Traditional Chinese medicine incorporates many therapeutic approaches, in addition to acupuncture. One of the most widely used therapies are herbal remedies. Chinese medicine includes herbs and remedies from all three kingdoms, plant, mineral and animal. The use of herbal remedies dates back to prehistoric times. Through empirical trial and observation of the effects of herbs in disease conditions, herbs have been categorized and organized into a system of traditional pharmacology.
Herbal remedies have a reputation for not being particularly palatable. Many remedies have bitter or pungent qualities which, to the Western palate, is less desirable than sweet or salty flavors. Fortunately, there are many ways to process herbal remedies aisde from the more potent preparation of stove-top cooking and brewing into tea. Some options include tinctures, pill-form, and powdered, all of which may be easier to palate than brewed tea.
Various parts of a single plant may have a unique therapeutic quality, differing from its other component parts. Flowers tend to influence the head and upper body. Seeds and fruits often influence the lower abdomen. Seeds with a slippery quality moisten the intestines and help open the bowels. Leaves, peels and barks often influence the body’s surface, especially the skin and lungs. Stems, twigs and vines tend to influence meridian channels, muscles and tendons. Roots often penetrate the body’s internal organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys or spleen. Tubular plants from stems, twigs and branches often promote urination. Shells and minerals have an “anchoring” quality and calm the mind, good for anxiety and insomnia for example. Animal based remedies tend to be therapeutically stronger in action and effect than plants, and many of these substances are used to supplement weak or deficient conditions.
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While there is a lot of skepticism about the safety and efficacy of herbal remedies, by and large herbal formulas are a much safer alternative to over the counter and prescription medication. Unfortunately, conventional medical doctors in the West have used scare tactics with patients inquiring about the use of herbal remedies as an alternative to prescription medication. Medical doctors have zero to minimal training in the use of any natural plant medicines and thus have perpetuated a myth that somehow herbs are dangerous.
Unlike the one-size-fits all approach used to treat diseases in conventional medicine, traditional Chinese medicine treats the individual.
With regard to herbal remedies, there is no single formula used across an entire population of patients. Across the board, a medication prescribed by your doctor, however, is the same if you are a man or woman, 150 pounds or 250 pounds, in great cardiovascular health or poor, have other health conditions or not.
An herbal remedy prescribed by your Chinese medicine doctor will vary the administration of herbs based on your constitution, whether you have other health conditions, your age, whether your symptoms are acute or chronic, what climate you live in, what season it is, how strong your digestion is, and other individual or complicating factors.
Slowly, the conventional model of medicine is beginning to take seriously the benefits of Chinese herbal remedies. Many hospitals across the country, including the Cleveland Clinic are conducting their own studies on the use of herbs and even offer Chinese herbal therapies for their patients.
There are many conditions that can be improved with herbal remedies
Here are a few examples:
- asthma and respiration
- menstrual issues
- menopausal symptoms
- emotional dysregulation
- remediate symptoms associated with chemotherapy and radiation
If you are taking prescription or over-the-counter medication it is important to notify your herbalist, there are some herbs that interact with drugs which can produce undesirable or unsafe symptoms.
Saving the placenta after childbirth as a supplement to a variety of health conditions has gained popularity in recent years, though this Chinese herb called Zi He Che has been used for hundreds of years. There are many ways to prepare the placenta. It may be steamed with other herbs, then dried and ground into a powder, and taken in pill form. Some women simply cut the placenta into small cubes and blend into a smoothie. Most chinese pharmacies dehydrate and powder placenta to treat conditions like postpartum depression, fatigue, insomnia, excessive bleeding, constipation and difficulty with milk production.
Herbal remedies are particularly helpful for women who are experiencing symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats during menopause. This is a great option for women who are concerned about the risks associated with taking replacement hormone therapy.
Herbs are safe for children and administering them early in life helps a child’s taste buds adapt to the strong flavors associated with plant medicines.
It’s important you receive a diagnosis from a qualified Chinese medicine practitioner prior to starting any herbal formula, regardless of what your research of the internet says about a specific herb or remedy. There are many factors taken into account by a Chinese medicine doctor that you may not be aware of considering.