Chinese Herbal Medicine is one of the most highly thought-of herbal systems in the world. It has been practiced for thousands of years, with the earliest documented evidence of its use found thus far being from 2300 years ago. The efforts of early practitioners of herbal medicine in China followed shamanistic traditions. Their work served as a basis for a movement towards documentation and structured learning of herbalism. The study and practice of Chinese Herbal Medicine has continued to evolve right up to the present day.
How Herbs Are Used
The use of herbs is based upon taste, temperature, direction, function and organ/meridian relationship. It was found that, in general, sweet herbs nourish, harmonise and moisten the body, while sour herbs hold in/prevent leakage of blood etc, bitter herbs drain heat etc and dry excess fluids, pungent herbs promote movement and disperse blockage, bland herbs leach excess fluids and promote urination and salty herbs soften hardness and purge. Hot herbs, such as cinnamon, warm the body, while cool herbs, such as dandelion, clear heat. Light herbs tend to raise and move to the upper part of the body, with heavy herbs the opposite. It was noticed that certain herbs affect certain parts of the body in certain ways.
Thus, the best way to use herbs is by combining a number of herbs to achieve the desired effect. For example, if someone has bleeding because of heat (e.g. blood in the urine, ulcerative colitis, or heavy periods with thirst etc.), a combination of cooling, bitter and sour herbs may be best to clear and drain heat and prevent bleeding. Herbs that influence the particular part of the body that the bleeding is in may need to be added, while herbs that harmonise the overall combination to make them work well together may be needed.
The result of this is that a typical Chinese Herbal formula consists of about 12 herbs that are chosen based upon how they provide the desired action, how they compliment and balance each other, how they suit the body of the person being treated and how they direct the formula to the part of the body or condition to be treated.
A herbal formula is usually boiled to make a decoction that is drunk twice per day. Other methods of preparation that we use at Morning Star Acupuncture include ointments – for skin diseases and injuries, and pills – to provide a more convenient (but usually less effective) product.