FAQ

We periodically update this material to more accurately reflect the latest changes in understanding, practice, and policy. These questions come from real-life questions posed by individuals like yourself. We hope you find them helpful and informative.

Please let us know if your question is not answered here. To send a question you can send an email to contact@thegroveclinic.com.au or use the form on the contact page. If your question is pressing, please either call us directly [03 9654 7181], or email us on contact@thegroveclinic.com.au depending upon the level of urgency involved.

What should I bring?

Consultations are conducted in person or over the phone, and will mostly involve questions to determine a diagnosis. If appropriate and available bring any Western medicine exam results (if you are clear about them you can just report the results without hardcopy) and anything that will help you remember relevant details such as your diary with dates of recent menstrual cycles. 

How long will my appointment take?

Appointment times can vary depending on practitioner and treatment method.

As a general guide:

For initial consultations one should allow an hour: 30 minutes for the actual consultation, and 30 minutes for script design and dispensing.

For initial Acupuncture one should allow an hour.

Subsequent consultations: 15 - 30 minutes

Subsequent acupuncture: 1 Hour 

How often do I have to come for an appointment?

This depends upon the problem being treated. Acupuncture treatments require regular appointments, usually once per week, sometimes more. Herbal appointments are less frequent, although the initial one or two appointments may also be one or two weeks apart to check on initial responses to the herbs. Herbal appointments for gynaecological conditions are usually about 4 to 6 weeks apart.

Do I have to go somewhere else to get my herbs?

We are fortunate to have one of the largest herbal dispensaries in Australia located right in the clinic. If you are prescribed herbs your prescription will be dispensed by our dispensary team and be ready in around 15 - 25 minutes. If you are having a phone consultation, your herbs can be picked up or posted free of charge. 

How do I pay?

Charges are settled on the day of appointment. We accept cash and eftpos payments, but not American Express or  Diners Club. We do not accept personal cheques. Payments for phone consultations are made over the phone after the appointment. 

Can I get a health fund rebate?

All but one fund (ACA) give rebates for acupuncture, about two-thirds give rebates for Chinese herbal medicine. To be certain, please contact your own health fund, but be sure to say Chinese herbal medicine, as this is in a different category to ‘herbal medicine’ which one might get from a naturopath.

Of course, all practitioners at the clinic are registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, in both the Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine divisions of Chinese medicine. 

Herbal Medicine 

Why does The Grove focus so much on raw herbs when many clinics just focus on acupuncture, or acupuncture and pills?

The answer lies in the unspoken assumption that patients do not want to take raw herbs because the herbs taste too bad or are hard to cook up.

At The Grove, though, we have not found this to be the case. We have overwhelmingly found that our patients wish to have access to the best treatment they can have, and will put in the time--and even hold their nose if necessary--to get it. The "Chinese Medicine" that we hear about, the one with so many centuries of collected experience, is not just acupuncture and pills, it is herbal decoction.

The overwhelming majority of formulas, texts and practitioners from the past used raw herbal decoctions primarily as they were (and still are) the most efficacious and customisable treatment method available in Chinese Medicine. 

At The Grove, we stock over 400 different herbs. From these, a prescription for the individual patient is created, stringently selecting the precise herbs in the precise dosage to develop a tailored treatment to match the patients condition.

Drinking Herbs

Do the herbs taste bad?

Yes, really bad! 

Dose?

The recommended dosage for you is specified on the cooking directions given at the appointment. The regular dosage is usually 100ml in the morning (just over a shot) and 130ml in the evening (less than half a cup). 

However, as a general rule one should not try to force a larger dose than one feels comfortable with. If there is sediment at the bottom, do not stir it up before drinking. Let the sediment settle and just drink the more clear liquid above it. 

Timing?

Generally herbs are taken twice per day (see your cooking instructions for your own instructions) and may be taken whenever it is most convenient.  For those with weak digestion, drinking the herbs after meals may be best.

When to stop your herbs?

On the cooking instructions, many people notice that it says to stop your herbs if you catch a cold or ‘flu — but you only need to stop during the worst days, so probably only 3 or 4 days at the most. Also, if during the consultation you have already mentioned that you frequently catch colds, something will already have been added to your herbs to help with this, so you do not have to stop them at all (in fact you should not stop, but continue the herbs as usual in this case).

Early pregnancy?

In the nausea of early pregnancy, one should feel free to take as small a dose as needed to avoid vomiting. Pills can be provided as an alternative if one simply cannot face the herbs on any given day.

Other tips

It is a good idea to hold your nose (seriously!) then keep holding your nose until you wash out your mouth or eat something small like a biscuit or piece of fruit. Strangely, some people find drinking the herbs through a straw avoids the taste.

Cooking Herbs

See our cooking instructions here 

Do I Need a Cooking Pot?

