If you work with a TCM doctor, you may find that the cost of professionally prepared herbal medicines, teas, topicals, and extractions can be higher than you thought they’d be. After all, since they’re made from plants, wouldn’t that mean they should be inexpensive? Not always.
Here at Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions we receive questions from our patients on the costs of various herbal prescriptions. We’re always on the lookout for ways to reduce costs for our patients’ medicines without compromising quality and potency. Here’s what you need to know:
Why Good Quality TCM Herbs Can Be Expensive
- Herb prices are based upon supply and demand.
Each herbal ingredient in your formula is a different price per gram based upon world supply and demand. This means that 10 grams of 3 different herbs will be the total of 3 different prices, one for each ingredient, based upon current supply and demand. Changes in the supply or the demand for even one herb in your formula can be why your formula’s price fluctuates over time.
- Herb prices can fluctuate on a dime depending upon a host of factors.
To best illustrate this, when Covid hit, several herbs became incredibly expensive because they were used to treat Covid and long Covid. Overnight, the use of these herbs increased exponentially around the world. Unfortunately, supply did not change as the demand went through the roof. As a result, whatever was in the supply chain went to the highest bidders. Other factors that can dwindle supply is a poor harvest, damage to crops, contamination, shipping damage, embargoes, etc. Therefore, pricing can vary from year to year and in response to unusual circumstances.
- Single herb price differences are also why there is a difference in price between one formula and another.
Ingredients can also change significantly from formula to formula. Some formulas will have ingredients that are pricier, and some formulas will have ingredients that are not as pricey. Some will have a combination of both. Therefore, you cannot expect your formula to be the same price as your friend’s, or the same between one condition and another — even if it covers the same number of days, is the same total grams, or is the same total number of ingredients.
Changes in Your Condition Mean Changes to Your Formula
- Your herbal prescription will change as your condition changes or improves.
That’s why you may notice that although your herbal ingredients are the same from one appointment to another, the total cost may be different. This is because your doctor may change the number of grams for one ingredient, or reduce the number of grams for another as your symptoms increase or diminish. Your formula is adjusted for your unique health condition over time. So, even though the ingredients are the same, it doesn’t mean the pricing will be the same.
- Sometimes when your symptoms are more acute we will use higher dosages of certain ingredients.
If you are suffering from a flareup or severe symptom, (including but not limited to extreme redness, itchiness, or exudate), this can make the price of a formula higher, temporarily. As your symptoms resolve, we will reduce the dosages of certain ingredients, which may make your formula less expensive. However, once your skin moves into another phase, we may need to use other herbs to address your new stage of healing. Those herbs could be more/less expensive than the ones used before. Therefore, the cost of your formula will likely fluctuate from order to order.
Dr. Olivia Explains How She Works to Keep Patient Costs Down and Herbal Quality High
- “As there are many herbs that have similar functions, I try my best to use less expensive herbs vs. more expensive herbs when possible...
But sometimes, I don’t have a choice because a specific (more expensive) herb can be the best at doing a specific job in a specific condition. In those cases, I use that herb sparingly, meaning, I use it only as long as the patient needs to resolve the issue at hand. Then, I try to take it out as soon as possible.”
- “Kamwo is considered a larger herbal pharmacy which means they have a lot of clout when negotiating with herbal ingredient vendors...
For this reason, Kamwo typically can access herbs that other companies cannot and is able to negotiate some of the best pricing among herbal pharmacies due to economies of scale. This works to my patients’ advantage because smaller pharmacies often charge higher prices for herbal formulas because they just don’t have the bulk buying power that Kamwo has. This, plus the high quality of their herbs and their meticulous processing standards, is one of the many reasons why I use Kamwo.”
Things You Should Keep In Mind as a TCM Patient
- Understand what goes on behind the scenes with herbal ingredients to appreciate how they are priced.
Amethyst does its best to build formulas that total an average of $70-100/week before shipping and taxes. However, for all the reasons above, this is a guideline, not a set window. Also keep in mind that if you ask for other conditions (non-skin related) to be addressed via your formula, be prepared for how that impacts the pricing of your formula.
- Unfortunately, herbal medicine is not covered by insurance and is entirely an out-of-pocket expense.
Many HSA and PSA accounts will cover herbal appointments and treatments, but please check to make sure yours will cover these costs. Before embarking on an herbal medicine protocol, please also make sure your overall financial situation aligns with the reality of herbal treatment costs.
- All customized herbal formulas are made just for you.
Therefore, if you agree to move forward with treatment at each appointment, you agree to pay for the process of making these customized herbs as well as the shipping fees needed to deliver the herbs to you. No returns or refunds will be allowed for any unused customized herbal formulas.
We believe that in the end, TCM herbal medicine offers a cost-effective and lasting solution for most patients with dermatological issues – especially when compared to the cost of pharmaceuticals (which can also come with the risk of severe side effects.) Many of our patients report that they have spent thousands of dollars over many, many years, searching for answers to their skin condition to no avail. They are pleased when their herbal treatment plan delivers positive results, and most report that they consider the cost of their herbs as money well spent.
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About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.