Are all TCM herbs suitable for everyone? 是否每个人都适合服各种中药 ?

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

TCM Herbs on a shelf

In general, TCM herbs are beneficial, regardless of age or gender. However, for certain medical conditions, professional advice from your TCM practitioner is recommended to avoid negative effects. Here, we list 3 common medical conditions that require using TCM herbs with caution.

1. Pregnancy

Herbs that TCM describes as “invigorating the blood circulation (活血药)” such as Niú Xī (牛膝) and Hóng huā (红花), are usually not suitable for pregnant women as these may cause increased contractions of the womb with the risk of miscarriage.

Other herbs that pregnant women should avoid include those that significantly increase the Qi flow, those that are particularly warm in nature, and those that promote release and emission.

However, the above herbs are classified under “use with caution” for pregnant women. This is because while these herbs may pose certain risks, they can still be safely consumed for certain medical conditions, with a TCM practitioners’ prescription.

Another group of TCM herbs, named as “highly restricted”, should be avoided entirely as they may be too strong or may cause adverse side effects for pregnant women. Examples are Bā Dòu (巴豆), Sān Léng (三棱), É Zhú (莪术), Shè Xiāng (麝香).

2. High blood pressure

Most patients with high blood pressure should avoid TCM tonics, as it may increase the blood pressure and risk a stroke. However, in cases where high blood pressure is attributed to insufficiencies in the body, appropriate tonics to replenish the insufficiency can be taken with the prescription of the physician.

3. Cold and fever

It is best to avoid replenishing tonics when having a cold. TCM generally describes cold and flu as being caused by “external pathogenic factors” that enter the body. These external factors need to be expelled from the body in order to recover, similar to how flu viruses need to be eliminated to recover from the flu. Taking tonics for replenishment at this stage encourages the external pathogenic factors to remain in the body and hinders their expulsion.

However, if one catches a cold owing to a weak immune system, certain replenishing tonics can be added to the prescription used to expel the external pathogenic factors. This should be carried out under a TCM practitioner’s direction. Alternatively, tonics can be taken after the person recovers from the cold.

Furthermore, cold and flu can be classified into different syndromes depending on the external pathogenic factor, such as wind cold or wind heat. Wind cold pathogenic factors need to be expelled by warming herbs and wind heat pathogenic factors should be expelled by cooling herbs. Therefore, consumption of cooling teas may not be suitable for every type of cold and flu.

In summary, the herbs that one can take differ according to individual’s unique body type or medical condition. It is important to recognise one’s body constitution or syndrome so as to reap the positive effects of TCM herbs for your health.


如果身体没有什么特殊状况,一般上男女老幼 都适合服用中药。但身体有不适或有特殊状况者则必须谨慎,并建议请教专业医师,切莫乱服药。此文章列下三种常见的用药禁忌。


此期间一般上不适合服用活血祛瘀药如红花, 牛膝等, 由于此药能使子宫收缩,容易造成流产。行气破滞及辛热滑利药物也应慎用,以防发生事故。然而,在医师的指导下,则可根据病情的需要而使用这组称为妊娠慎用的药物。