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The Art and Science of Chinese Herbal Therapy

A practice refined over centuries, Chinese herbal therapy is finally finding its way into mainstream medicine.

For hundreds of years, China and many other countries in Asia have embraced Chinese herbal therapy for treating all manner of health concerns. Finally, this finely tuned art and science is beginning to penetrate the medical establishment of the west.

The Chinese art (and science) of Herbology – combining medicinal herbs – is an integral component in the larger healing system, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Every prescription for herbal medicine is a cocktail of various herbs tailored to the individual needs of the patient.

What is Chinese herbal therapy (herbalism)?

Chinese herbal medicine uses herbs to address health issues and concerns. They’re also used to improve overall health. And there are several studies that prove the safety and efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine.

The practice has a very long and trusted history. Chinese emperors diligently preserved and grew the knowledge of the previous ages. As a result, Chinese herbal medicine has about 2,000 years of clearly written data recording how individual herbs and different herb combinations work for different conditions and different people.

The most significant difference between the Chinese and Western use of herbs and natural ingredients is that practitioners in the west typically treat only the symptoms and diseases. Chinese practitioners treat the whole being, which includes the patterns of symptoms and disease.

There are a variety of forms in which Chinese herbal therapy can be delivered:

    • Teas, liquid extracts or tinctures, and powders
    • Easy to digest capsules
    • Granules

A customized formula will be developed for you by your herbalist. Traditional formulations are often comprised of a few herbs that have very specific roles. Some of the herbs are the primary active ingredient that addresses the main symptom or complaint. Other herbs might address the secondary issues or complaints. This is why practitioners develop the formulas in Chinese herbal therapy to suit the unique needs of the individual.

How the herbs work

Pattern differentiation, identifying the entire collection of signs and symptoms from head to toe, is the foundation of Chinese herbal medicine.

TCM addresses the patterns and the patients. To be effective, the herbs will have a very specialized use. For instance, cinnamon and peppermint are both antiviral treatments. However, how effective they are is very individual to each patient. As an example, cinnamon is hot, peppermint, cold. Cinnamon would not be appropriate to treat a menopausal woman experiencing hot flashes – it’s too warm. Rather, so the patient can avoid uncomfortable side effects, the practitioner will administer cooling peppermint.

Every human body has a unique internal environment that requires a tailored approach. For instance, someone might be on yet another course of antibiotics, but if the internal habitat is hospitable to the problem, it will continue to exist. To remedy this, Chinese herbal therapy aims to re-establish balance in the body and to support an environment that is inhospitable to the health issue.

Treatment times are also individual and vary according to the person and the concern. If it’s a recent issue such as cough or fever, treatment could be quite rapid. On the other hand, someone with a chronic issue over many years could take much longer.

Benefits of Chinese herbs

The wonderful thing about herbs is that they can help just about anyone. They’re particularly effective with patients who experience syndromes or hard-to-diagnose health issues. They include:

  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Allergies
  • Persistent lethargy or fatigue
  • Problems with digestion
  • Constipation and diarrhoea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Menopause
  • Pain associated with menstruation or endometriosis
  • Regulate immune system
  • Side-effects of cancer treatments

Is Chinese herbal therapy safe?

There has been extensive research on the safety of Chinese herbs and herbal medicine and the WHO recently integrated TCM into the 11th volume of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

But, when performed by a qualified, experienced practitioner, the evidence solidly supports the safety and efficacy of TCM and herbal therapies.

But, as experienced practitioners understand, herbs can be as potent as pharmaceutical drugs. And they require the same respect and caution. There are some herbs that cause allergic reactions and can be downright toxic in high doses.

A qualified practitioner is vital to both the success of the treatment and the safety!

Sending qualified, expertly trained, certified practitioners into the world is what we do! We are so proud of our three-year TCM Herbalist Program and the education and training we provide.

If you’re interested in participating in the KCCIHS Chinese Medicine Student Clinic with a TCM Herbalist student or one of our other services, please BOOK ONLINE.

The KCCIHS Chinese Medicine Student Clinic students staff the programs in their final year of study in the Doctor of TCM, TCM Practitioner, Acupuncturist or TCM Herbalist programs.

All students practice under the supervision of a qualified TCM Practitioner or Doctor.