than many commonly prescribed medications or over the counter drugs.
The Chinese began the systematic evaluation of the medicinal properties of herbs and other natural substances some 6,000 years ago. As all substances are composed of qi (see section on acupuncture), all substances can potentially help qi imbalances. Animal, mineral, plant sources and more, were studied (for brevity sake, I will refer to these natural medicinal substances as "herbs"). By more than 2,000 years ago, the Chinese had learned how to combine different herbs into complex formulas in order to enhance effectiveness and reduce side effects. No culture on earth has developed the use of herbs to such a high level. Together with acupuncture, the use of Chinese herbs spread throughout the Far East and was enhanced by contributions of Japanese, Korean and other Far Eastern cultures.