The cooking pot should ideally be either glass, ceramic, or enamel. Inexpensive traditional Chinese ceramic cooking pots are available at the clinic and should be soaked for 3 hours prior to first use. Stainless steel can be used in some situations or for induction cooktops. If you are unsure about your cookware ask your practitioner in regards to your prescription. 

See your herbal prescription for any variations to the length of time for cooking the herbs (you will generally be informed of any differences both at your consultation and when the herbs are being dispensed).

Acupuncture

Do I need to disrobe?

No, although areas to be treated will need to be uncovered briefly; they will then be covered again with a towel. It is always a good idea, however, to wear loose comfortable clothing so the treatment area is easily accessible. 

Does it hurt?

It does not feel like a hypodermic injection at all (see “needles” below). The sensation is an interesting dull numbness that the Chinese call “sour”. There may be a slight pricking when the needle passes through the skin; most people do not even feel this. If there is any sharpness after this, let your practitioner know so that the point can be adjusted to be more comfortable.

Once accustomed to the sensation many of the patients who have acupuncture find the experience to be both calming and relaxing. 

Acupuncture Needles

Acupuncture needles are very fine, much smaller in diameter than hypodermic needles, which need to inject substances into a vein. Also unlike hypodermics, which slice into the vein, acupuncture needles are also gently rounded at the tip, as they ease their way into the tissues. No contact with veins or arteries is needed, and therefore in most cases little bleeding is expected when the needles are removed.

Only sterile, single-use, disposable needles are used.

Length of Treatment

We aim to bring the body and mind back into normal healthy functioning, as far as possible and as quickly as possible, using herbs and acupuncture. For recent or mild illnesses, the treatment is brief, sometimes even just two appointments. The longer the imbalance, the longer it will take to bring balance back. The rule of thumb for conditions which have persisted for longer than four years is “one month of treatment for one year of problem.” It is often surprising how people will expect instant results for a condition that has been developing for many years!

After relative balance and normal functioning has been restored, the last phase of treatment will be to consolidate this, usually employing easy-to-take pills, drops or powders, or less frequent acupuncture visits. One could say we need to eradicate the body’s memory of its imbalance.

In fertility treatment, this is often the most burning question: How long will it take?! The simple answer is that it is often between six to twelve months. We cannot force a pregnancy, we can only aim to provide conditions which are as optimal as possible for pregnancy to take place.

However, we have noticed that often (not always) it is those who ask the question most insistently who seem to take the longest to fall pregnant. We usually recommend fostering a sense of trust. Trust that the universe does indeed want you to fall pregnant at this time, or trust in your body to function as it should (and sometimes a miscarriage is the right thing for the body to do), or trust that if something isn’t working properly, there is a way to rectify it or at least improve it. It is remarkable how fostering a sense of basic trust leads to a deeper sense of relaxation throughout the body and this can often be the trigger that the body needs to facilitate a pregnancy. 

Fertility Treatment

Age Issues

Age is not such a big deal in Chinese medicine (within limits, of course) because we aim to improve egg quality with herbal treatment. However, egg quality is not the only factor in fertility. Many things have to come together in the right way and at the right time for conception to occur and a viable pregnancy to develop. Chief amongst these, and the fastest to improve, is the condition of the endometrium, the lining of the uterus. Next is egg quality [In a 2015 study entitled Chinese herbal medicine for female infertility: An updated meta-analysis, the author (Reid) stated “Chinese herbal medicine therapy addresses these imbalances, and therefore strengthens not just egg quality but also other ‘environmental’ factors, such as the quality of the endometrium“]. Many other factors also have to work properly, including proper functioning of ovulation, tubal patency and functioning, and then luteal phase stability, and of course sperm quality. Some of these factors are de-emphasised in Western medicine fertility treatments because either not much can be done with Western medicine (eg to improve sperm quality, count or morphology) or because it will be handled artificially anyway (eg in IVF treatments). Each of these areas is targeted specifically in Chinese medicine treatments for fertility, with the aim of achieving a natural pregnancy if at all possible [learn more here, and here].

How long will it take for me to fall pregnant?

In fertility treatment, this is often the most burning question: How long will it take?! The simple answer is that it is often between six to twelve months. We cannot force a pregnancy, we can only aim to provide conditions which are as optimal as possible for pregnancy to take place.

However, we have noticed that often (not always) it is those who ask the question most insistently who seem to take the longest to fall pregnant. We usually recommend fostering a sense of trust. Trust that the universe does indeed want you to fall pregnant at this time, or trust in your body to function as it should (and sometimes a miscarriage is the right thing for the body to do), or trust that if something isn’t working properly, there is a way to rectify it or at least improve it. It is remarkable how fostering a sense of basic trust leads to a deeper sense of relaxation throughout the body and this can often be the trigger that the body needs to facilitate a pregnancy. 

