About Chinese Herbal Medicine
Herbal medicine has been used in many cultures since very early times. In China, it was during the time of the Han dynasty, over 2,000 years ago, that it became a widespread medical system with detailed records documenting herbal treatment, and an extensive pharmacopoeia was developed. At that time, herbal medicine began to take a prominent place in the Chinese health care system, a position it maintains today, offering Oriental medicine in private clinics as well as government hospitals where it is practiced along side conventional Western medicine.
Because of its long history and clinical effectiveness, for centuries Chinese herbal medicine has had a great influence on the development of medical theory and practice throughout Asia. Besides its widespread use in China it is also practiced in many other countries including Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Korea. In recent years, herbal medicine practice has increased rapidly in the West, enjoying widespread popularity in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and many European countries.
Herbal medicine is considered one of the four foundations of a comprehensive system of health care in China that includes acupuncture, herbs, tui-na (acupressure massage), and qi gong (therapeutic breathing exercises). Throughout its history, it has continually developed in complexity and in response to the growing body of medical knowledge of the times. But though information gained through modern research is taken into account, the efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine remains rooted in its long tradition.
The Art and Science of Herbal Formulation
Chinese herbal medicine is capable of treating a wide range of conditions. It is based on the concepts of yin, yang, qi, and blood and the many ways in which the fundamental balance and vitality of these energetic substances may be depleted or blocked. Clinical strategies are based on patterns of signs and symptoms, and incorporate an approach to treatment that addresses both broad constitutional tendencies as well as the primary health complaint.
Herbal substances are categorized in detail, from chemical constituents, contraindications, and pharmacological action, to traditional Chinese concepts of temperature, flavor, directionality, meridian affinity, and specific function. While each ingredient in an herbal prescription has a complex "signature", the combination and synergy of herbs used together is the key to effective treatment. An herbal formula is considered to be more than the sum of each of the individual herbs, and a well-trained herbalist is proficient in both the art and science of prescribing.
Herbal medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine as a whole, places great emphasis on the health of mind, body and spirit. Integral to this system is the belief that health is more than just the absence of illness, but that the best medicine also addresses disease prevention and the maintenance of vitality, thereby increasing the potential for well-being and happiness.