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Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has thousands years history. It has unique basic theories and diagnostic methods. It is a very effective therapy in treating many chronic diseases and some acute diseases. If you are interested in TCM, welcome to pop in to this TCM forum, let's discuss on any topic about Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. If you have any health problem, you are welcome to visit my clinic Knowhow Acupuncture at No.1 Harley street, London. If you are far away from London, you can pop in my online clinic to get some help. If you like this blog please share it to your friends.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Decoction is the best formulation

Tiejun Tang
There are several different formulations in Chinese herbal medicine. Pills, tablets, powders, capsules are commonly used patent remedies. In addition to these formulations, there is another commonly used formulation – decoction. It means several different raw herbs mixed together, soaked in the water for a period of time and then boiled over fire for about an hour, filtrate them and drink the liquid. It is the most traditional method in Chinese herbal medicine and in my opinion, the best formulation. The reasons are below.

Firstly, decoction can give a patient an individual treatment. The treatment principle of Chinese medicine is based on syndrome differentiation diagnosis. In the clinical practice each individual case might need different herbs. Even the same disease with different patient, it may need different prescription because their symptoms are not exactly the same. For example, if two people catch cold at same time. Mr. A has a sore throat, headache, and high temperature; but Mr. B suffers sneezing, blocked and runny nose, with normal temperature. If we treat using a decoction, we will select different herbs according to patient’s clinical manifestation. A good prescription will suit the individual patient only, just like a tailor made suit for an individual person according to their measurements.

Secondly, decoctions have good adaptability. The patient’s symptoms might change during the treatment process. At different stages of the same disease, the patient might need different herbs. We can amend the prescription by changing some herbs or adjusting the dosage of some herbs. It’s better to amend the prescription once a week according to symptoms. Let’s take irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as an example. Patients suffering from IBS often alternate between diarrhoea and constipation. When diarrhoea happens we need to use Baizhu, Yiyiren, Huoxiang, Peilan etc to tonify the spleen and expel dampness. When constipation happens we need to remove Yiyiren, Huoxiang, Peilan and add Maziren, Juemingzi to moisten the intestine and release constipation. This adjustment can be used more often in some acute diseases and less often in stabile chronic disease.

Thirdly, decoction is more easily absorbed by the patient. After drinking into the stomach, the effective substances in the decoction will be absorbed through the gastrointestinal system and into the blood within half to one hour. The result is much quicker than with other formulations.

The disadvantage of decoction is that it requires a little preparation time. The patient needs to spend some time boiling the herbs every day. The other disadvantage sometimes is its taste which is usually quite bitter. You can add some sugar or honey before drinking it. Many people gradually get used to the bitter taste after taking them for a period of time. Some even start to like the magic coffee, because they get a lot of benefits from the herbal decoction.

Decoction is the best formulation, but a good treatment depends on correct diagnosis. Nevertheless, if disease is misdiagnosed, no formulation will work. However, if you get it right, you are sure to hit the target spot on!