For thousands of years, human beings across the world have been utilizing substances found in nature to heal the sick and prevent the onset of many types of diseases. This tradition has continued throughout history in China and persists as a major form of medicine practiced in many of the top hospitals in China today. It is the dominant form of Traditional Chinese Medicine throughout Asia but has been neglected in favour of Acupuncture here in North America.
Why would someone seek out treatment with Chinese Herbal medicine?
It has only been in the last few hundred years that we have had the benefit of modern biological science and the synthesis of laboratory derived compounds to treat common disorders. This modern medicine (Western medicine) has certainly improved our overall ability to manage previous life threatening conditions and the spread of potentially epidemic disease. Not all conditions are as effectively treated by modern medicine, nor do all individuals respond as favourably to the prescribed medications. This is where natural therapies, and in particular, Chinese Herbal medicine can play an integral role in health care. Natural therapies such as Chinese Herbal medicine can be effectively used in conjunction with modern medicine as well as the primary medicine for various conditions. Although Chinese Herbal medicine can, and has been used to treat almost every disease, it may be best appreciated for its success with autoimmune conditions and other complaints that do not respond well to prescription medications.
The other reason why someone would look to Chinese medicine for treatment of their disorder is because of the diagnostic process that is involved. Traditional Chinese medicine is a holistic system of medicine. This means that the whole person is considered when making a diagnosis. This includes any other symptoms or sensations that they may be experiencing, as well as past illnesses, family health history, and their overall emotional disposition. All of this information is utilized to tell the story of the current condition and establish the pattern of that condition. By diagnosing through pattern or “syndrome” identification a formula can be chosen and modified accordingly. This ensures that the individual gets only what they need and any side effects can be eliminated or reduced.
What is in a Chinese Herbal formula?
The Chinese medicine pharmacopeia consists of some ten thousand recorded entries of individual herbs or compounds. In general, a formula will consist of six to ten herbs specifically matched to effectively treat the patient’s condition. The herbs are carefully selected to target the syndrome or mechanism of the patient’s condition, relieve related symptoms, and restore balance within the individual to better facilitate the healing function innately present in the human body.
The majority of herbal substances and compounds used are from plants, fungi, seeds, grains and fruits. A patient’s dietary and ethical restrictions are always considered when prescribing a formula and the use of endangered animal products or heavy metals is not a part of modern Chinese medicine and will never appear in a formula that is prescribed by this clinic.
Where do the herbs come from?
The diversity of herbs used in Chinese medicine continues to grow even into present day. Most of the commonly used herbs however are native to East Asia. Many people ask if the same herb can be grown here in Canada or in other parts of the world. The quick answer is no. Similar to grapes grown for wine making, when the soil and other growing conditions change so do the attributes of the grapes. The commonly known herb ginseng is a great example of this fact. The same plant grown in China, U.S.A, Korea and Japan produces a ginseng root that varies in its properties. The ginseng grown in Korea is considered to be hot in nature and when taken by individuals that are sensitive to hot herbs it can cause mouth ulcers, headaches and sweating, whereas ginseng grown in the U.S. has more of a cooling nature. Therefore, to ensure the patient gets the herbs that are correct for their condition it is important to know where the herbs are grown.
How do I take Chinese Herbal medicine?
Chinese Herbal medicine can be prescribed in many different forms. The most common for is the raw form, meaning that the herbs are only slightly processed and then decocted in water to make a strong tea-like beverage that is consumed daily for the course of treatment. Powdered herbs or granules can also be consumed like a tea by adding water. The main difference is that the cooking step is already complete. Other forms include pills, tinctures and topical creams or oils. The benefit of the raw or powder/granule forms is that they can be more effectively tailored to suit the individual.
Dietary integration of Chinese herbs is a very popular way that many people use to support health. One example is Ginseng chicken which is a popular dish at many Chinese restaurants and a simple recipe for people to cook at home.
Watch a short video: Introduction to Chinese Herbal Medicine
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