Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese herbal medicine is part of the healing system called traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which also includes acupunture, massage dietary advice and exercise.
The underlying principles of TCM are very different from traditional Western notions about health, illness and the workings of the body. Chinese herbs are prescribed to normalise imbalanced energy, or Qi (pronounced ‘chee’), that runs through invisible meridians in the body. Whether or not the philosophy is believed, studies have shown Chinese herbal medicines to be successful in treating a range of disorders, particularly gynaecological and gastrointestinal disorders.
The five elements in Chinese herbal medicine
The TCM philosophy proposes that everything including organs of the body - is composed of the five elements: fire, earth, metal, water and wood. The herbs are similarly classified into the five tastes - sweet, salty, bitter, pungent and sour - which correspond to the five elements, for example, since the skin is a metal element Yang organ, it would be treated with a pungent herb.
Herbs used in Chinese medicine
Chinese herbal medicines are mainly plant based, but some preparations include minerals or animal products. They can be packaged as powders, pastes, lotions or tablets, depending on the herb and its intended use. Different herbs have different properties and can balance particular parts of the body. Prescribing a particular herb or concoction of herbs means the practitioner’s diagnosis has to take into account the state of the patient’s Yin and Yang, and the elements that are governing the affected organs.
T.C.M. has always strongly believed that food and herbs are both one and the same thing, possessing the same intrinsic values for nourishing health and treating diseases. Since ancient times, it was realized that food not only provides the required nutrients for growth, development and health, but also can treat diseases, especially chronic diseases.
Additional treatment and advice
Your practitioner might advise you to make specific changes in your diet, such as avoiding spicy foods or alcohol. Foods are believed to either ‘heat’ or ‘cool’ the constitution, making dietary changes an important part of the healing process. Acupuncture might also be used to treat disrupted Qi.
Herbs can act on the body as powerfully as pharmaceutical drugs and should be treated with the same caution and respect. Some herbs can be toxic in high doses, while others can cause allergic reactions. Make sure your practitioner is fully qualified. Never abandon your regular medication or alter the dose without the knowledge and approval of your GP or qualified medical or allied health professional.
IMPORTANT: The Mediterranean Regional Centre for Traditional Chinese Medicine does not at the moment dispense any herbs, herbal prescriptions, creams and pills. This information serves to inform the medical community and general public alike. In any event we recommend that any prescriptions and exercise routines be undertaken under the guidance of its personnel and further recommends that you inform or seek the guidance of your GP or qualified medical or allied health professional.