Chinese herbal formula medicine is as old as acupuncture, if not older. Formulas are a combination of multiple single herbs that work synergistically to treat a specific diagnosis. The formulas can be given in a pill, as granules that are steeped into a tea, or in natural dried or processed form such as twigs, bark, leaves, or flowers. Formulas that are made from granules or bulk can be custom formulated for each patient to address their unique condition and presenting symptoms. Unlike a drug where the same formula is given to everyone to treat a condition such as migraine headaches, herbal formulas are customized to each patient because their migraines may not be from the same pathology or underlying condition and they may present with different symptoms.
Herbal formulas are commonly used along with acupuncture for a reinforcing or synergistic effect, and in some conditions can be more effective than acupuncture. The formulas work on energetic principles although the seperation from the biomolecular model can be less clear. Herbal formulas can have a longer lasting effect than acupuncture because they are taken on a daily basis over a prescribed course of time, and thus can help with chronic conditions that require a longer course of treatment.