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Home > Newsletters > February 2007 > How a Traditional Chinese Doctor Prescribes Herbal Formula

How a Traditional Chinese Doctor Prescribes Herbal Formulas

Herb Formulas are developed to use each herb to its greatest advantage. By combining different herbs together, we will not only adjust and increase the treatment results, but also reduce or release the side-effects from the other herbs. It also makes it possible to
treat complicated diseases at the same time. That's why few Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors prescribe only a single herb to treat patients.

Formulas are based upon treatment principle, and treatment principle
is dependent upon the cause. Because of the different cause of
diseases, the herbal formula varies.

A formula is made from typically 10-15 herbs together with appropriate
dosage depending on the patient's condition and the treatment
principle. There is a saying, "Prescribe medicine just like a
commander in the army." Usually, a formula includes four parts:
emperor, prime minister, minister and envoy. Emperor is the herb(s)
which plays the most important role in the formula. This herb works
directly with the etiology and pathology. Prime minister is the herb
which helps to enhance the result of the emperor herb. Minister is the
herb which treats the secondary symptoms and minimize emperor and
prime minister's side effect. Envoy is the herb which can be used to
adjust the formula's taste and moderate the properties of other herbs.

In a clinic setting, it is not always appropriate to use the same
formula to treat one condition. The doctor usually changes the formula
to follow with the change of the patient's condition, general health
and age. First of all, the number of the herbs in the formula can be
changed. If the patient's main complaint doesn't change, but the
secondary complaint changes, the doctor will add some herbs to treat
the new complaint, and take out the herbs that were used to treat the
primary complaint, which is nonexistent now. In addition, the dosage
of each herb in the formula can be changed to follow the changes of
the disease. Increase or decrease in one herb's dosage may change the
treatment principle.

In thousands of years of experience in Chinese medicine, generation by
generation, there are hundreds of excellent classic formulas to be
used to treat different diseases. They have proven to be very
effective in treating all kinds of conditions. Often we prescribe a
formula based on the classic formula, and add or deduct some herbs,
adjusting the dosage depending on the patient's condition.

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