Yesterday, an acupressure student of mine asked “What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?”. This is a good question that deserves a proper explanation.
Chinese herbal therapies have been used for centuries for improving health and treating disease. Chinese herbs work to bring the body’s systems back into balance so the body can heal itself, naturally.
The Chinese herbal pharmacy consists of over 500 herbs. Herbs are taken as combinations of 5-15 medicinal substances, which is called an herbal formula. Each formula is tailored to correct the specific imbalance that is the cause of the illness.
The herbal formula can be taken in a number of forms: raw herbs, pills, tinctures, or granules. “Raw herbs” are dried herbs which are then cooked together to make a strong tea or soup called a decoction. Tinctures are herbs which are extracted in an alcohol base. Granules are made by extracting the herbs and condensing the cooked formula to make a powder. To take the herbs, you can reconstituted them as a tea.
How do Chinese herbs work?
The basic idea of Chinese medicine is that the Chinese herbs and acupuncture work by correcting imbalances in the body. For example, if you have eczema which is caused by damp heat and toxins, the herbal formula will contain herbs that rid the body of damp heat such as long dan cao and huang qin.
Of course, herbs also affect the body physiologically. For eczema, many of the herbs that are used are known to have immunoregulatory properties that help to regulate the inflammatory process causing the eczema. Other herbs have immune boosting properties or anti-bacterial and antiviral capabilities.
Chinese herbal therapies are very safe when taken under the care of a Chinese medicine practitioner.