Chinese Herbal Medicine

Chinese herbal medicine has been used for thousands of years to treat various ailments and diseases. Most herbal medicine prescriptions are actually a mixture of several herbs. This mixture is specifically made for the patient to treat their ailments, although later the practitioner may alter the mixture to adjust it accordingly. A catalyst may be needed for some herbs in Chinese herbal medicine or the herb is ineffective. In Chinese herbal medicine, all part of the plants, leaves, stems, flowers, and roots are often used. Sometimes, it uses controversial ingredients, such as seahorses, rhinoceros horns, or tiger bones.

Historians believe the first Chinese herbalist was Shennong who was said to have tasted hundreds of herb and give his knowledge to the to farmers. Sehnnong Bencao Jing, the first Chinese manual on herbs, was written somewhere around the 1st century during the Han dynasty. It included 365 medicines and of that, 252 were herbs.

Chinese herbal medicine practitioners classify the traditional Chinese herbs into three categories: The four natures, the five tastes, and the meridians. The four natures pertain to the individual’s yin and yang. The degrees of yin and yang can be cold, cool, neutral, warm, and hot. The herbs used are based on the patient’s internal balance of yin and yang. So someone who had a cold may be treated with a “hot” herb to return the balance to the body. The five tastes are pungent, sour, bitter, salty, and sweet. Pungent herbs are often used to generate sweat; sweet herbs are often used to harmonize body systems, sour herbs are often used as astringents, bitter herbs are often used to dry out the body or purge the bowels, and salty herbs are often used to soften hard masses. The Meridians refers to the organs the herbs affect. Menthol is pungent and cool. That links it with the lungs and liver.

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