The price of Chinese herbs varies greatly, but the tonic herbs, which are the most important and unique feature of this herbal system, tend to be expensive. Since such ingredients are included in most of the formulations, the product price maybe relatively high.
However, they are very cost effective.
For an investment of approximately $1 per day, the average consumer can obtain many benefits. Compare this with the amount most people are willing to spend on unhealthy practices (Such as cigarette smoking). and it is easily seen that Chinese herbs are not expensive.
Chemical drugs often have side effects because they affect the whole body in a particular way, even when the intended use is to affect only a part of the body. With herbs, the intention is to affect the whole body. A single herb has some potential for causing side-effects because it may have a particular kind of action on the whole body that is not desired. However, an herbal formula carefully designed rarely has side effects because its influences on different parts of the body are balanced by the other herbs and thus each part of the body receives the desired type of effect.
Nonetheless, there can be some mild adverse reactions to herb formulas. The most common reaction is a gastrointestinal disturbance since the full dose of the herbs enters the stomach and intestines. If a reaction occurs, it can be prevented almost always by taking the herbs after a meal (rather than before, as is usually recommended). A few people may experience dizziness, rash, or nervousness from taking herbs and thus usually indicates that the formula is adequately balanced for their needs. In such cases, another formula should be tried or the formulation should be adjusted. In all cases, any reactions to the herbs will disappear shortly after their use has stopped.
Some Chinese herbs are collected from the wild, some are grown without pesticides, and some are grown with pesticides. Fortunately, most Chinese herbs are derived from roots, tree barks, and seeds that are not exposed to pesticides directly (soil bacteria generally degrade pesticides before they can be taken up by roots). Further, many herbs are carefully washed and processed before they go to market and thus have any residues washed off. Finally, the amount of the herb which consumed is relatively small, so the potential for exposure is much less than with ordinary foods.
It has been proposed that the diseases one suffers are determined, in part, by the environment in which a person lives. Similarly, it has been proposed that the medicinal ingredients in herbs vary according to the environment in which a plant grows. Finally, it has been suggested that there is a correspondence between the herbal effects from plants in a particular environment and the diseases that arise in the same environment.
Even if all three of these propositions are generally true, the modern situation does not correspond to the basic theory. Nearly everyone lives in a temperature controlled environment, with artificial lighting, and regularly consumes foods grown in another environment. Further, many of today's diseases are a result of exposure to synthetic chemicals, which are independent of the environment, and stresses of modern society, which are everywhere nearly the same. Herbalists around the world rely on herbs from a wide range of sources. Even in China, an herbalist may prefer using material collected thousands of miles away, even when the same plant grows locally, if the quality is notably better.
There are valuable herbs growing everywhere in the world. Selecting the most useful plants, determining which plant parts ought to be used, and deciding the correct method of using them is the task herbalists must tackle. In China, unlike other parts of the world, herbalists have sought out special tonic herbs that can be taken daily for improvement of physical condition, enhancement of energy, increase in resistance to disease, and prolongation of life. These herbs especially distinguish Chinese herbs from others.
The term "Western herbs" really applies to a method of using herbs rather than to the origin of the herbs. For example, Western herb books often list Asian herbs such as gotukola, ginger, licorice, and tang-kuei; African herbs such as capsicum and devil's claw;South American herbs, such as camomile and myrrh, and so on. Herbs are used according to their reputed health benefits without necessarily referring to a complex syndrome to be treated or to an integration of herbal properties within a formula.