People who turn to herbal tea for treating minor ailments without first seeking medical advice have been warned they risk worsening their conditions. Tong Yao, of the school of Chinese medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said each person required a unique herbal formula determined by several factors. Treatment with a generic formula could do more harm than good, she said. Professor Tong expressed alarm at the habit of using herbal tea to treat minor ailments such as the flu, instead of consulting a doctor or practitioner of traditional medicine. 'The practice, as such, is very dangerous. The formula should be tailor-made to treat different stages of the disease and to meet the unique physique of the patient,' she said. 'This explains why some medicines can improve the health conditions of some patients, but do not work on others who suffer from the same disease. 'So taking herbal tea regardless of the unique condition of different people could worsen the condition while delaying treatment, and may even bring harm to the general health of the patients.' Professor Tong said a person's state of health was mainly determined by genes, but it can be gradually changed by factors such as ageing, lifestyle, eating habits and medication. She said there were three basic physiques and eight unhealthy conditions according to Chinese medicine, all of which needed different approaches to improve.