Chinese Herbal Medicine
History of Chinese Herbs
Many centuries ago, according to Chinese folklore, a farmer in Yunan found a snake near his hut and beat it senseless with a hoe, leaving it for dead. A few days, later he discovered the same snake slithering in his yard and again he tried to kill it. When the apparently indestructible reptile appeared again a few days later, the farmer gave it another beating, but this time he watched the bleeding snake crawl into a clump of weeds and begin eating them. By the next morning its wounds were healing again and it was already recovering its vitality. Such was the discovery, as legend has it, of san qi (Panax notoginseng), the main ingredient of Yunan bai yao, a white herbal powder that counteracts internal or external bleeding. It does this by bonding the edges of wounds and swiftly healing torn tissue. To this day there are many Chinese who use this for open wounds.
Foods and herbal medicines redress Yin-Yang imbalances by supplementing the deficient element. Herbal medicines are a combination of specific herbs depending on the symptom and diagnosis of the patient.
The main root of Chinese medicine is herbology - the practice of combining very specific roots, bark, animal products (such as snake skin, cicada, pig’s bile or skin), leaves, flowers, minerals (such as talcum, and magnetic stone) for a particular imbalance of the body. Since long ago humans only ate limited fruit and berries. Through time peculiar sensations or reactions were noted, when certain plants were ingested. In the course of this process, medicinal plants were discovered through keen observation and this is how the origin of Chinese medicinal herbs came about. Chinese herbal therapy is used to regulate Qi, and rid this imbalance of Qi which is the cause of “destruction of tissues, dysfunction of meridians and organs” (Gao, Duo's Chinese Medicine). Note that it is the imbalance that makes Qi evil, not that there is actually evil Qi.
Herbs Have A Particular Nature - Cold, Hot, Warm or Cool
The solution is to see what imbalance is in your body,maybe you have too much internal heat and are developing pimples. So you would need cold or cooling herbs that have the power of clearing heat, or Yang patterns to relieve toxins. When you step into a herbalist’s clinic he/she will give you a certain combinations of different herbs according to your personal diagnosis. The diagnosis includes pulse and tongue readings. Both readings offer their own information on the patient's health.
Herbal Formulas Cater to the Individual
Herbs are highly specific in their actions, and an herbal formula will contain a range of herbs that not only possess different qualities and properties but also target different aspects of the patient's disharmony. In addition, certain individual herbs address several different functions at the same time. Overall, the herbal practitioner has to weigh up many factors when preparing a formula, but the benefits for patients can be substantial.
A Body Balancing Act
Since each herb has its own relatively yin or yang nature, every item in an herbal prescription affects the body's yin-yang balance to some degree. For example a yang herb, yang being on the hotter and more active side, would be cinnamon. A Yin herb, yin being on the colder and more inactive side, would be chamomile. So according to your diagnosis, by checking the pulse, observing the tongue and asking a series of questions related to your daily life habit, the doctors can determine where you are deficient (whether too much cold, or too much heat), and where you are excessive. Chinese physicians engage nature in an extraordinary balancing act. After determining the cause and nature of a patient's energy imbalances, they must weigh such general factors as weather, season, and geography with the factors that are unique to the patient's condition, balancing the whole act with appropriate herbal prescription and dietary advice.
How to use an Herbal Prescription
The herbs are placed in a ceramic, or glass pot (as long as it is not metal for this will interfere with its healing properties), filling the pot up with water until the water level is an inch above the herbs. The water is brought to a boil, and then simmered down for 30 min. up to an hour. This should make 2 cups, ready for drinking.
Our clinic also offers an alternative: taking the same herbal remedy in a pill form. Best to take with warm water.