1. What is Chinese herbal medicine?
Chinese herbal medicine is one of major modalities in traditional Chinese medicine. Chinese herbs are simply plants and vegetables. They are classified according to their natural properties, flavors, directions of Qi movement, meridian tropism and therapeutic actions. Traditionally, a group of herbs, not a single herb, are selected as a formula for a given condition based on their medicinal nature and the diagnosis with patient. Mixed herbs have no more side effects than mixed corns, carrots and peas. Modern research shows that herbs contain vitamins, minerals, proteins, enzymes and trace elements in natural balance that regulate the metabolism and immune functions.
2. How would Chinese herbs be served
There are many forms of administration of herbal medicine such as decoctions, granules, pills, extracts.
1) Decoctions: Bulk herbs, usually prepared raw materia madica, are cooked for a specified period of time. The liquid is strained from the dregs and ingested through the mouth. One of the primary advantages of a decoction is that it is rapidly absorbed by the body; its effects are strong and immediately perceived by the patient. In addition, it is easy to modify the formulation to fit a particular patient at a given time. It is not, however, without drawbacks: decoctions are time-consuming, difficult to prepare, and usually bad tasting, although Asian people have drunk the decoctions for thousands years.
2) Granules are a powder version of the herbs and manufactured by the Chinese herbal medicine companies using modern high technology. They can be mixed in warm water to make a tea, or swallowed and then chased with water. The granules can be quickly absorbed and stronger-acting than pills and tablets. The biggest advantage is more convenient for administration, good tasting and require less medicine volume than decoctions.
3) Pills are made from the ground pulverized herbal ingredients and a liquid or other viscous medium like honey, water, and paste may be added. The size of pills is specified as large, medium and small. In general, pills are absorbed slowly and over a long period of time. Pills are more easily stored and ingested than decoctions and more commonly used for treating chronic disorders associated with deficiency.
4) Extracts are herbs that may be soaked for longer periods of time in alcohol, vinegar, or glycerin. This process over time extracts the essence of the herbs into the liquid that is used, which can be taken internally or sometimes used for external purposes.
3. What is the state of Chinese Herbal Medicine in the West?
Chinese herbs have served as the foundation for "Traditional Chinese Medicine", or TCM, for over 5,000 years. The fundamental idea of living in harmony with nature and the environment forms the basis for the use of Chinese herbs as well as the traditional Chinese approach to health. Knowledge of the healing power of Chinese herbs and herbal remedies has been passed down from generation to generation, and today represents one of China’s greatest gifts to mankind.
The isolation of China throughout history plays a role in the general lack of understanding about Chinese herbs by other world civilizations. However, since the opening of China in 1972, knowledge of the ancient healing powers of Chinese herbs has been gradually spreading to western countries. Chinese herbs are now experiencing a rapid increase in usage and popularity. Health-conscious consumers are concerned about the concentration of synthetic chemicals in western diets, medicines, and the general environment. Chinese herbs are being welcomed by progressive western consumers who are seeking natural, healthy and balanced alternative remedies.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is very different from the western scientific approach we are accustomed to. Chinese medical experts promote a healthful balance of yin and yang – two forces present in all of nature. When yin or yang forces or qi/energy levels are off-balance in the body and spirit, health problems arise. Chinese herbs and herbal remedies are used to help realign an individual’s yin or yang balance in order to improve overall well-being. Chinese herbal formulas include hundreds of popular organic ingredients that work in harmony to produce the desired effects in a person’s body. These ingredients are primarily of plant origin, and may include roots, bark, seeds, flowers and leaves. Each organic ingredient typically has unique characteristics (i.e. yin/yang balancing, qi/energy boosting, etc.) that are reinforced and harmonized in comprehensive ancient Chinese herbal formulas that have been passed down through the years.
The study of Chinese herbs centers on the proposition that many organic substances have curative powers. Indeed, this is a fundamental tenet of not just Chinese medicine, but Western medicine as well. Popular Western remedies ranging from common aspirin to modern chemotherapy treatments have their roots in organic substances. Western medicine is finally beginning to acknowledge its debt to Chinese herbal medicine, noting that the effectiveness of many modern pharmaceuticals was originally demonstrated in Chinese herbal practice centuries ago. Nonetheless, Chinese herbs should be viewed only as a supplement to western medicine, and not as a replacement. Chinese medicine emphasizes harmony and duality, and this is well-represented by the increasing cooperation between practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine and their counterparts in the western medical establishment. Please note that all products on this site have not been evaluated by the FDA, are sold in the US as nutritional supplements and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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