Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) emphasizes holistic diagnosis and treatment to address the entire well being of the patient. The emphasis is on process rather than structure; the whole system, rather than breaking down to the smallest parts. TCM views the body to be controlled by the five major Organ Systems which must be in balance - both individually and amongst each other. These systems affect the body and its functions, as well as one's mental faculties, by regulating essential life substances -- Qi (pronounced "chee"), moisture, blood, spirit, and essence. In addition to acupuncture and herbal medicine, a treatment program in Chinese Medicine may include nutrition, lifestyle changes, exercise, breathing exercises, and meditation to bring about well being.
Traditional Chinese herbal medicine recorded knowledge dates back to the Shang dynasty roughly 4,000 years ago - based on acquired knowledge for the interpretation of presenting symptoms, understanding of the pathogenesis of human body imbalance and disorder, and application of natural herbal treatments that address specific cause, mechanism and location in the body but also the interaction among the body systems, observed symptoms and differentiation of causes. Chinese herbal medicine is one component of TCM holistic medicine that views one’s health as maintaining ones capacity for balanced well being and happiness and not just the treatment of apparent symptoms of disorder.
Herbal medicine is distinct from prescription “patent medicines,” over the counter (OTC) drugs and nutritional supplements. Because of their complexity, herbal materials are more balanced than purified active ingredients. Secondly herbal ingredients are typically prescribed in combination so that the different components of the formula balance and complement each other which increase their efficacy. Importantly herbal medicine correct internal imbalances rather than treat individual symptoms to encourage the body’s self healing; treating individual symptoms can result in other imbalances or problems elsewhere in body therefore producing “side effects.”
More than 600 herbs are commonly used today. Herbs are classified in two major dimensions temperature and taste. Temperature characteristics include hot (re), warm (wen), cold (han), neutral (ping), and aromatic character. Taste property of the herbs are classified into sour (suan), bitter (ku), sweet (gan), spicy (xin), and salty (xian). The various combinations of temperature and taste give the herb its properties that influence the yin and yang energy patterns of the body.
Chinese herbs are carefully prescribed into a formula containing a combination of herbs to provide different and complimentary functions. These formulas may be prepared in natural forms such as concentrated teas or concoctions and granulated powder extracts. These direct forms are preferred over pills, tablets, capsules, powders, alcohol- and water-extracts which are usually less effective.
For cooked concoctions the TCM doctor prepares daily servings of the prescription of herbs which the patient cooks in water into a concentrated tea for some time such as one hour. Several cups of the concoction – tea are consumed daily. The TCM practitioner provides the patient with individually wrapped servings containing the daily prescription of the combination of herbs.
Alternately the TCM doctor can provide prepared herbal powders (usually made in China) that are derived from the original herbs. The herbal powders are mixed with hot water to conveniently prepare the mix for consumption. This eliminates the need to prepare the herbal tea while retaining much of the original potency of the herbal formula.
Traditional Chinese herbs are safe when prescribed correctly by a trained experienced TCM practitioner. Over the centuries TCM doctors have acquired very detailed information about herbal applications and place greatest emphasis on the safety and well being of the patient. Some herbal preparations can result in a noticeable but unalarming reaction in the patient which indicates that the herbs are performing their natual intended function. In the use of TCM herbal medicine adverse reaction scan occur as with any form of medicine. In the case of chinese herbal medicine these are rare.