What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?
Chinese Herbal medicine is one of the greatest herbal systems of the world, with an unbroken tradition going back to the 3rd century BC. Herbal medicine, just as Acupuncture, is a major component of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The Chinese Materia Medica lists over 6,000 different herbal substances, however there are normally about 600 herbs in common use today.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, each herb has its own features. Through understanding these features, herbs can be used to treat diseases by adjusting imbalanced Yin or Yang and regulating the circulation of Qi and the Blood. The features are described from different angles, including the Four Energies, Five Tastes, Four Action Directions, Meridians and Toxicities.
The Four Energies refer to the temperature characteristics of the herb, namely Cold, Hot, Cool, and Warm. Cold and Hot herbs have opposite properties that describe their energetic features, actions on the human body and therapeutic effects.
The Five Tastes, or Flavors, of herbs are Sour, Bitter, Sweet, Pungent-Spicy and Salty. If the taste is not strong or obvious, it is called Neutral or Bland. Herbs with different tastes or flavors have different pharmacological and therapeutic effects. The tastes do not refer to their real tastes in the mouth, but rather indicate the actions they have on the human body.
Various combinations of temperature and taste give the herb its properties that can influence the Yin and Yang energy patterns of the body. For example, sour, bitter and salty tastes are related to Yin, whereas acrid and sweet are attributed to Yang. Different herbs have different actions on the body. They can warm, cool, tonify, move stagnation and more.
It is important to understand that herbs do not possess one quality. They usually present a combination of properties and temperatures and
may reach from one to as many as twelve organ systems. Herbs are typically prescribed in combination. The different components of a herbal
formula balance each other and they undergo a mutual synergy, which increases efficacy, enhances safety and is far less likely to cause side-effects.
Chinese Herbal Medicine seeks primarily to correct internal imbalances rather than to treat symptoms alone and therapeutic intervention is designed to encourage this self-healing process.
Are Herbs Safe?
ncorrect applications of herbs on patients may cause adverse reactions and, occasionally, more severe problems. For example, using herbs of the Hot nature on a patient with Heat syndromes will only cause exacerbation of the disease.
However, herbs are very safe and effective, especially when prescribed correctly by a properly trained practitioner who can apply their appropriate properties to the corresponding ailments.
Over the centuries doctors have compiled detailed information about the pharmacopoeia and placed great emphasis on the protection of the patient. Allergic type reactions are rare and will cause no lasting damage if the treatment is stopped as soon as symptoms appear.