Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) originated in ancient China, rooted in the ancient philosophy of Taoism more than 2,500 years ago. Today, TCM is considered a complementary or integrative health approach to modern medicine. Here are the most common Chinese herbs you can take as dietary supplements to help fill nutritional gaps in your diet.
Chinese Herbs at a Glance
TCM encompasses several different health practices to support optimal health of the mind and body, including acupuncture, tai chi, therapeutic massage, and Chinese herbal medicine.
Many Chinese herbs are considered adaptogenic, which means they may have the ability to “adapt” to harsh growing conditions. The definition of an adaptogen is “a nontoxic substance and especially a plant extract that is held to increase the body’s ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological functioning.” Some of the most commonly used Chinese herbs are available as dietary supplements in powders, capsules, tablets, teas and other options.
Taking a dietary supplement of adaptogens, such as Vital Adapt from Natura Health Products, which includes a blend of several adaptogens for stress and adrenal support, may help the human body withstand environmental stress and maintain optimal health.
It’s important to note that some of the herbs used in TCM may interact with prescribed medicines, certain health conditions, or have unwanted side effects. Always tell your health care provider about any alternative natural health methods you want to use before starting a new regimen.
Find out how these herbs may support your health below.
01. Artemisia (Artemisia absinthium), also called mugwort or sweet wormwood, is a species of plants belonging to the daisy family, Asteraceae. Artemisia may be used as a helpful supplement ingredient for a bodily cleanse and detox. This herb is naturally resistant to harmful organisms, which may promote healthy digestion, circulation, and cellular health.
Artemisinin from Doctor’s Best is a vegan and gluten-free dietary supplement that contains high-quality artemisia extract to support optimal health.
02. Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) root has been used in TCM in combination with other herbs, such as ginseng, dong quai, and licorice, for centuries. It is used to support healthy weight management, energy, digestive function, and respiratory system function. The herb is considered suitable for even sensitive users, when taken in dietary supplements.
Astragalus Root Extract 300 Mg from Vital Nutrients is an herbal immune system support supplement that contains trace minerals and micronutrients the support a healthy spleen, qi (vital energy), and the blood.
03. Bupleurum (Bupleurum chinense), also called chai hu in Chinese, meaning “kindling of the barbarians,” is often used in TCM for its roots, which are believed to support digestion, reproductive health and liver function.
Bupleurum Liver Cleanse from Planetary Herbals offers a clean, natural way to support your body in cleansing the liver of toxins. The unique formula contains a blend of several Chinese herbs, including bupleurum root, ginger root, Chinese skullcap root, dong quai root extracts, and more.
04. Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) is a plant with blue or purple flowers that is native to China and parts of Russia. It is used in TCM to support the respiratory system during seasonal health challenges, maintain blood pressure levels already in the normal range, and support the immune system against potentially harmful microbes. It should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Arthromax Herbal Joint Formula from Life Extension is a dietary supplement featuring Chinese skullcap root extract to support a healthy central nervous system, promote joint comfort, and help maintain mobility during healthy aging.
05. Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) root is used in TCM when combined with other herbs to support female reproductive health. This unique member of the celery family is often called “female ginseng.” It has been used for over 1,000 years as a spice, tonic, and medicine in China, Korea, and Japan. It may also support heart health.
Dong Quai Root from Nature’s Way is a vegetarian dietary supplement containing the adaptogenic herb to help promote adrenal health, female reproductive health, and the body’s reaction to stress.
06. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a commonly used household ingredient for recipes and teas. It has been used in TCM to temporarily support digestive system discomfort during various stages of life.
Ginger from Oregon’s Wild Harvest is a dietary supplement that may support gastrointestinal health. Ginger also promotes salivation, which may help with swallowing food.
07. Ginseng (Panax ginseng) is an adaptogenic herb containing ginsenosides, which are the substances thought to give the herb its medicinal properties, such as supporting the immune system, cognitive function and overall healthy mood.
Panax Ginseng from Pure Encapsulations is a dietary supplement that supports the body in adapting to physical and emotional stress. It also seeks to support reproductive health, memory and learning, cardiovascular health, and immune system function.
08. Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has been used as a sweetener and to help support adrenal health and ultimately hormone production.
Licorice Root Extract 400 Mg by Vital Nutrients is an adaptogenic herbal supplement that supports gastric muscle and tissue health and a healthy immune response.
Rehmannia Liquid Extract from Herb Pharm is a gluten-free dietary supplement that is formulated to support optimal health and well-being. This formula delivers high-grade, non-GMO Rehmannia root extracts from China. It is best taken between meals.
10. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) mushrooms grow wild on decaying logs in China. They have been used in TCM for 2,000 years to support upper respiratory health, energy and normal sleep patterns.
Reishi Immune by Premier Research Labs is a natural dietary supplement of reishi extracts that offers liver and immune system support.
11. Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), a plant that grows in cold, mountainous regions of Asia, is used in TCM to support energy, stamina, strength, attention, memory, and the ability to cope with stress. Studies suggest it may also promote a healthy mood.
Rhodiola from NOW Foods is an adaptogenic herbal supplement that provides stress support in daily life. This product is non-GMO and GMP quality assured and is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
12. Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis), also known as wu-wei-zi, meaning “five taste fruit” in Chinese, is a woody vine with small red berries that grows throughout China and Russia. Schisandra is a traditional Chinese tonic herb whose berries are simultaneously bitter, sweet, salty, hot and sour. The adaptogenic herb is used in TCM to support a healthy stress response, promote a normal sleep pattern and support upper respiratory health.
Schisandra from Oregon’s Wild Harvest is a certified organic, 100% vegetarian dietary supplement derived from the berries of the schisandra plant to help provide stress support and promote a healthy liver, kidney and gut.
13. Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris) is used as an exotic plant extract in TCM supplements. However, it is important to note that it may contain organic compounds, including alkaloids and steroidal glycosides. It is claimed to support libido and serve as an adaptogen for healthy, physically active adults and athletes.
Tribulus from Himalaya is a certified organic, vegan herbal supplement containing tribulus powder and extract to support healthy urinary tract function, reproductive system health, and stamina.
To learn more about adaptogens, read our previous blog.
Have you used any Chinese herbs as a supplement to your daily nutrition? Share your thoughts in the comments below!