In China, herbal remedies are used as much as acupuncture to treat
energy imbalances and illness. When considering the appropriate herbal
remedy for a patient, practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine
(TCM) apply medical theory - the Five Elements and Eight Guiding
Principles - along with tongue and pulse diagnosis.
Herbs used in Chinese medicine are derived from plant, animal, and
mineral substances. Although plant-derived herbs, such as ginseng and
ginger, are the most common, minerals and animal parts such as oyster
shells, deer antlers, and bear gall bladder are also prescribed. In China,
herbs in powder form are boiled and made into a tea. In the West, TCM
practitioners often premix the herbal remedy or supply the herb in pill
form, especially for those patients who find the bitter taste intolerable.
Herbs have four basic qualities and properties: nature, taste, affinity,
and primary action.
Nature: An herb's nature is often described as cooling or heating, but it
can also be described as moistening, relaxing, and energizing. The
peppermint herb, for example, has a cooling energy, and is used to
lower the metabolism or reduce gas and bloating.
Taste: Herbs are categorized by five tastes -- sour, bitter, sweet or bland,
spicy, and salty, and herbs representing different tastes are used to treat
different conditions. Dandelion and goldenseal are two bitter herbs
used for their drying properties in treating upper respiratory conditions.
Affinity: This property refers to the affinity that an herb has for a
particular organ network.
Primary action: This property refers to the effect of a particular herb.An
herb may be used to dispel (move), astringe (restrain), purge (expel), or
In creating the herbal formula for a patient, the TCM practitioner
considers the effect or outcome of the remedy, such as aiding digestion,
clearing mucus, or strengthening the immune system. Applying the
Eight Guiding Principles, they also consider the energy of the illness,
such as hot/cold, damp/wind, or some mixture of the principles. Like
the diagnostic tools of pulse and tongue reading, the prescription of
herbal remedies takes a TCM practitioner years to master because it
requires a deep understanding of medical theory and the complexity of
Classical Chinese Medicine
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