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Chinese Herbal Medicine

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Chinese Herbal Medicine.

Before drugs, before anything, there was herbal medicine. The knowledge that certain plants and foods affect our health and well-being is rooted in history. Five thousand years ago Chinese herbalists were formulating herbal mixtures to treat the illnesses of their times. Over millennia treatment theories and strategies were propounded and challenged, schools of thought were established and eventually these practices have evolved into a set of principles and approaches that are used to this day. Individual herbs were classified into their properties, warming, cooling, purging, releasing etc and were identified with different channels or organ systems.

When formulated herbs were assigned a hierarchical position in the formula with the principal herb named as the ‘Emperor” other herbs that were included in the formula become ‘ministers' or 'assistants' each having a role in supporting the Emperor. Some would direct the action of the Emperor to a particular organ system or region of the body whist others may counter toxic effects of the principal herbs. As such the Chinese Herbal formula is a carefully crafted harmonious combination of herds, the result of hundreds even thousands of years of lateral thinking herbalists.

Today, whilst multi-national drug companies are seeking the retained knowledge of traditional societies relating to their therapeutic use of plants, and then identifying, synthesizing and patenting the active ingredients, traditional herbalists are using the synergy of the properties of the whole plant and the combinations of other plants to create balanced formulae that work, and work safely.

Traditionally a visit to a Chinese Herbalist involves a consultation and diagnosis (as is the case when seeing an acupuncturist) and the Herbalist would then formulate an herbal prescription specific to the patients presentation. This formula is usually based on a classic prescription with more or less of any particular ingredient He would then cut, weigh and mix various dry herbs and send the patient home with instructions on how to prepare and take the formulae.

Preparation involves boiling the herbs for an hour or so till the liquid in the pot is concentrated. Many people in the west find this an irksome task and the resultant liquid quite unpalatable. Fortunately there is an alternative. Tablets. A very long time ago pills were developed by Chinese doctors. Initially they were quite large, as big as a large grape and were chewed. Easily swallowed pillules and tablet sized variations of these are prescribed today and while there is a reduced ability to precisely taper a formula to an individual patient, these traditional formula are very effective. When prescribed by a qualified practitioner according to the principles of Chinese medicine, they are very safe. Many Chinese herbal formulae provide a side effect free, safe alternative to synthetic drugs.

 

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