Herbs and IVF

Herbs are fine during IVF procedures (for most fertility specialists in Australia, anyway). During the initial IVF try however we usually do not use herbs during the down regulation and stimulation phases, in order to determine the patient’s baseline response to the IVF protocol. Ideally we would like to see a patient for two or three months before beginning an IVF program, as this is the minimum amount of time needed to improve the endometrium, which is where the fertilised ovum has to implant. We believe that this investment of a few weeks pays big dividends in IVF success rates.

There have been some interesting results of research into Chinese medicine and IVF recently (See our page Research on Chinese Medicine and Infertility).

Acupuncture and IVF

The benefits of acupuncture in IVF treatment have also been measured (See our page Research on Acupuncture and IVF). 

“Success Rates”

We have not measured our success rates at this clinic, as it is both expensive and surprisingly difficult to do so accurately. If you have doubts — and doubts are usually healthy things to have — it would perhaps be best to ask around friends and acquaintances for a word-of-mouth recommendation. You might be surprised who has heard about the clinic — after thirty years in practice, word does spread.

Herbs in pregnancy

After close to two millennium of using, observing and recording the effects of herbs in human pregnancy, Chinese herbal gynaecology has traditional guidelines concerning what can and cannot be used in pregnancy. In fact, there are three levels of herbs used in Chinese gynaecology:

  1. Those herbs which should not be used in pregnancy;
  2. Herbs that are traditionally considered useable and appropriate for pregnancy;
  3. Herbs that are not only useable, but traditionally considered beneficial to both mother and baby; these are known in traditional Chinese gynaecology as An Tai Yao 安 胎 药 “foetal-calming herbs”.

In general during pregnancy we choose herbs only from the foetal-calming category, unless there is a specific need to use a herb from category two for a specific effect and a short time. 

Tinctures, Powders & Pills

Do You Prescribe Powders, Pills and Tinctures? 

Powders, pills and tinctures are used often in combination with raw herbal decoctions and acupuncture and at times as stand alone treatments. Powders, pills and tinctures offer a convenient alternative for patients, and while they often do not offer the hard hitting effectiveness of raw herbs, they are a good alternative if time constraints, taste, or travel get in the way. They are also a useful management tool for keeping symptoms under control once the condition has been treated. 

How do I take my tincture?

Take the number of drops instructed on the label or as instructed by your practitioner in 125ml of water. Be sure to notice that the dosage is not in ‘drops’, but ‘droppers’. To signal this we say “full droppers” but they don’t have to be full all the way to the top of the dropper, three quarters is sufficient. 

The Grove has been making their tinctures in house for around 20 years and due to popular demand from other clinics we have recently started selling our favourites for use in clinics around Australia. If you are a practitioner and would like to stock our tincture range, please contact Ren on contact@theherbgrove.com.au.

How do I take my herbal powder?

The powder does not dissolve in water, so it has to be taken straight. There are several ways to do this:

  • A good way for children is to have a thin coat of apple sauce on a spoon, then add a little of the powder, then cover with applesauce and add hundreds-and-thousands. Make it a special treat.
  • For adults, leave off the hundreds-and-thousands.
  • Or — and this is the usual way — place the dose of powder on a piece of folded paper. Then take a sip of water, hold it in the mouth, then tip the powder onto the water where it will float for a second, before you tip your head back and let it slide down your throat, and chase it with another swallow of water.
  • You can also mix the powder with water, however it usually does not dissolve completely. 

That’s the theory. It takes some practice.

Why do I have to take so many pills?

Often a prescription will call for ten to twelve pills to be taken AM & PM, and people are sometimes surprised at the number, since they are used to pharmaceutical drug forms of one or two tablets. On the one hand, these pills are quite small compared to the usual drug tablet, and on the other, these pills are not concentrated chemicals, they are simply plants, and a certain amount of plant material is needed before there will be an effect.

Some people have trouble swallowing pills, however; if this is the case inform your practitioner and an alternative can easily be arranged.

Why does the label on my pills tell me they treat one thing, when you prescribed them to me for something else?

Labelling for all packaged medicines in Australia is restricted by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, and Chinese herbal pills have to be labelled as if they were Western over-the-counter drugs.

This means that a traditional formula which treats a wide range of problems, all of which stem from (for example) a “Liver” imbalance in Chinese medicine terms, cannot say this on the label, because the TGA is afraid that someone with a serious liver disease will try to treat themselves with the Chinese herbal pills instead of obtaining more suitable Western medicine treatment.

Thus usually one or two ‘allowable’ symptoms are chosen to represent the wide range of what the formula actually does treat. It does make it hard to explain to a man, though, why the pills which suit him best say “for PMT”.

How does Chinese medicine work?

It works very well.