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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 endangered animals.

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.

 

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