Herbs as the First Medicines
In the course of gathering foods, it was discovered that certain plants, animals and minerals have medicinal properties. The Chinese discovered that combining these substances was often more effective than using them individually. Such observations and experiences have been written in medical texts for thousands of years and have led empirically to Chinese Herbal medicine as it is practiced today.
The traditions of medicine that developed in China have survived as a major part of health care and constitute the most comprehensive clinical strategy for the use of herbal medicines anywhere.
It is said that Acupuncture treats the patient from the outside- in and Herbal medicine treats the patient from the inside- out.
One Size does not fit all
One of the strengths of Chinese herbal medicine is the high degree of effectiveness that is obtained by precise matching of the patterns of the patients’ symptoms and their underlying loss of balance and ability to adapt with the nature and properties of the individual herbs.
Formulas Make the Difference
Chinese Herbal Medicines are formula based. They usually have between four and ten different herbs in each formula. Each different herb has dozens of compounds. So a particular herbal formula may have hundreds of “active ingredients”. The nature of the herbal formula is to address the whole person.
All formulas have a primary focus. There are currently about twenty-one different classifications of formulas. While each formula may have many different classes of herbs, there are three areas of primary focus that a specific formula will address. These are:
· Reducing or alleviating the complex groups of signs and symptoms of the individuals condition (s) , disorder(s )or disease(s)
· Strengthening the ability of the person to respond to changes in the internal and/or external environment that creates their stress. Herbs that achieve this are called adaptogens. The loss of the body’s ability to adapt to stresses is called allostatic load. Failure of adaptation leads to increased chances of pathology. (Diseases or disorders).
· Preserving, protecting and restoring the regulatory systems of the body to maintain a stable environment. Herbs that achieve this are called tonics. These can be general (whole body in nature like the immune system or nervous system), or specific (an organ system like the colon or kidney). Dysregulation can cause loss of homeostasis (biological integrity). Examples are autoimmune diseases, acute or chronic anxiety states etc.
Licorice root is an example of a common herb used for its adaptogenic capacity. Licorice functions in support of the adrenal system in times of high stress. It is also used for its tonic properties as it assists in the recuperation of the adrenal cortex. It is also indicated to reduce signs and symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, sleeplessness or reduced immune function during periods of prolonged stress.
Chinese herbal medicines have been combined in sophisticated formulations for two thousand or more years. Over this span of millennia medical theories became more comprehensive and the herbal formulas more refined. As a result, the conditions, disorders and diseases that we now identify using the terminology of our current technological medicine have been experienced and identified in the millennia old Chinese medical traditions. Usually there are a number of herbal formulas that meet our current definitions of those diseases and syndromes. Where there are additional signs and symptoms related to our human complexity, changes to the formula, either additions or subtractions of an herb will more closely meet the unique individual’s requirements for their return to health.
The herbal formulas that I use in my practice come from state of the art manufacturers.
The process includes authenticity of the herb, potency, purity ( free from contaminants, additives and preservatives), Safety ( free from toxicity, pollutants, chemical contaminants) to meet pharmaceutical grade specifications.
Current Medical Research
In 2009 there was a pandemic of the H1N1 flu virus in the world. Research into a number of common Chinese herbal formulas showed that they were effective in helping to combat the virus and in China these herbal formulas were distributed as both a preventative and for use when a patient was infected with the virus