Chinese Herbal Medicine is one of the great herbal systems of the world, with an unbroken tradition going back to the 3rd century BC.
Yet throughout its history it has continually developed in response to changing clinical conditions, and has been sustained by research into every aspect of its use. This process continues today with the development of modern medical diagnostic techniques and knowledge.
Because of its systematic approach and clinical effectiveness it has for centuries had a very great influence on the theory and practice of medicine in the East, and more recently has grown rapidly in popularity in the West. It still forms a major part of healthcare provision in China, and is provided in state hospitals alongside western medicine. Chinese medicine includes all oriental traditions emerging from Southeast Asia that have their origins in China.
Chinese Herbal Medicine, along with the other components of Chinese medicine, is based on the concepts of Yin and Yang. It aims to understand and treat the many ways in which the fundamental balance and harmony between the two may be undermined and the ways in which a person’s Qi or vitality may be depleted or blocked. Clinical strategies are based upon diagnosis of patterns of signs and symptoms that reflect an imbalance.
However, the tradition as a whole places great emphasis on lifestyle management in order to prevent disease before it occurs. Chinese medicine recognises that health is more than just the absence of disease and it has a unique capacity to maintain and enhance our capacity for well being and happiness.
What can Chinese Medicine treat?
Chinese medicine is successfully used for a very wide range of conditions. Among the more commonly treated disorders are:
Skin disease, including eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, urticaria
Gastro-intestinal disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, ulcerative colitis
Gynaecological conditions, including pre-menstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhoea, endometriosis, infertility
Hepatitis and HIV: some promising results have been obtained for treatment of Hepatitis C, and supportive treatment may be beneficial in the case of HIV
Chronic fatigue syndromes, whether with a background of viral infection or in other situations
Respiratory conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, and chronic coughs, allergic and perennial rhinitis and sinusitis
Rheumatological conditions (e.g. osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis)
Urinary conditions including chronic cystitis
Psychological problems (e.g. depression, anxiety)
Who can have treatment?
Chinese medicine can be used by people of any age or constitution. Your practitioner will take any previous or current illness or medication into account before providing treatment. With suitable adjustments for dosage and with some provisos which will be determined by your practitioner, children and pregnant women can very well be treated by Chinese medicine.
What are the herbs like and how the treatment proceed?
Herbs are now available in a number of formats, both traditional and modern. The traditional method is to boil a mixture of dried herbs to make a tea or to use pills. The herbs are also now commonly prescribed as freeze dried powders or tinctures. The herbs will at first taste unusual and often bitter to anyone who has not tried them before, but the vast majority of people get used to the taste very quickly.
Each herb has been analysed for it’s taste (sweet, bitter etc), action (which direction the energetic of the herb moves in the body), it’s temperature, and the organs which the herb affects. These aspects of each herb are then used to ascertain their effectiveness for various disorders.
When a patient attends a herbal appointment a full case history is taken and a Chinese Medicine diagnosis made. A herbal prescription is then given to deal with the symptoms being experienced, but also to deal with any underlying conditions which will hamper progress. Herbs are then given as either raw ingredients (twigs, leaves, roots etc), as a concentrated powder, or in pill form.
Are herbs safe?
Chinese herbs are very safe when prescribed correctly by a properly trained practitioner. Over the centuries doctors have compiled detailed information about the pharmacopoiea and placed great emphasis on the protection of the patient. Adverse reactions can occur with any form of medicine. In the case of Chinese herbal medicine these are rare.