Chinese Herbal Medicine
Traditional Chinese herbal medicine draws on
ancient practices -- herbal medicine is as old as humanity itself. Early human
beings were hunter-gatherers whose survival depended on their knowledge of
their environment. Direct experience taught them which plants were toxic, which
ones imparted strength and sustained life, and which had special healing
These early discoveries were passed along until
thousands of years and millions of human trials brought about the evolution of
an incredibly sophisticated system of diagnosis and herbal medicine.
Thousands of medicinal substances are used in China
today. Indeed, more than a million tons of herbs are used each year in China.
Thirty herbs, mostly tonics, account for more than 50 percent of this figure,
with licorice topping the list at 86,000 tons.
This information may seem astonishing to the minds
of Westerners, who see herbal medicine as a new development in healing. From a
practical perspective, however, a fairly complete pharmacy stocks about 450
different individual herbs.
From this collection of herbs, a clinical herbalist
employs more than 250 standard formulas, each of which can be modified to fit a
patient's individual pattern of disharmony. The herbalist or practitioner
combines herbs based on the diagnosis, using a traditional herbal formula as a
foundation and adding other herbs specific to the individual's complaint and
As the person's health improves, the nature of the
imbalance changes, so the herb formula must also change. Some herbs are deleted
when they are no longer needed, while others more appropriate to the changing
condition are added.