Our Best Ingredient: Chinese Herbal Medicine


© 2011 Best Of Chinese Medicine & Gianluca Spezza

Chinese herbal medicine is a major aspect of traditional Chinese medicine, which focuses on restoring a balance of energy, body, and spirit to maintain health rather than treating a particular disease or medical condition. Herbs are used with the goal of restoring balance by nourishing the body. Chinese herbal medicine treats patients' main complaints or the patterns of their symptoms rather than the underlying causes. Practitioners attempt to prevent and treat imbalances, such as those caused by cancer and other diseases, with complex combinations of herbs, minerals, and plant extracts. Chinese herbal medicine uses a variety of herbs, in different combinations, to restore balance to the body. Some of the most common herbs include: Astragalus, Ginkgo, Ginseng, Green Tea, and Siberian Ginseng. Herbal preparations are said to prevent and treat hormone disturbances, infections, breathing disorders, and a vast number of other ailments and diseases. Some practitioners claim herbs have the power to prevent and treat a variety of cancers.

However, most Chinese herbalists do not claim to cure cancer. Instead, they use herbal medicine along with conventional treatment prescribed by oncologists, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy because herbal remedies can help ease the side effects of conventional cancer therapies, control pain, improve quality of life, strengthen the immune system, and in some cases, stop tumor growth and spread. In China, there are over 3,200 herbs, 300 mineral and animal extracts, and over 400 formulas used. Herbal formulations may consist of 4 to 12 different ingredients, to be taken in the form of teas, powders, pills, tinctures, or syrups.

 

Chinese herbal remedies are made up of one or two herbs that are said to have the greatest effect on major aspects of the problem being treated. The other herbs in the formula treat minor aspects of the problem, direct the formula to specific parts of the body, and help the other herbs work more efficiently. With the increase in popularity of herbal use, many Chinese herbs are sold individually and in formulas. In the United States, Chinese herbs and herbal formulas may be purchased in health food stores, some pharmacies, and from herbal medicine practitioners. Before choosing a mixture of herbs for a patient, the traditional Chinese practitioner will typically ask about symptoms and examine the patient, often focusing on the skin, hair, tongue, eyes, pulses, and voice, in order to detect imbalances in the body.