Roanoke VA







By Eyton Shalom, Acupuncturist, San Diego, CA


What are Chinese herbs?

In China, herbs are called herbal medicine, which is made up of roots, bark, flowers, seeds, fruits, leaves, and branches. Herbal medicine has been a part of the written history of Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 4000 years. There are over 3000 different herbs that can be used for medical purposes. Only 300 to 500 of these herbs are commonly used. It is important to use herbs grown in China rather than outside of their native environment. One must use the right herb from the right resource to get the full benefit.


What are herbs used for?

Herbal therapy has three main functions: (1) to treat the immediate problem, such as killing bacteria or a virus, (2) to strengthen the body, helping it to recover, and (3) to maintain health.



Property: Every herb is said to have the property of being cool, cold, warm, or hot. Cool and cold herbs treat hot symptoms, such as fever, thirst, sore throat or constipation. Warm and hot herbs treat cold symptoms, such as cold hands and feet.
: There are seven flavors of herbs; pungent, sweet, sour, astringent, bitter, salty, and neutral.
: Channels (or meridians) run throughout the body, affecting different organs. Each kind of herb affects a particular channel and organ.
: Herbs perform different actions in the body. These are known as lifting, floating, lowering, and sinking.

Why is it necessary to process herbs?

Herbs are processed before use. There are several reasons for this. First, processing reduces any possible side effects by detoxifying the herbs, removing any poisons. Another reason for processing herbs is for easier storage. Processing also filters out impurities such as dirt and sand, and can tone down a strong taste or smell. Finally, processing an herb can strengthen its function.

What does a Chinese herbalist do?

Contrary to popular belief, Chinese herbalists do not normally grow or process herbs. The herbalist writes a prescription tailored to the patient?s individual needs, and then mixes it using herbs processed by pharmaceutical companies in China and Taiwan. Only G.M.P. standard herbs are used. G.M.P. stands for Good Manufacture Practice, the highest standard for pharmaceuticals. In China, Chinese herbalists are graduates of Chinese Traditional Medical School, with the same privileges as western physicians.

How are herbs mixed?

Herbs are seldom used singly. Most often, they are used in combinations of 10 to 15 herbs. There are three ways to beneficially combine herbs. Mutual Reinforcement involves combining two very similar herbs to create a strong effect. Mutual Assistance is the method of using one herb to help another work better. Mutual Restraint relies upon one herb reducing or eliminating side effects of another herb in the combination.
Two other types of combinations show why one should be experienced and knowledgeable about herbs before attempting to combine them. Mutual Inhibition occurs when one herb reduces another's effectiveness. Incompatibility occurs when the combination of certain herbs produces side effects or becomes poisonous.

What are some precautions of taking herbs?

Herbs, like anything you put in your body, should be taken with a certain amount of caution. Some herbs are too strong for pregnant women and may cause miscarriage. Certain foods can have adverse effects on the herbal therapy. While taking herbs, one should avoid food that is raw (fruit is okay, but vegetables should be cooked), greasy, strong tasting or smelling, difficult to digest (such as beef), or irritating to the digestive system (like spicy foods).

For consultation with a certified Chinese herbalist, please call: 

chinese medicine works !nc @ 540 309-4105

How are herbs taken?

Herbal medicine is traditionally taken in tea form. Tea absorbs into the system quickly, and is the most commonly used method. However, if the smell or taste of the tea is unpleasant, capsules or tablets are recommended. Tea should always be warm, and capsules or tablets should be swallowed with warm water. Generally, it is best to take herbs on an empty stomach. You should consult an herbalist for specific instructions on taking herbs, but here are some basic guidelines. Tonic herbs, to promote health, are best taken before meals. Purgative herbs, to cleanse the system, are best taken on an empty stomach. Herbs that either irritate the stomach or are taken to protect the stomach should be taken after eating. Herbs for insomnia and other sleeping disorders should be taken at bedtime.

For what reasons should herbs be taken?


To treat a chronic illness - Many people with chronic illness take a number of different drugs. Those who are looking for a natural alternative for those drugs switch to herbal therapy. According to current practice in China, and classical Chinese medical teachings, there are many herbal remedies for pain syndromes, gastrointestinal disorders, neurological disorders, stress related syndromes, respiratory disorders, heart problems, sexual dysfunction, allergies and immune system deficiencies, as well as alternatives for antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs.

To reduce side effects - Herbs can be taken to reduce the side effects of other medication. Antibiotics weaken the immune system. Herbal therapy can strengthen the system. Also, during chemotherapy, the white blood cell count drops, causing fatigue, lack of energy and appetite. Herbal therapy has proven quite successful in relieving the side effects of chemotherapy.

