By Danisha Bogue, L.Ac. - September 20, 2021
Categories: Herbs

In my previous blogs, I’ve discussed acupuncture, cupping, and diet as ways to influence how the qi moves through and affects your body. The final pillar of Traditional Chinese Medicine that I offer is herbal medicine.

Herbal medicine has been used to treat illness and injury for thousands of years. And while we’ve moved towards cures produced in labs in Western medicine, there are still many areas of the world in which they turn to nature to cure their ailments.

So what is herbal medicine?

Herbal medicine is medicine made from over 400 plants, minerals, and/or animal products. These ingredients all have identified energetics and properties that tie them to different conditions and areas of the body. They can be used by themselves, or mixed with other herbs depending on the desired result.

Typically, herbal medicine can be administered as teas, powders, pills, tinctures, or syrups. At Altitude Acupuncture, we use pill form as it’s the most familiar for most of our patients and the easiest to take. We use Golden Flower herbs as our primary line of herbal formulas because they are free of soy, wheat, dairy, corn, yeast, and animal products.

What can herbs help me with?

There are Chinese herbal remedies for thousands of symptoms, illnesses, and diseases – and typically I’ll recommend herbs in conjunction with other treatments (such as acupuncture). A few conditions that you can treat with herbal medicine are:

  • Cold & Flu
  • Pain Management
  • Arthritis
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Stress & Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Immune Deficiency
  • Insomnia
  • Allergy & Asthma
  • Sinus Issues
  • Respiratory Issues
  • Digestive Disorders
  • Skin Issues
  • Women’s Health
  • Emotional Imbalances
  • Headaches & Migraines

But the list is endless. Like acupuncture and cupping, herbs are used to restore balance to the body and improve the flow of qi.

What kinds of herbs are typically used?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are 50 fundamental herbs. We’re not going to get into all of them (because that would be the world’s longest blog post), but we’ll talk about the first 5 here. I’ll follow up in later blogs on the others. So the first 5 herbs that we’re going to talk about are astragalus, dong quai, ginger, kudzu, and licorice.


Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus, also known as Mongolian milkvetch)

Part used in TCM: root

Energetics and Taste: Warming, Sweet

Organs affected: Spleen, lungs

Uses: Astragalus is an adaptogen – meaning it normalizes activity in the immune system, nervous system, and hormonal systems. It’s also antiviral and immune supporting, so it’s great for warding off colds and viruses. Because it stimulates the immune system, it can be good for cancer patients – counteracting some of the immune suppressing effects of chemotherapy and radiation, as well as protecting gut bacteria and increasing appetite in those patients. Finally, astragalus is also an antioxidant – which means there are benefits to cholesterol levels, increased cardiovascular function, and can decrease the symptoms of severe heart disease.

Warnings: Astragalus is not recommended for acute infections, and might interfere with immune suppressing medications.


Dong Quai (Angetlica sinensis, also known as female ginseng)

Part used in TCM: root

Energetics and Taste: Warming, moistening, sweet, pungent, bitter

Organs affected: Blood, circulatory system, muscular system

Uses: Dong Quai is extremely useful for health conditions common to women. It can be used to reestablish regular menstrual cycles after going off birth control pills, and as an anti-spasmodic to help relieve cramps.  Because of it’s energetics, it can be used in illness recovery – treating feelings of weakness, chilliness, and frailty. It is also frequently used to help treat asthma, high blood pressure, rheumatic pains, dry constipation, insomnia, and fatigue.

Warnings: Do not use during pregnancy. Also not advised for people with fast pulses, people who run too hot, or people who suffer from chronic diarrhea.


Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Part used in TCM: root

Energetics and Taste: Warming, pungent, sweet

Organs affected: Spleen, stomach, lungs

Uses: Ginger is probably best known for its digestive benefits. Even in the Western world, we know to reach for a ginger ale when our stomachs are upset. Because of its warming and dispersive energetics, ginger is great for improving a cold and stagnant digestive system which can cause bloating, gas, and constipation. Ginger also acts as a vasodilator, increasing circulation and clearing stagnation (and pain and inflammation) through the blood as well. In addition – ginger can act as an expectorant, helping to clear out colds and sinus issues. And that’s not even getting into the antimicrobial, anti-headache, and insulin sensitivity properties. Really, I could do an entire blog post just on ginger – it’s that amazing.

Warnings: Ginger can slow blood clotting, so be aware if you’re on blood thinners or have a clotting disorder.


Kudzu (Pueraria thomsonii, also known as Arrowroot)

Part used in TCM: root

Energetics and Taste: Cool, Pungent, Sweet

Organs affected: Spleen, stomach, lung, bladder

Uses: If you’ve heard of Kudzu, it’s probably as an invasive weed from the south, but Traditional Chinese medicine uses the kudzu plant to treat stiff necks, sprains, thirst and diarrhea, and to reduce drinking. It’s also been used as a hangover cure.  Kudzu is good for helping to restore balance when a person has too much yang energy (heat), or too little yin energy (coolness). In relation to drinking, studies have found that Kudzu may cause alcohol to reach the brain faster, which has the effect of lowering the number of drinks that a person has. Kudzu may also help to treat the early stages of diseases pertaining to the upper respiratory tract, eyes, ears, nose, throat and skin.

Warnings: Like ginger, Kudzu can slow blood clotting, so be aware if you’re on blood thinners or have a clotting disorder. Kudzu should not be used by individuals with a history of liver disease.


Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Part used in TCM: root

Energetics and Taste: Cooling, Moistening, Sweet

Organs affected: Lungs, stomach, spleen, liver

Uses: Licorice is an anti-inflammatory and has a soothing effect on the mucosal membranes of the throat, lungs, stomach, and intestines, and also works well as an expectorant (to expel mucus, get it?). Because of these anti-inflammatory properties, it’s also soothing to the digestive tract and can be used to help treat stomach ulcers, heart burn, and indigestion. Another benefit to licorice root is that it has adaptogen qualities, meaning it can help to combat adrenal fatigue in people with adrenal insufficience and low cortisol levels.

Warnings: If taken in large amounts for prolonged periods, licorice may raise blood pressure and cause water retention.


Like everything in Traditional Chinese Medicine (or Western medicine, for that matter), it’s important to talk to a professional before starting on a new herbal regiment. There are a ton of factors that contribute to any symptoms you may be experiencing, and there are a ton of considerations as to which herbal supplements will be best to treat the underlying cause of the symptoms, as well as the symptoms themselves. And I’ve found that herbal medicine often works best when paired with other treatments. TCM is about restoring balance to the body, so we don’t want to go overboard in any one treatment.

Be well.



This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or illness. Please consult your healthcare provider prior to the use of this product if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications or have a medical condition. Individual results may vary