Chinese herbal medicines are some of the oldest in the world, with some remedies dating back thousands of years. Over the years, it has had a massive impact on medicine around the world, with many relying on the originally prescribed herbs to this day. In the following piece, you’ll learn all about this area of medicine and whether these are still relevant to this day.
Chinese herbal medicine is part of a long tradition, dating back to the 3rd century BC. At its core, this is the practice of using herbs, plants, trees and even flowers in the treatment of ailments. Herbal medicine can be as simple as adding a herb with relaxing properties to hot water to brew a tea or can be much more complex, combining hundreds of herbs – each with their own properties.
These medicines have been passed down in an unbroken chain from practitioner to practitioner since their invention. Through the years, some remedies have been changed and improved upon, whereas other effective remedies have stayed the same. Modern day Chinese herbal medicine considers the leaps and bounds that the medical industry has made. Using diagnostic techniques and research methods the Chinese herbal medicine tradition continues to adapt to the modern day.
The fundamentals of Chinese medicine include the concept of a Yin & Yang in the body. Disharmony or disproportion of either of these can cause illness, stress and other symptoms. It is the aim of the practitioner to remedy this and allow the body to work in harmony once more. Diagnosis is the first part of this process, and this includes checking the Qi of the patient to work out what could be causing their ailment. Then, an effective treatment is selected to rebalance the Yin & Yang of the patient.
Many herbs and treatments are used for many different ailments within this system. These include around 13,000 medicinal and over 100,000 prescriptive ways in which they can be combined. Common components of these treatments include ginseng, cinnamon, ginger, and sage. These are now commercially used in just about everything from energy drinks to immunity-boosting hot drinks.
Generally, each herb has several properties but, for example, cinnamon has a warming effect and, for this reason, it can be used within a treatment for a cold, chill or other temperature-related illness. Of course, this is a simplified example and, in reality, many different ingredients are combined.
The most common ailments that Chinese herbal medicines are used to treat include eczema, stomach problems, fatigue and even arthritis. They can also be used to benefit the mental health of the patient, too, with some recommending herbal medicine for the likes of depression or anxiety.
Practitioners state that these medicines are most effective when the illness has reached a chronic stage; this is often when most people will turn away from conventional medicines and to herbal medicines if they are finding that the former is not helping their condition.
Great successes have been reported over the years, with herbalists able to help those with even debilitating illnesses. These people had often given up on leading a normal life before turning to a herbalist as a final effort to remedy their condition.
There are a few ways in which herbal medicine can take. The more traditional way is to grind up the dried herbs into a powder which can then be added to hot water and ingested, though some of the herbs can have a strong taste that can be off-putting. In Ancient China, it was common for people to chew on whole plants or stalks to release the medicine that they held. They can also be placed into pill form, though this is a less common option.
For this reason, modern ways of administering this medicine include freeze dried powders and creams. Some traditional herbalists argue that these are not as effective as ingesting the ground herbs directly, though some modern herbalists have also had great success using this method. They can be much more appealing to the patient, as it means they can apply a cream rather than eating the herbs.
Often, herbalists will work with botanical gardens and gardeners to access different types of herbs. They can also be imported from other countries, though there can be difficulties in doing so due to importation laws. In any given herbalist, you will find hundreds of varieties and types of herbs. The herbs can also be boiled down into extracts, which can then be dropped into teas or ingested easily.
Often, these are stored in large jars behind a counter; once the patient has had their consultation, the herbalist will measure out the required quantities of each herb. It’s truly a bespoke process, which some believe give this the edge over Western remedies that don’t take into account the individual’s requirements.
Doctors and scientists alike have explored the efficacy of this medicine type over the years. Various Cochrane review studies have proven herbal remedies to be effective in the treatment of blood-related illnesses. In some cases, they actually out performed medicines such as NSAIDs.
The vast majority of evidence for Chinese herbal medicine is largely anecdotal, however, which can mean that some are skeptical. These kinds of anecdotal testimonies aren’t particularly useful as proof for the practice as a whole, but some still swear by these remedies.
This type of medicine is considered life saving by some and wholly ineffective by others; it all comes down to the anecdotal evidence. It’s fair to say that ancient Chinese herbal medicine has influenced the drugs and treatments that we use to this day, and it’s sure to continue to adapt in years to come.