To assist Western medication - Herbal medicine can strengthen the effects of Western medication. For example, if a patient is taking medication for his high blood pressure, but it is not producing the desired effects, his doctor may increase the dosage. A heavy dosage can produce unwanted side effects. The patient can, instead, take an herbal supplement that will produce the desired decrease in blood pressure without the side effects.

For prevention - Herbs are often taken as a method of prevention. For a person suffering from frequent headaches, taking herbs to prevent the headache from ever starting is a much better option than taking a pain reliever after the fact. Herbs are also used to prevent the flu, menstrual cramps and pre-menstrual syndrome, among other things.

For health maintenance- Herbal therapy can also be used for general health maintenance. Tonic herbs are used to increase energy and to slow the aging process. They are also used for enhancing sexual energy and for cosmetic purposes.

Herbs are also used to treat minor symptoms that are not severe enough for heavy chemical drugs, symptoms that cannot be diagnosed by Western medicine, and symptoms and illness that are not easy to treat, such as mononucleosis and immune system deficiencies.Chinese herbal stews can range in complexity from simple Chicken and San Chi Ginseng steamed in the double boiler to the elaborate preparations found in Chinese herbal restaurants and in the homes of the wealthy.



**The Chinese herbs required for these healing recipes may be purchased at CHINESE MEDICINE WORKS !NC, acupuncture and herbal clinic,  5111 Airport Road,  Roanoke VA 24012,  540-309-4105



  • 1-2 tbs organic cold-pressed sesame oil
  • 3-4 slices fresh ginger root
  • 1 medium brown onion, sliced
  • 1-2 cups chopped root vegetables of your choice (carrot, turnip, rutabaga, daikon)
  • 2-3 skinless hormone-free chicken legs. Other pieces if you like.
  • 1 tbs dark miso paste
  • 1 tsp white pepper (more or less to taste)
  • 2-3 oz. Astragalus Root (Huang Qi)
  • 1 oz. Chinese Red Ginseng Root (Ren Shen)
  • 1 oz. American Ginseng Root (Xi Yang Shen)
  • 5-6 pieces Cordyceps fungus (Dong Chong Xia Cao)
  • 3 pieces Dioscorea Yam Root (Shan Yao)
  • 1-2 pieces aged Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi)
  • 3-4 pieces Chinese Red Date (Da Zao)
  • 2-3 Indian Green Cardamom pods or Chinese Cardamom (Sha Ren)
  • 3-4 pieces Poria Fungus (Fu Ling)


Fry the sliced brown onion and thinly sliced ginger root in the sesame oil. When slightly browned, add as much chicken as you like. Vegetarians may substitute tofu or tempeh at this stage. Sautee minutes longer and then add the root vegetables and herbs with enough water to reach 2-3 inches above the ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium-low. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour in a heavy pot with a tight lid. 10 minutes before finishing add the miso paste (after mixing it in a little water) and the pepper and let it simmer to perfection. Salt can be added if the miso is not salty enough. Those on a low-fat diet can reduce the oil to 1 teaspoon, but generally fat is not the issue for those eating this soup.


This is an excellent soup for recouping energy after surgery or prolonged illness. Chicken is a warm blood tonic food which when combined with these herbs raises, the Qi and warms and tonifies the blood which is important as our bodies become very cold during surgery.


The cordyceps (see below for more information on this most excellent and healing Chinese herb) fungus replenishes the "essence" (jing), which is depleted by surgery, and the ginger, tangerine peel, and cardamom harmonize the digestion and help to relieve the nausea that often occurs post-surgically. The herbs used here are warm so be careful with this recipe if you are recovering from an illness and you still feel heat in your body.



  • 1/2 to 1 lb. lean lamb pieces with the bone. Lamb leg bones can be purchased at mideastern markets.
  • 3-4 large leeks, sliced
  • 3-4 slices fresh ginger root
  • 3-4 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 cup sliced Daikon radish root
  • 1 Tbs barley miso paste
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp organic cold-pressed sesame oil
  • 1 oz. Chinese Angelica Root (Tang Kwei)
  • 1 oz Rehmannia Root (Shu Di Huang)
  • 1-2 oz. Polygoni Multiflore Root (He Shou Wu)
  • 2 pieces Dioscorea Yam Root (Shan Yao)
  • 2-3 pieces Peony Alba Root (Bai Shao)
  • 2-3 pieces Poria Fungus (Fu Ling)
  • 1 2" x 1" Saigon Cinnamon Bark (Rou Gui)
  • 1-2 pieces aged Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi)
  • 1 oz. Astragalus Root (Huang Qi)
  • 2-3 oz. Chinese Barley Job's Tears (Yi Yi Ren)



