Chinese herbology, Chinese herbal medicine
Chinese Herbology, is the common name for the subject of Chinese materia
medica. It includes the basic theory of Chinese materia medica, "crude
medicine," "prepared drug in slices" and traditional Chinese patent
medicines and simple preparations' source, collection and preparation,
performance, efficacy, and clinical applications.
Chinese materia medica is also the medicine based on traditional Chinese
medicine theory. it includes Chinese crude medicine, prepared drug in
slices of Chinese materia medica, traditional Chinese patent medicines
and simple preparations, etc.
Herbology is one of the more important modalities utilized in
traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Each herbal medicine prescription is
a cocktail of many herbs tailored to the individual patient. One batch
of herbs is typically decocted twice over the course of one hour. The
practitioner usually designs a remedy using one or two main ingredients
that target the illness. Then the practitioner adds many other
ingredients to adjust the formula to the patient's yin/yang conditions.
Sometimes, ingredients are needed to cancel out toxicity or side-effects
of the main ingredients. Some herbs require the use of other ingredients
as catalyst or else the brew is ineffective. The latter steps require
great experience and knowledge, and make the difference between a good
Chinese herbal doctor and an amateur. Unlike western medications, the
balance and interaction of all the ingredients are considered more
important than the effect of individual ingredients. A key to success in
TCM is the treatment of each patient as an individual.
Chinese herbology often incorporates ingredients from all parts of
plants, such as the leaf, stem, flower, root, and also ingredients from
animals and minerals. The use of parts of endangered species (such as
seahorses, rhinoceros horns, and tiger bones) has created controversy
and resulted in a black market of poachers who hunt restricted animals.
Many herbal manufacturers have discontinued the use of any parts from
Another difference between Chinese herbology and other traditional
medical systems is its considerable use of marine products.
Chinese herbs are prepared in a number of ways. Raw herbs can be boiled
and taken as a tea or decoction. Prepared Chinese herbs are sold as
pills, tablets and capsules. Another preparation method is the extract
form or tinctures in which small doses are taken from a dropper. In one
type of preparation herbs are applied via a plaster, usually for pain.
Categorizing Chinese herbs
Chinese physicians used several different methods to classify
traditional Chinese herbs:
- The Four Natures
- The Five Tastes
- The meridians
The earlier (Han through Tang eras) Ben Cao (Materia Medicae) began with
a three-level categorization:
Low level -- drastic acting, toxic substances;
Middle level -- medicinal physiological effects;
High level -- health and spirit enhancement
During the neo-Confucian Song-Jin-Yuan era (10th to 12th Centuries), the
theoretical framework from acupuncture theory (which was rooted in
Confucian Han theory) was formally applied to herbal categorization
(which was earlier more the domain of Daoist natural science). In
particular, alignment with the Five Phases (Wu Xing) and the 12 channels
(meridian) theory came to be used after this period.