What Are Chinese Herbs?

Medicinal Chinese herbs have been used for centuries to cure disease and alleviate discomfort due to many different disorders.

The first herbal classic written in China was published in the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) called the Agriculture Emperors Materia Medica. The first plants discovered and used were usually for digestive system disorders and slowly as more herbs were discovered the herbs became more useful for an increasing number of ailments and herbal tonics were created. Chinese herbology often incorporates ingredients from all parts of plants, such as the leaf, stem, flower, root, and also ingredients from animals and minerals. The use of parts of endangered species (such as seahorses, rhinoceros horns, and tiger bones) has created controversy and resulted in a black market of poachers who hunt restricted animals. Many herbal manufactures have discontinued the use of any parts from endangered animals.

Herbology is 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. The practioner usually designs a remedy using one or two main ingredients that target the illness. Then the practioner 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.

How Are Chinese Herbs Prepared?

Chinese Herbs are prepared in a number of ways. Raw herbs can be boiled and taken as a tea or decoction. Prepared Chinese herbs are solid as pills, tablets, and capsules. Another preparation method is the extract form or tinctures in which small doses are taken from a dropper. In one type of preparation herbs are applied via a plaster usually for pain.

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