Acupuncture, massage, dietary advice, and exercise are all part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), a healing system that also includes herbal medicine. More than three million Australians receive TCM treatment each year, making it one of the most popular health care forms across the country. What Are Chinese Herbs Used For?
You may have seen athletes whose skin has purple circles from cupping or might know someone who swears by herbal tea for colds like peppermint tea or acupuncture for back pain. Today, many people are using practices such as these from traditional Chinese medicine to treat diseases and prevent them.
Western medicine doesn’t follow TCM principles which deviate from the conventional Western understanding of health and disease. Chinese herbs are prescribed to correct imbalances of energy, or Qi, that passes through invisible meridians in the body. Studies have shown that Chinese herbs treat the gynecological, digestive, and gastrointestinal issues whether or not the philosophy is accepted.
What Is Chinese Herbalism?
Herbal medicine has been used in Chinese culture for thousands of years to improve health. However, herbalists in traditional Chinese medicine don’t treat symptoms or ailments. Their treatment encompasses the whole person, including symptoms and their patterns of behavior.
Chinese herbalism can be backed up by thousands of years of research. The Chinese imperial system maintains knowledge on this that is passed over from generation to generation. As a result, there are now almost 2,000 years of documented information about how different herbs and herbal combinations work on people.
There is Chinese herbal medicine that you can learn about from sites like peoplesherbs.com, which are available in the following forms:
- Easy-to-digest capsules or granules
- Powders, liquids, and powdered extracts
Herbalists use traditional formulas that incorporate fewer herbs that ensure that the primary complaint is addressed directly. This can result in fewer ingredients being needed. A variety of herbal supplements can provide relief from secondary complaints or symptoms. For this reason, many herbal supplements are prepared specifically for each person.
Elements In Chinese Herbal Medicine
According to traditional Chinese medicine philosophy, everything and every organ – including the human body – comprises the five elements: earth, fire, metal, water, and wood. These herbs are, in similar ways, categorized into five tastes: bitter, pungent, salty, sweet, and sour, according to the five elements. For example, skin is considered a metal element Yang organ, making pungent herbs effective for it.
Practices Used In Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture is the most popular therapy in traditional Chinese medicine, but there are many others. The treatment methods of traditional Chinese medicine depend on the patient’s individualized treatment, making for a wide range of healing methods. Among them are:
- Cupping therapy: This is the use of special suction cups to help with blood flow, inflammation, and pain, among others.
- Acupuncture: Although it has roots in traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is used today as a western treatment for various health conditions.
- Herbal medicine: Herbal teas and herbs are sometimes prescribed.
- Acupressure: Acupressure uses fingertips to apply pressure to acupuncture points and meridians.
- Diet And Nutrition: Food is thought to have warming or cooling properties and is considered to cure specific conditions.
- Moxibustion: This is the practice of warming the area over acupuncture points using an herb burned near the skin.
- Tuina: This is bodywork involving the combination of massage and acupressure.
- Qi gong and tai chi: Both excellent exercises help improve your health and your energy level.
How Do Chinese Medicines Work?
The principle of pattern differentiation is at the heart of Chinese herbal medicine. Pattern differentiation involves identifying a person’s external and internal manifestations, together called signs and symptoms. Pattern differentiation is the basis of Chinese herbal medicine. It recognizes a patient’s whole set of signs and symptoms.
Patterns and patients are treated in their ways. Like diverse habitats on our planet—deserts, swamps, the wilderness, they have to be cared for in their ways.
In swamplands, it doesn’t matter how much herbicide is put on them. Something will grow there regardless of how much herbicide we put on it because the atmosphere is suitable for plants to grow: a distinct, internal environment requiring a unique approach. If your internal environment invites the problem, you’ll still have the problem no matter how many antibiotics are given to you. The goal is to balance the body so that health issues cannot thrive on it.
A person’s response to herbal medicines depends on many factors, such as the herb’s antiviral properties. For example, peppermint and cinnamon are both known to be antiviral. However, their efficacy depends on the individual.
