Chinese Herbal Medicine uses an extensive Materia Medica of thousands of plants and substances. These are combined using ancient recipes called formulas to treat numerous diseases and ailments and are usually decocted. However with the changes in modern society formulas are now available in the forms of powders, patents and pills. This helps increase patient compliance as they are cheap, more palatable and practical. To ensure patient safety the herbs used are those only deemed safe and at oriental health there is a guarantee of no animal products
Herbology is traditionally one of the more important modalities utilized in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Each herbal medicine prescription is a cocktail of many herbs tailored to the individual patient. One batch of herbs is typically decocted twice over the course of one hour. The practitioner usually designs a remedy using one or two main ingredients that target the illness. Then the practitioner adds many other ingredients to adjust the formula to the patient’s Yin Yang conditions. Sometimes, ingredients are needed to cancel out toxicity or side-effects of the main ingredients. Some herbs require the use of other ingredients as catalyst or else the brew is ineffective. The latter steps require great experience and knowledge, and make the difference between a good Chinese herbal doctor and an amateur. Unlike western medications, the balance and interaction of all the ingredients are considered more important than the effect of individual ingredients. A key to success in TCM is the treatment of each patient as an individual
Chinese herbology often incorporates ingredients from all parts of plants, the leaf, stem, flower, root, and also ingredients from animals and minerals. The use of parts of endangered species has created controversy and resulted in a black market of poachers who hunt restricted animals. Most herbal manufacturers have discontinued the use of any animal parts from endangered animals.
Chinese physicians used several different methods to classify traditional Chinese herbs:
This pertains to the degree of yin and yang, ranging from cold (extreme yin), cool, neutral to warm and hot (extreme yang). The patient’s internal balance of yin and yang is taken into account when the herbs are selected. For example, medicinal herbs of “hot”, yang nature are used when the person is suffering from internal cold that requires to be purged, or when the patient has a general cold constituency. Sometimes an ingredient is added to offset the extreme effect of one herb.
The five tastes are pungent, sweet, sour, bitter and salty, each of which their functions and characteristics. For example, pungent herbs are used to generate sweat and to direct and vitalize qi and the blood. Sweet-tasting herbs often tonify or harmonizes bodily systems. Some sweet-tasting herbs also exhibit a bland taste, which helps drain dampness through diuresis. Sour taste most often is astringent or consolidates, while bitter taste dispels heat, purges the bowels and get rids of dampness by drying them out. Salty taste softens hard masses as well as purges and opens the bowels.
The Meridians refer to which organs the herb acts upon. For example, menthol is pungent, cool and is linked with the lungs and the liver. Since the lungs is the organ which protects the body from invasion from cold and influenza, menthol can help purge coldness in the lungs and invading heat toxins caused by hot “wind”