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12. What is the usual way to take herbal medicine?

The patient should pay attention to the method of taking herbal medicine to ensure the therapeutic result.

Herbal medicine should always be taken warm. If the herbal medicine is a decoction it should be taken when warm; herbal medicines that expel Wind-Cold are better taken hot. If the medicine is a concentrated herbal powder, it should be dissolved in boiling water and taken after it has cooled a little.

Pills, tablets or capsules should be taken with warm water. There are some exceptions, however, such as if the patient suffers from an Excessive-Heat syndrome, in which the Heat is so strong that the person cannot tolerate warm drinks and the reaction to drinking warm decoctions is vomiting. In this condition, herbal medicine can be used when it is cool.

Another situation is when a patient has a Cold syndrome and cannot tolerate herbs that are warm in nature because of the obvious conflicts between the natures; then the decoction can be taken when it is cool.

The frequency of taking herbal medicine is varied according to the disease and the condition of the patient. Usually, herbal medicine is taken three times a day: in the morning, afternoon and evening.

However, in acute and critical conditions, the herbal medicine should be taken every 4 hours, even during the night. For chronic diseases, it can be taken twice a day: in the morning and evening. When the condition of the patient improves, the herbal medicine can be used once a day, every other day, or even twice a week to stabilize the condition of the patient.

The frequency should also be adjusted for herbs that induce sweating or for purgative herbs according to the condition of the patient and the effects of the herbs. Medicine to eliminate parasites is taken only once a day for a maximum of 3 days. Herbs to reduce swelling, pain or irritation in the throat should be kept in the mouth and throat as long as possible. The patient should be instructed to sip the liquid slowly and to finish a cup of the herbal tea in 2 or 3 hours.

The timing of taking herbal medicine is also varied according to the disease and the condition of the patient. Usually, the medicines are taken 1 hour before or after the meal on a rather empty stomach because then the body can absorb the herbs properly.

There are some exceptions, though. Tonifying herbs are better taken 1 hour before a meal; medicines which promote digestion and strengthen the Stomach, or herbs that irritate the Stomach, should be taken directly after the meal; medicines which drain downwards or eliminate parasites should be taken in the morning on an empty stomach; herbs which calm the Mind and improve sleep should be taken before the patient goes to bed; herbs which control the attack of diseases such as asthma and malaria should be used 1 to 2 hours before the attack.

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