For those who are new to herbal medicine, or who have never tried it before, it's worth knowing that you have options in terms of how you take medicinal herbs. When you go to a Chinese medicine herbalist, internal herbs that you take orally come in three varieties: Tea pills, Granules, and Raw herbs. These three options allow you to make a choice based on your lifestyle preferences and what your health goals are. So what's the difference? Which one is right for me? Are there circumstances when I should choose one over the other? By the end of this video, you'll know what these three versions are and the pros and cons of each so that you can make the best decision for you. Let's talk about it. What's up world! I'm Dr Nick Spurlock, Herbalist, Acupuncturist, and End of Life Doula and welcome to my channel where we talk about cultivating health, living with purpose, and dying with dignity. Tea pills, granules, and raw herbs. Let's start with the broad overview because there is a theme here.
In terms of effectiveness and medicinal strength, it doesn't get any better than raw herbs. Using the actual plant parts and cooking them to create a strong herbal tea. Granules are the next strongest form, made from concentrated boiled herbs that have been turned into a powder. Tea pills, well, I don't have any on hand because honestly I don't prescribe them. They look like this: a bottle filled with little black pearl-looking tea pills. They literally look like little black pearls. Tea pills are the least potent, however they are the easiest to take, the most convenient.
So as you can see, there is a trade-off to be made. Let's talk about each one a little bit more starting with tea pills. As stated, tea pills are a common choice for many modern folk because of their convenience. They are super easy to take and the concept of swallowing a few tiny pills with water is very familiar to a lot of people. Because they're so easy, tea pills can increase what providers refer to as "patient compliance" – as in people take them as directed consistently. Because we've all been there. Sometimes it's easier to stick to the plan when you know it will only take 30 seconds out of your day. The other reason why tea pills are preferred by some is because they are tasteless. Herbal medicine isn't exactly known for being delicious so tea pills are a good option for those who would consider taste a barrier to compliance. Like if you're literally not going to take your herbs because you don't like the taste, then tea pills might be the way to go.
The main downside to tea pills is that they can't be modified. They are only sold in pre-made bottles of specific formulas. So while your herbalist can still choose a formula that is appropriate for you, they can't make any edits to it. Being able to modify the formulas allows us to customize the formula to you, addressing your specific needs and goals. Tea pills come as is, no editing allowed. Granules are arguably the most common choice because they are the compromise of convenience and potency. Have you ever used instant coffee? Same premise. Granules come as a powder, like this. They are made by combining concentrated herbal tea with a starch, usually from potato or corn. Add the powder to a cup, pour hot water over it, stir it around so the granules mix in real good, and then drink it. Simple as pie. Now, granules do have a taste. It's often more subtle than raw herbs but it is there and the granular texture can be a little weird at first.
Pro tip: you don't need to add a ton of water to granules. Just add enough for one or two gulps and you're done. I myself have made the rookie mistake of adding too much water to my granules and had to drink a big glass of it, like big gulp size, when I could have taken it as a shot. If you scoop your granules into a tiny cup, you save yourself from this mistake.
Oh, and make sure to drink any dregs left at the bottom. You paid for that medicine, get it all. Granules are wonderful because not only are they super easy to take but we can modify them. I could choose the granular form of a base formula and then add individual herb granules as well. Now I may not have as much freedom to modify as I would with raw herbs, but there's still quite a bit of freedom to work with. The convenience of tea pills and granules make them a great choice for people who are going to be traveling. They are clearly labeled as dietary supplements, so security checkpoints don't give you a hassle over it, and you can take your medicine just about anywhere.
Hotel room, airport, even on the plane. As long as you have warm water. Raw herbs. Herbal medicine doesn't get any better than raw herbs. Providers have the most flexibility and patients get the most potent medicine. Raw herbs are most often used to make a decoction, which refers to boiling them until you've extracted all the aqueous chemical constituents and then you drink it like a tea. The downside is that they are more labor-intensive than the other choices and in our modern world that can be a deal-breaker. Raw herb decoctions also have the strongest taste, which some people like to avoid. Still, if you want the best possible result raw herbs are definitely the way to go.
The thing is being able to taste the natural substances as they enter our body increases the effectiveness of the medicine. To explain it briefly, when we taste the herbs in our mouth, our body activates a cascade of chemical pathways to identify each substance and determine what to do with it. By the time the herbal tea is in our stomach, your body's metabolic processes are already engaged, ready to send each medicinal chemical constituent through the correct pathway of absorption and utilization.
We humans have evolved alongside the natural world and our internal systems recognize these substances. Even if we haven't yet consumed them in our own lifetime, our ancestors did and our body remembers how. So while it may not be the yummiest thing you put in your mouth that day, being able to taste the herbs significantly increases their medicinal effect by initiating the biochemical reactions necessary to make the best possible use of them.
A lot of people have never tasted these types of flavors before, so yeah, it's gonna taste a little weird at first. But in my experience, both personally and professionally, people tend to find that after a couple weeks they're used to it and it's not that bad anymore. Plus, once you've started noticing the positive effects from the herbs, most people say that the taste is totally worth it. Personally, I find that the easiest way to cook raw herbs is in a crock pot rather than boiling them on the stove top. Just let them slow cook by themselves for several hours and then you'll have fresh herbal medicine waiting for you. Just strain it and drink it. Easy. For those of us who want the full power of plant medicine and like being able to experience what's healing us, raw herbs are our first choice.
A few additional notes on when to use what. It's worth mentioning that you can mix these methods. You can use granules or tea pills as your normal day-to-day herbal medicine and then switch to raw herbs temporarily to work on a specific issue. For example, if you experience an acute problem like a cold or a sports injury. You can use raw herbs for that temporarily to get better faster and then once that's resolved you can switch back to granules or tea pills. Also, traveling with raw herbs isn't always realistic, unless you're visiting the fam. For that, granules or tea pills may be a better option. So even if you're someone who travels a lot for your job, herbal medicine is still available to you. The most important thing is that we actually take our herbs. They won't work if we don't take them. So take that into account when you're deciding which route is best for you. What's your lifestyle like? How much time are you realistically willing to spend preparing your medicine? what are your health goals? Talk to your herbalist about this and come up with a plan so that you can get the best benefits for what is honestly doable in your life.
Also remember, your herbalist will give you specific doses and instructions on how to take your herbs. I recommend getting the instructions in writing, which is relatively commonplace. Tea pills usually have a recommended dose right there on the bottle so your provider may tell you to follow that. For granules, I often write the instructions directly on the bottle and that way it's always there for reference. Raw herbs will have more detailed instructions for preparation so usually a provider will give you a handout for that. And please! Ask your herbalist questions while you have them in front of you. Make sure you understand what to do and how to do it. That way you can get the most out of your medicine.
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