Chinese herbal medicine is very popular today and is becoming more and more popular all the time. The Chinese culture has a sort of mystical and mysterious shroud around it, which has led many westerners to feel that they have many answers to things that we don’t, especially with respect to health. After all, if a people have been using a remedy for thousands of years, it has to be good, right?
Well, I’m not so convinced. Certainly, some Chinese herbal medicines are no doubt effective. However, a very little scientific study has been done on the vast majority of them, and I’m a little skeptical of things not rigorously tested for harmful side effects. Taking something untested is a risky crapshoot; sure, it could be really good for you, but it could also be doing all kinds of permanent damage. In my opinion, it’s not really worth the risk for common everyday ailments, as there are plenty of proven and tested medicines available. Of course, if you have something more serious, you’re probably more willing to take risks.
Studying biology in college, the one thing I learned, without doubt, is that herbal and natural don’t always mean good or safe. Chinese herbal medicines are often exalted as being totally natural and therefore entirely safe, but many people seem to forget that the most deadly substances known to man are likewise entirely natural.
I don’t mean to scare you away from ever trying a Chinese herbal medicine. Just be careful when you go looking for one, and select things that have had at least some amount of studies done on them. As a vast, ancient, and hugely populated part of the world, China no doubt does indeed have some effective remedies, but the label ‘Chinese herbal medicine’ should never be considered a guarantee for safety.
The one Chinese herbal medicine I do subscribe to is their teas. While they’re maybe not medicines in the traditional sense, drinking lots of green or black tea has been linked to a lot of positive health effects, including lower risk of cancer and longer lifespan. The tea plant has been proven to contain many different antioxidants which have these positive health effects. A lot of Chinese herbal medicines also contain some amount of tea extracts, which are very likely good for you. Just make sure you look into the other ingredients a little before making a regular habit out of taking something.