Sautee the ginger and garlic in the oil until brown and fragrant. Add the cleaned leek slices (slice them in half and soak for a minute in warm water to remove all the dirt) and lamb and sautee little more. After 5 minutes add the daikon, herbs, bones (if separated), and enough water to cover the ingredients and then some. Bring to a boil and then cook on medium-low for about an hour. As the Job's Tears tend to absorb water you may have to add more during the course of cooking. Near the end add slightly diluted miso paste and black pepper. The miso paste is optional. It is a traditional Japanese ingredient, but I love the mellow flavor it imparts to all soups. A little red wine or Chinese rice wine could be added at this point also. Serve with a little soy sauce if more salt is needed. This is a slightly sweet warming soup, excellent for building blood in the winter time. Lean lamb is very rich, and the "blood tonic" herbs in this recipe can, combined with the lamb, produce "dampness in the middle jiao," so this recipe includes daikon radish, a vegetable known for its damp transforming qualities. In addition the recipe calls for Job's Tears and Poria, two damp draining herbs.




  • 1 lb hard or soft tofu
  • 2 Asian or Bosc pears, sliced
  • 2 slices fresh ginger root
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 dash Chinese five spice powder                                        
  • Soy sauce and white pepper to taste
  • 1 oz Pueraria Root (Ge Gen)
  • 1 oz Fritillariae Bulb (Chuan Bei Mu)
  • 1/2 oz Lotus Seed (Lian Zi)
  • 1 oz Lily Bulb (Bai He)
  • 1/2 oz Polygonati Rhizome (Yu Zhu)
  • 2 pieces Dioscorea Root (Shao Yao)
  • 1 oz Glehniae Root (Bei Sha Shen)
  • 1/2 oz dried Longan Fruit (Long Yan Rou)


Sautee the ginger, onions, and tofu in a little sesame oil. If using hard tofu, cut it into strips; if using soft tofu, just mash it up a bit. After the onions are a little brown, add five or six cups of water with the sliced pears and the herbs. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Add a dash of five-spice powder near the end. Serve with soy sauce and pepper to taste.


This is an excellent soup for Santa Ana season when people's lungs and skin are attacked by hot dry wind from the desert. It features foods and herbs that are cooling and moistening.


The cold nature of the tofu is balanced by the inclusion of a little ginger root. This recipe lubricates the lungs, clears heat, gently expels wind through the skin, and strengthens the spleen and lungs. It can also be used for a dry cough in the aftermath of a common cold. For increased tonification chicken may be substituted for the tofu, which will, however, make it less cooling.


A word of caution   While all the herbs listed in these recipes are perfectly safe kitchen herbs, as with all herbs there are contraindications and cautions. One should not overdo tonic herbs or rich tonic food as this can lead to excessive heat and digestive congestion. If one is yin deficient and suffering from "deficiency heat" or a very weak digestion, some of the tonic herbs can cause additional heat or congestion. Lastly, if you are sick and still carrying a pathogen you should be careful in your choice of herbs. Please consult a local herbalist who practices dietary medicine if you are in doubt. The recipes given here are only meant to promote wellness in otherwise healthy individuals. You will notice when cooking with herbs that some of the roots, like Ginseng, appear quite edible after cooking and others, like Astragalus appear too stringy and fibrous to eat. You are right! Just eat the ones that look good. Bon Appetit! 


Cordyceps Cordyceps is one of the most rare and treasured herbs, and it has been an important ingredient in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It can be found on isolated places in southwestern China, especially in the provinces of Tibet, Sichuan, Qinghai, Guise and Yunnan, in locations over 3,500 metres. 


Cordyceps is primarily collected wild, as the grown cordyceps is of lower quality, but the wild cordyceps is usually very expensive and costs up to $1000 for 100 grams. Wild cordyceps from Tibet is supposed to be the best in the world. Scientific research has proven that wild cordyceps is richer in certain components, and also that the proportions of its ingredients are different from the cultivated herb, and this might make some differences in the activity. Nevertheless, cultivated Cordyceps is still a premium and valuable tonic herb.


Cordyceps became famous because of its powerful aphrodisiac effects. Recent studies performed at Beijing Medical University of China and in Japan have shown a 64% success rate among men suffering from impotence, vs. 24% in the placebo group. In the ancient China, cordyceps was highly recommended as one of the most effective medicines for all illness. Due to its anti-aging and cure-all properties, it can be compared to ginseng, reishi and deer velvet. In general, cordyceps is a tonic that helps the body build strength, improve the organic functioning, strengthen the immune system and bring longevity.

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