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Chinese Herbalism

Posted Sep 14 2008 2:41am

Chinese herbalism can produce impressive results and is probably the most complex system of herbalism in the world. It has proved its worth through a long history, dating back at least 5,000 years. In old China a doctor was paid when the patient was healthy but not when they were sick. A frightening thought for today’s GPs!

In Chinese herbalism, the practitioner uses three or four base herbs which are known to be good for the condition, and then adds a further five to nine herbs to meet the specific needs of the individual patient and their condition. You will need to brew your own ‘ted by boiling the herbs and straining the mixture. Be warned - some taste disgusting! Some of the general base formula are so effective that they are made into standard pills, usually used as a kind of ‘top-up’.

The Theory Behind Chinese Herbalism

The philosophy behind Chinese herbalism is that good health revolves around the flow of body energy known as chi. Another underlying belief is the division of the world into two forces - yin and yang. Yin is thought of as dark, cold, negative and passive (the moon) while yang is light, active, warm, and positive (the sun). Disturb the balance of yin and yang and the result is disharmony, possibly ill-health. Each person is also believed to contain the elements of fire, earth, air (also known as metal), water and wood.

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Chinese Herbalism

Chinese Herb - Dang Shen

A Chinese herbalist doesn’t just check for the flow of chi through the body and the organs but looks for how much and what kind of energy is within the body. Then he or she aims to soothe or energize unbalanced organs or body systems with food or herbs.

The herbalist may not ask about your actual problem in as much depth as a Western herbalist. This is because Chinese herbalists have other diagnostic tools. They will closely observe your face, eyes and tongue. Several pulses will be taken to test energy levels and detect imbalances. You may be asked about your sleep patterns, eating habits and bowel movements. A good herbalist may also advise you on diet - foods are considered healing in the Chinese tradition. Then you will be given your pills or bags of herbs for boiling.

Does Chinese Herbalism Really Work?

The medical profession is divided over this. Some doctors were so impressed by how Chinese herbs helped to treat certain health conditions that they use herbal preparations themselves. Other doctors, how­ever, are sceptical and warn that Chinese herbs may damage the liver and kidneys. Research is being carried out, especially into the effects on irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Chinese Herbalism Is Good For:

  • eczema & psoriasis
  • arthritis & rheumatism
  • back pain
  • asthma
  • circulatory problems
  • infertility problems
  • menstrual problems
  • headaches & migraine
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • aches & pains

The Chinese Medicine Cabinet In Your Kitchen

  • Chicken is said to raise chi (the flow of vital energy) and is generally uplifting.
  • Cucumber is good for the nails and hair and helps the kidneys eliminate waste.
  • Raw carrot and spinach juice help regulate bowel function. Drink for tonsillitis, rheumatism and colitis. Also believed to strengthen the heart and ease menstrual problems.
  • Raw crushed garlic helps prevent colds and flu and is good for the blood.
  • Cherries and grapes are both considered to have a detoxifying effect.

Check Your Own Yin And Yang

Are you yin and yang in balance? Although Chinese diagnosis is remarkably complex you can still gain an idea of your own state of balance by looking at these characteristics. Then try eating more of the relevant foods.

If you:

  • have cold limbs and generally feel chilly
  • feel sleepy and lack energy and vitality
  • have a pale face, a pale tongue and a weak pulse

you are probably yang deficient.

Eat more kidney, lamb, garlic, raspberry, sage, shrimps and walnuts.

If you:

  • generally feel warm
  • tend to be restless and always on the go
  • have a red face, red tongue and a rapid pulse

you are probably yin deficient.

Eat more apple, cheese, honey, lemon, milk, pineapple, pork and tomato.

Chinese Herbalism:

AVAILABILITY - Widespread

MEDICAL EVIDENCE - Increasing

MEDICAL ACCEPTANCE - Mixed

SELF HELP - Limited

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