Modern practitioners still employ traditional knowledge and expertise but combine it with up-to-date diagnostic and therapeutic techniques.
There is great emphasis put on prevention - the idea being to treat an illness before it begins whenever possible.
Practitioners say that, because so many people have used them for so many centuries, Chinese herbal medicines rarely produce adverse effects, although Western doctors say they do arise occasionally.
Inform your GP
You should always tell your doctor if you are considering or already using Chinese herbal remedies.
As with many other complementary therapies, Chinese herbal medicine takes a holistic approach and the practitioner establishing the correct diagnosis will spend considerable time.
Treatment will then be tailored to the individual, so different people with similar symptoms or conditions will not necessarily be prescribed the same medicines.
Tea and remedies
The remedies are usually a combination of specially selected herbs chosen and initially prepared by the practitioner, especially when they are prescribed in the form of a herbal tea as they very often are, although pills are also used.
Most people find the taste of the herbal teas hard to take at first - they tend be strong and rather bitter - but get used to them after a while.
Some practitioners now also prescribe remedies prepared as freeze-dried powders. You will be told when and how to take the remedies and, if appropriate, will be shown how to prepare the teas at home yourself.
As well as aiming to prevent ill health, Chinese herbalists also claim particular success in treating existing conditions, including skin disease, gynaecological problems, digestive problems, allergies, problems with the immune system, pain and psychological problems.