Safety of Chinese Herbal Formulae
The issue of safety of Chinese herbal formulae must be paramount in the mind of practitioners for two reasons. First and foremost, because, as practitioners, we must strive to give patients the best possible care and minimize possible side-effects and adverse reactions; secondly, we need to be seen to practise in a professional and responsible manner that ensures the maximum safety, although there are many highly informative papers on the toxicity of herbal medicines, the majority of these focus on in vitro studies, in terms of actual reported adverse reactions, these are extremely rare for high quality and professionally prescribed herbal medicines.
In the hands of experienced practitioners, Chinese herbs are very safe. This e-book aims, on the one hand, to give guidelines for a safe use of herbs and, on the other hand, to help put some of the toxicology studies already published into context. Not by chance, the title of this e-book is ‘Safety of Chinese Herbal Formulae’ rather than ‘Safety of Chinese Herbs’. The issue of safety of Chinese herbs cannot be considered in isolation from the principles, philosophy, diagnosis, guidelines, rules and methods of Chinese herbal medicine: it is my belief that, when used according to such rules, Chinese herbs are remarkably safe. Many of the reports of toxicity of Chinese herbs concern situations when they were self-administered, prescribed without regard to the principles of Chinese herbal medicine, wrongly identified or adulterated, or used as single herbs inappropriately.
This e-book starts with an introduction to the pharmacokinetics of drugs: although, as stressed later, herbs do work differently from drugs, it is still useful to understand how drugs, and therefore herbal compounds, are absorbed, metabolized and excreted. The e-book then analyses the differences between herbal medicine and drugs, the issue of safety of Chinese herbs, and interactions between Chinese herbs and Western drugs.