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What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?
Chinese Herbal Medicine is one of the great herbal systems of the
world, with an unbroken tradition going back to the 3rd century BC.
Yet throughout its history it has continually developed in response
to changing clinical conditions, and has been sustained by research
into every aspect of its use. This process continues today with the
development of modern medical diagnostic techniques and
Because of its systematic approach and clinical effectiveness it has for centuries had a very great influence on the theory and practice of medicine in the East, and more recently has grown rapidly in popularity in the West. It still forms a major part of healthcare provision in China, and is provided in state hospitals alongside western medicine. Chinese medicine includes all oriental traditions emerging from Southeast Asia that have their origins in China.
Practitioners may work within a tradition that comes from Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan or Korea.
It is a complete medical system that is capable of treating a very wide range of conditions. It includes herbal therapy, acupuncture, dietary therapy, and exercises in breathing and movement (tai chi and qi gong). Some or several of these may be employed in the course of treatment.
Chinese Herbal Medicine, along with the other components of Chinese medicine, is based on the concepts of Yin and Yang. It aims to understand and treat the many ways in which the fundamental balance and harmony between the two may be undermined and the ways in which a person's Qi or vitality may be depleted or blocked. Clinical strategies are based upon diagnosis of patterns of signs and symptoms that reflect an imbalance.
However, the tradition as a whole places great emphasis on lifestyle management in order to prevent disease before it occurs. Chinese medicine recognises that health is more than just the absence of disease and it has a unique capacity to maintain and enhance our capacity for well being and happiness.
Herbal Medicine and Modern Pharmacology
There is a growing body of research which indicates that traditional uses
of plant remedies and the known pharmacological activity of plant
constituents often coincide. However, herbal medicine is distinct from
medicine based on pharmaceutical drugs. Firstly, because of the complexity
of plant materials it is far more balanced than medicine based on isolated
active ingredients and is far less likely to cause side-effects.
Secondly, because herbs are typically prescribed in combination, the
different components of a formulae balance each other, and they undergo
a mutual synergy which increases efficacy and enhances safety. Thirdly, herbal medicine seeks primarily to correct internal imbalances rather than to treat symptoms alone, and therapeutic intervention is designed
to encourage this self-healing process.
What can Chinese Medicine treat?
Chinese herbal medicine has a role to play in the treatment of the following conditions:
Skin disease, including eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, urticaria
Gastro-intestinal disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, ulcerative colitis
Gynaecological conditions, including pre-menstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhoea, endometriosis, infertility
Hepatitis and HIV: some promising results have been obtained for treatment of Hepatitis C, and supportive treatment may be beneficial in the case of HIV
Chronic fatigue syndromes, whether with a background of viral infection or in other situations
Respiratory conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, and chronic coughs, allergic and perennial rhinitis and sinusitis
Rheumatological conditions (e.g. osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis)
Urinary conditions including chronic cystitis, chronic bladder infection, UTI, Incontinance
Psychological problems (e.g. depression, anxiety, insomnia)
and much more..
Many of these conditions, especially in their chronic forms, create great difficulty for conventional medicine, whilst Chinese Herbal Medicine has a great deal to offer. The results that can be expected and how long a patient will have to take the herbs for will depend on the severity of the condition, its duration, and the general health of the patient.
Who can take Chinese herbal medicine?
Chinese medicine can be used for people of any age or constitution. Dr. Chung
will take previous or current medical history or medication with TCM and
Western medicine dignosis before prescribing herbal medicineindividually
for you. After individual consultation, Dr. Chung will determine the best suitable
herbs with the right adjustments of dosage, so everyone including children and
pregnant women can very well be treated with customized herbal medicine
safely and effectively.
How do TCM practitioners use formulation?
Chinese medicinal formulations are prepared in a number of different ways:
Chinese herbal decoctions. The most traditional method of preparing an herbal formula in China, decoctions can involve lengthy preparation and result in "teas" infamous for their strong taste and aroma. For these reasons decoctions are not as popular or as widely used in the west.
Herbal powders, which can be mixed with hot water to make a tea, are more convenient to prepare and use, and are not as pungent as traditional decoctions.
Chinese Patent Formulas are pre-made herbal formulations in pill or tablet form and are perhaps the most widely used form of Chinese herbal medicine outside of China.
Syrups, which are soothing preparations for coughs and sore throat, are also a convenient way to administer herbal formulations to children.
Liniments, salves, compresses and plasters, which are used for external application. Herbal therapy, next to dietary therapy, is perhaps the most widely used TCM treatment modality. TCM relies on herbal therapies both for the treatment of illness and in the optimization of health and prevention of disease.
Are herbs safe?
Chinese herbs are very safe when prescribed correctly by a properly trained practitioner. Over the centuries doctors have compiled detailed information about the pharmacopoiea and placed great emphasis on the protection of the patient. Adverse reactions can occur with any form of medicine. In the case of Chinese herbal medicine these are rare.