Differences between pharmaceuticals and Chinese herbal formulas

How Do Pharmaceuticals Work?

Prescription drugs generally work by interacting with receptors on the surface of cells or enzymes which regulate the rate of chemical reactions within cells. This is often referred to as a lock and key model. Most drugs work because by binding to the target site, they can either block the physiological function of the protein, or mimic its effect.

How a drug is absorbed depends on the drug. Drugs can be absorbed through the skin, a mucous membrane, through digestion or directly into the bloodstream.

Pharmaceuticals are powerful substances that often have side effects and must be prescribed by a physician and monitored on a regular basis. Never change the dosage or stop taking a pharmaceutical without consulting with your physician. It is important to consult with a physician when using over the counter drugs.

How Do Chinese Herbal Formulas Work?

Chinese herbal formulas consist of plants, foods, minerals, shells and in rare cases, animal products. A formula can contain anywhere from 2-20 substances, each having its own function. Together they work synergistically. (Synergy is the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts). They are often combined to treat several conditions simultaneously. Each herb has certain properties and affects a particular organ or system of the body. From a scientific perspective, herbs can be categorized as being antibiotic, immune enhancing, laxative, analgesic, tonifying, etc. Herbal formulas have the ability to both clear a pathogenic or disease causing factor and strengthen or nourish a deficiency or weakness in a system. Chinese herbal formulas are generally taken orally and are absorbed and distributed from the digestive system.

It is important to remember that herbs are powerful substances and do sometimes have side effects when used improperly. Please consult with a practitioner even when using herbs that are available over the counter in order to experience the optimal benefits of these powerful natural substances.

Anita Alexandra, L.Ac., CH is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist with 16+ years of experience. She practices at Chiropractic Health and Acupuncture, 619 Main Street, Frisco. (970)668-3299.

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