Traditional Chinese Medicine is a multi-layered system of healing which encompasses different levels of intervention – diet, exercise, massage, acupuncture and herbs. Each discipline shares the same basic theoretical concepts, built on millennium of empirical practice. Herbs are considered to be the highest level of intervention.
The aim of Chinese Herbal Medicine is to treat the presenting symptoms whilst also addressing underlying patterns of disharmony within the body. Herbs are rarely used singly, rather they are used in combination. Classical formulas elegantly bring together herbs with different functions which balance each other. They work to restore normal functioning of the body, whilst minimising side effects of the medicine. Formulas are adapted to meet individual needs.
Chinese medicine can be an acquired taste. Different tastes are associated with different effects. Herbs which clear toxic heat can be bitter in flavour, whilst herbs that nourish and supplement tend to be sweet in flavour. Herbs are available in several forms, both traditional and modern, as teas or pills. Traditionally dried herbs are cooked together to produce a drink known as a “tea”. Today there are modern processing systems which produce forms of herbs as concentrated granules or powders. These can be conveniently taken by adding hot water to make a drink. In China herbs are often incorporated in cooking, for example, Shan Yao (Yam), Sheng Jiang (Ginger). Medincinal herbs are of the highest quality, often grown in specific regions and processed to ensure safety.
In the UK the use of animal parts is prohibited, as are minerals. Practitioners use only plant derived medincinals. Different parts of a plant may be used - leaves, flowers, stems, bark and roots, with different parts of the same plant having different functions. There are strict controls in place to protect endangered plant species. UK practitioners should use herbal medicines which meet stringent International Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards. The Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine (RCHM) operates a list of approved suppliers, who are regularly audited to ensure safe, trustworthy sources of herbs.
Chinese Herbal Medicine is safe and effective, when prescribed by a fully trained Chinese Medicine Practitioner. It can be used by people of any age or constitution. The practitioner will take a full history of your condition. A formula will then be devised taking into account your Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis, the duration of your problem, lifestyle and age. Progress is monitored at regular consultations and adjustments to the formula are made to address changes in your condition.
Herbal medicine is often used alongside acupuncture or other therapies. Whilst you may have these therapies once a week (or less), herbal medicine is taken every day.