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Chinese herbal medicines consist of individual herbs made into formulae that take into account the individual therapeutic action of each herb and as well as the combined effects. A well-constructed formula maximizes the effectiveness for treating a particular condition, while counteracting and minimizing the unwanted effects of an individual herb.

Currently more than 450 substances are used in Chinese herbal medicine. Most are of plant origin, though some animal and mineral substances are also used. Some, such as ginger, garlic and cinnamon, are common, but many of the substances may be unfamiliar to you, such as chai hu (bupleurum), di huang (rehmannia) and huang qi (astragalus). Some substances that were used traditionally are no longer part of the modern professional Chinese herbal medicine practice. For example, traditional remedies derived from endangered species have been replaced by other substances with similar action.