The 3 rules for taking herbal formula

There are 3 types of rules regarding taking an herbal formula:

  • those specifying when the formula should be taken,
  • whether it should be taken warm or cold and
  • whether it should be taken without tea.

When to Take a Formula


A formula can be taken before or after meals, depending on the formula and its effects.

As a general rule, formulas that can disturb the digestive system and formulas for eye diseases should be taken after meals; formulas for malaria should be taken two hours prior to onset; formulas to induce sleep, as in insomnia, should be taken before bedtime; formulas for acute symptoms can be taken any time; formulas for chronic diseases should be taken according to a fixed schedule on a regular basis; and formulas taken as tonics to strengthen the body should be taken before meals. In addition, some formulas can be drunk like tea many times during the day without any fixed schedule.

The Chinese have this saying: "Withered plants will blossom and migratory birds return every year on schedule." When this principle is applied to taking formulas, it means that formulas should be taken regularly according to a fixed schedule or every day at the same time.

When formulas are used to treat disorders in the chest or above the chest, they should be taken after meals; when they are used to treat disorders below the heart, they should be taken before meals; when they are used to treat disorders of the four limbs and the blood vessels, they should be taken on an empty stomach; and when they are used to treat disorders of bones and marrow, they should be taken at night and after meals.

Whether the Formula Should Be Taken Warm or Cold

Some formulas should be taken very warm, but others taken cold, depending on the disorder under treatment. Formulas taken to induce perspiration, as for the common cold, should be taken very warm or relatively hot. The patient should keep warm right after taking the formulas in order to induce light perspiration and, after taking such formulas, it is also wise to drink a little hot soup to reinforce the effects of the formulas.

When formulas are taken to treat a hot disease, they should be taken cold; when formulas are taken to treat a cold disease, they should be taken hot. However, certain formulas can cause vomiting when taken hot, in which case they should be taken cold.

Taking the Formula Without Tea

The third rule regarding taking formulas is to refrain from taking them with tea. Some people have a habit of taking formulas with tea for the sake of convenience, but this is definitely not advisable; warm water should be drunk instead.

For one thing, tea is obstructive and it can obstruct the movements of herbs, reducing their effects. In the second place, tea has a cold energy, which can interfere with the warm energy of certain herbs. And thirdly, tea contains caffeine and theophylline, which can excite the central nervous system; so, when formulas used to treat insomnia, for example, are taken with tea, their effects will be canceled out.




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