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Chinese Herbs

History of Chinese Herbs

Chinese Herbs are part of a multi-billion dollar industry around the world. In the western countries, Chinese Herbs are classified as dietary supplements.  In China, Chinese Herbs are classified as Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM).

The earliest records for Chinese Herbs go as far back as the Zhou through the Han Dynasties.  The oldest surviving work on Chinese Herbs called Formulas for 52 Diseases was found recently in the Ma Wang tombs.  One of the most famous instructional manuals on Chinese Herbal Therapy called Shang Han Luan was written in AD 219. The book's prescriptions and formulas are still being used by hospitals and clinics around the world.

Chinese Herbs in the Western World

Chinese herbs already have a huge market in North America.  The potential development of this market has just begun.  The trend today is that North Americans are health conscious and prefer natural products. Most of the target group is college-educated, knowledgeable, adventurous and wealthy.  They are open-minded and are willing to accept new ways of doing things.  Chinese Herbs manufacturers from all over the world want to sell their products to the U.S. and Canada.

Visiting a Chinese Herbal Doctor

A westerner's first visit to a Chinese Herbal Doctor's office may appear strange.  The typical western patient has a chronic condition which has not been healed by numerous western medicine options.  She just wants to feel better.  The Chinese Herbal Doctor's office is unlike any that the western patient has seen.  The office's layout is very simple with a desk and a couple of chairs facing each other.  There are no fancy elaborate EKG machines because the Chinese Doctor relies on observing intricate clues on and around the body.

Chinese Herbal Doctor Examination

A Chinese Doctor's examination involves 4 practices:

  1. Visual Observation
  2. Listening and Smelling
  3. Questioning
  4. Examining or Touching

Visual Observation

Through observation, the Chinese Doctor receives clues about the health of the entire body.  The eyes, hair, skin, nails and tongue are all carefully examined to pick up signs of health issues.  For instance, bright clear white eyes are considered normal whereas yellow eyes could be a sign of dampness, stomach or spleen conditions.

Listening and Smelling

Listening entails the assessment of the patient's breathing, coughing and speech.  The extremes in speech volume (loud or soft) can indicate body disturbances including lung issues. Breathing whether it is deep and powerful or fast and superficial is also an important sign.  Vigorous coughing and chronic clearing of the throat are also health clues.

Smelling involves analyzing a person's body odor and the excreta's odor (sweat, urine, feces).  A person's body odor is another indication of the person's health condition.  Foul, rotten body odor or mouth odor can point to a problem with Heat and perhaps in the person's stomach area.


To a Chinese Doctor, a complete health picture including lifestyle habits is required prior to treating any conditions.  First a through medical history is asked including working with western doctors or medical tests already conducted.  Then very detailed questions sometimes seem very personal are asked to complete the health picture.  Some typical questions asked are:

Examining or Touching

Examining or touching involves palpation where the Chinese Doctor feels the size or shape or firmness or location of body parts.  The temperature and the tone of the tissues and bones are also recorded.  Areas where the pain occurs are identified.  Various pulses around the body are taken by the use of the fingers.

Chinese Herbs in the Western World

Chinese medical scholars have become aware of the active ingredients in Chinese herbs.  Many have been isolated.  However, rather than putting the active ingredient chemicals in a pill as in western medicine, the Chinese learned that side effects of the substances are greatly reduced by using natural herbs.

Out of the 8,000 or more Chinese Herbs known to have medicinal benefits, only about 500 are used on a regular basis today.  Chinese Herbal formulas contain mostly the parts of natural plants: seeds, roots, grains, fruit skin, flowers, berries, stems, bark, leaves, wood, kernels, nuts, shells, resin, pollen, and seaweed.  Sometimes minerals, clay and even fossilized bones or animal parts are used.  Chinese Herbalists rarely prescribe only a single herb, they usually combine a number of Chinese Herbs as a treatment.

Import from China - Chinese Herbs

There was a time when you could only purchase Chinese Herbs from a Chinese storefront deep within North America's Chinatown.  Today, many western health foods stores or natural food stores are beginning to carry some of the more popular Chinese Herbs as a dietary supplement.

This trend provides a tremendous opportunity for those who are interesting in importing from China as a business.  Most Chinese Herbs are legally imported into the U.S. from China as a dietary supplement. They must meet the requirements of several government agencies including: Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).  You must ensure that your Chinese Herb is not part of these government agencies' banned list of substances' to import.

Here are some popular Chinese Herbs already accepted in North America:


Gian Jiang (Ginger)

Chinese Knotweed