Chinese herbs are used in the U.S. as traditional foods and not as drugs. As such, there has been no formal testing of either the safety or efficacy of any of the individual herbs or formulas. The Chinese have had long experience using these herbs; from all informal reports and clinical studies, the Chinese claim that the herbs are not only safe to use, but that healthy children are usually born without any problems during delivery. However, it is important to recognize that the use of Chinese herbs is relatively new in the U.S. and that Americans today may have more stringent safety standards than the Chinese have had in the past. Therefore, one should pay attention to perceived adverse responses to the herbs.
The Chinese herbs that are used in the U.S. are not overtly toxic, but there are a few possible adverse reactions which are rare and can usually be avoided by slight adjustment in formulation or method of administration. These reactions may include dizziness or headache, dry mouth, nausea, flatulence, or change in bowel conditions. If such reactions are not resolved naturally within about three days or if they are severe, the prescribing physician can make an appropriate adjustment. In any case, by discontinuing use of the herbs, any of these reactions will disappear promptly. Allergic reactions to herbs are rare, but if a person suffers from “environmental allergy syndrome,” then the herbs can also cause the same reactions as other materials encountered in the normal environment.