Another question is: Is there a duration for Chinese herbs to work? The treatment can last for one or two weeks to much longer. Generally, if you’re treating a fever or cough, you’ll be in recovery rather quickly. However, if you’re suffering from more than one chronic disease and have had health problems for 40 years, you’ll be taking much longer to recover.
What Herbs Are Used In Chinese Medicine?
Herbal medicines in China are mostly made of plants, but some contain animal or mineral products. They may come in powder, paste, lotion, or a tablet, depending on the type of herb and its intended use. The properties of various herbs vary and can be used to adjust specific conditions in the body. The practitioner must assess the patient’s yin and yang and the elements that govern the affected organs when prescribing a particular herb or concoction of herbs.
A practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine typically doesn’t prescribe specific herbs but combines herbs in formulas depending on their particular needs. Teas, capsules, tinctures, and powders of these formulas can be given.
Traditional Chinese medicine includes the following herbs:
- Gotu kola
- Red yeast rice
- Ginkgo biloba
- Yu Xing Cao
Occasionally, however, herbal products manufactured abroad are contaminated with other substances, which may result in additional risks for consumers.
Health Benefits Of TCM
Traditional Chinese medicine is used to treat the following conditions:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Back pain
- Cancer treatment side effects
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Digestion issues
- Acne, eczema, hives, psoriasis, and other skin conditions
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Immune system regulation
- Menstrual or endometriosis pain
- Menopause symptoms
- Parkinson’s disease
- Persistent fatigue
Although standard treatments in modern medicine are based on a diagnosis, TCM is based on a diagnosis of imbalance. Insomniacs may suffer a blood deficiency or a kidney yin deficiency or a liver yang imbalance, resulting in difficulty sleeping. Ginseng is a popular herbal supplement that can cause nervous system damage if taken in excess, which is why people should use it over the age of 18 after discussing it with their doctors.
What To Expect
A TCM practitioner will usually assess your overall health during a typical appointment by taking your medical history, performing a tongue assessment, taking your pulse, and performing a physical examination. Any imbalances or blockages would be identified during the exam.
When liver qi stagnates, it leaves a person frustrated, angry, or depressed, resulting in irritability, anger, depression, a bitter taste in the mouth, indigestion, and a pulse described as “wiry.”
A kidney yin deficiency, by contrast, is characterized by a dry mouth, sweating in the night, tinnitus, and forgetfulness. Generally, the tongue has no or slight coating. The pulse is said to be floating.
How Safe Are Chinese Medicines?
Some have done exhaustive research on the safety of Chinese herbal remedies. Liver and kidney function is important in both Western and Eastern medicine. Those organs help us eliminate the poisons and herbs out of the body.
It’s safer when herbalists see their patients more often. Western doctors don’t renew prescriptions without seeing patients again, so a year on a particular formula will never be possible. For this reason, you may never reach the eight-week mark. Herbalists may adjust the formula based on the condition or symptoms you’re experiencing weekly.
If you have a good practitioner, treatments such as acupuncture, tai chi, cupping, and moxibustion are deemed safe.
Unlike drugs, herbal products don’t go through the FDA process. There are not as many studies on herbs, so it’s hard to know exactly what they contain. Plus, herbs can have side effects or interfere with medications. Please ensure you seek out a professional.
Are They Effective?
There are several approaches to traditional Chinese medicine, and results vary from person to person. There is less research on these practices than Western medicine. More herbs and acupuncture had been studied than other treatments. However, studies are showing great promise such as:
- Acupuncture is commonly used to treat pain and limit chemotherapy’s side effects through chronic pain management.
- Many of the herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine are also utilized at reputable Western medicine clinics to treat everything from insomnia to arthritis to menopause.
- Parkinson’s disease patients seem to improve their balance through Tai chi.
- The cupping technique may provide relief from shingles pain.
Some people find that Traditional Chinese Medicine provides a unique perspective into lifestyle factors that may affect their health. Few high-quality clinical trials show that Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat disease, so it’s crucial not to treat yourself or replace standard medicine with TCM. Seek a trained practitioner and talk to your doctor about whether to try traditional Chinese medicine and weigh its pros and cons.