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Cooking a Chinese Herbal Formula

There are many ways to cook raw herbs in Chinese Medicine. Here are a few.

Most sources prefer ceramic containers and glass comes in next. It is always suggested that you do not use a metal container. Different herbs can react with the metals in the pot and change the effectiveness of the formula, often in ways that can be harmful. Make sure that you have a lid that fits snugly. If you have to use metal stainless steel is better than the other choices.

Once you have your container soak the herbs. Put your herbal formula into the water and make sure that they are completely covered. Preferably the water will be between 1 and 2 inches above the herbs. Let them sit for at least 15 minutes without turning on the heat. It is okay to let them soak up to an hour. Then bring the water to a rolling boil and turn down the heat to a low simmer. Make sure that you keep everything covered the whole cooking time. So no peeking!

Generally, you cook herbs for 20 to 30 minutes. Depending on the type of herbs being used there can be a wide variable in the amount of time it should steep. When using raw herbal chinese formulas always ask your practitioner for the correct timing.

You will need to strain the tea. Again, check with your practitioner to determine whether or not you can use the same herbs for more than one cooking.

Now, the hard part. Drink it. Most of these formulas taste bad. However, if it is so bad that you won't drink it, then you need to do something to help ease it down. Sometimes just adding some more water will fix it. Some people recommend honey others small chunks of fruit. Again, you will need to check with the practitioner before adding anything to it. You wouldn't want to accidentally alter the healing properties. Often the taste can grow on you and is easier to get down with time. Especially, if you start to feel better for having taken it.

Some herbs need to be steeped fo a longer period of time. Many minerals and shells need to be steeped for quite a while. So add them to the water first and let them cook for 20 or 30 minutes before adding the other herbs in the formula.

Other herbs cook up fast. Aromatic herbs are often used to ease colds, flus and congestion. These contain oils that come out quickly and can evaporate if steeped too long. These are often added in the last 3 - 5 minutes of cooking time.

There are other types of herbs that require special attention. Very small herbs are often wrapped in cheesecloth or placed in a muslin bag before being cooked. Other herbs come in a powdered form. These are like instant tea - you just add water and drink them down.

The timing to administer these formulas change dramatically depending on what a person is being treated for. Some need to be on an empty stomach, some with food, some in the morning, some before bed. So check with your herbalist to make sure that you get the most out of your formula.

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