There are approximately 6000 Chinese materia medica, which consist of herbal products such as leaves, seeds, fruits, stems and roots, animal products, and mineral products.
The ancient texts classified each product according to its inherent nature and the effects it will have on the organs of the body. More recently scientists have identified and documented the active ingredients in many of the Chinese materia medica.
Chinese herbal medicine is rarely prescribed as a single product.
A combination of Chinese herbal medicine, or a formula, is nearly always prescribed. There are literally thousands of documented formulas. However of these, there are about 200 classic traditional formulas that have been tested and documented over hundreds of years. These classical formulas form the templates to which the practitioner adds extra individual Chinese herbs, thus making each formula very specific to the condition of the patient.
Nowadays, Chinese herbal formulas come in many forms including granules, drops, pills, liniments, plasters and raw herbs.
Producers of the granules, pills and liquid extracts test each batch of herbs to confirm the presence of the active ingredient, and to certify that there is no contamination by pesticides, heavy metals, herbal substitutes and toxins. The use of products from endangered animal species and cruel practices is illegal in Australia. All Chinese herbal medicinal products, in Australia, are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.