What is Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine?

Author: ANCP   Date Posted:6 August 2014 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been used for more than 3,000 years for a wide variety of diseases and illnesses. Its methods include acupuncture, diet, herbal therapy, lifestyle advice and exercise in a complete healthcare system. It’s still used widely in China today.

Unlike orthodox Western Medicine, TCM doesn’t focus on symptoms, instead focusing on identifying the basic disharmony that exists in a person to cause or allow problems to develop. Its aim is to improve overall wellbeing.

These principles are based on the cycle of the seasons as well as the two opposing qualities of the Taoist concepts of Yin and Yang. When these are out of balance, TCM practitioners believe health complaints can occur. To a TCM practitioner, the two concepts of Yin and Yang are in constant state of balance while they transform into each other. The Qi or vital energy in the body belongs to Yang, and the body fluids including blood belong to Yin.

The balance between these two can be disturbed for both emotional and physical reasons. For example, practitioners believe that anger, stress, grief and fear can upset the balance just as much as poor nutrition, hereditary issues, infection and poison. In TCM, one or more kinds of treatment may be used by a practitioner to help a patient harmonize the balance of their Yin and Yang and regain optimum vitality.

For example, they may combine Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) with acupuncture, change of diet or massage. Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine ingredients have been used since 1,000 BC, some of which are still in use today. Many more have been developed over time, so today there are as many as 5,767 substances derived from plant, mineral and animal sources listed in Chinese Materia Medicas. The substances can be used in many ways including in herbal teas, tonics, tablets or capsules, granules, lotions, or poultices.

These remedies are usually combined in a unique way to treat a particular ailment. The herbs are selected for a specific function and combined with another substance to formulate a new medicine. In the West, herbs are mainly used to treat symptoms, but, in CHM, the combination of more than 20 herbs and other substances is intended to address the whole person.