chinese herbal medicine

Traditional herbal medicine that developed in China differs in significant ways from European herbal medicine. The most obvious difference is that the Western herbal tradition focuses on herbs taken by themselves. In contrast, traditional Chinese herbal medicine makes almost exclusive use of herbal combinations. More importantly, these formulas are not designed to treat symptoms of a specific illness; rather, they are tailored specifically to the individual according to the complex principles of traditional Chinese medicine. For this reason, traditional Chinese herbal medicine is a very holistic healing approach. On the other hand, it is both more difficult to use and to study than its Western counterpart.

According to the principles of Chinese medicine, health exists when the body is balanced and its energy is freely flowing. The goal is to balance antagonists such as cold vs. heat, dampness vs. dryness, descending vs. ascending, at rest vs. active, and full vs. empty.

In an ideal state, yin and yang in all their forms are perfectly balanced in every part of the body. However, external or internal factors can upset this balance, leading to disease. Chinese medical diagnosis and treatment involves identifying the factors that are out of balance and attempting to bring them back into harmony. 

Herbal formulas consist of four categories of herbs: ministerial, deputy, assistant, and envoy. The ministerial herb addresses the principal pattern of the disease. Deputy herbs assist the ministerial herb or address coexisting conditions. Assistant herbs are designed to reduce the side effects of the first two classes of herbs, and envoy herbs direct the therapy to a particular part of the body. 

Most traditionally these herbal formulas were brewed as a tea. Although we still use this method, often patients opt for a more convenient option of herbal tea pills. This is only after carefully deciding which herbs are right for you and your specific condition.  In other words, not all headaches are treated with the same formula.  Carful attention is paid to find out which pattern you are presenting and therefore, which formula is best for you. 

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