Chinese Herbal Medicine and Natural Remedies
Oriental herbal medicine has been used for centuries by generations of oriental cultures. Chinese herbology is the Chinese art of combining medicinal herbs. It is the common name for the subject of Chinese materia medica.
It includes the basic theory of Chinese crude medicine, prepared drug in pieces and traditional Chinese patent medicines and simple preparations.
Herbology is traditionally one of the more important aspects utilized in traditional Chinese medicine. Each herbal medicine is a cocktail of many herbs tailored to each patient. One batch of herbs is typically decocted twice over the course of one hour. The process starts when the practitioner designs the remedy using one or two main ingredients that will target the specific illness. Then the practitioner adds many ingredients to adjust the formula to the patient’s yin/yang conditions.
Herbs and Ingredients
Sometimes ingredients are needed to cancel out the toxicity of the main ingredients. Some herbs need other ingredients to act as a catalyst or else the whole brew is ineffective. This knowledge is what separates the master from the amateur.
The balance of all the ingredients is what is important, not just what each ingredient can contribute. The key ingredient in each concoction is the understanding that each patient is an individual and should be considered upon treatment.
Chinese herbology incorporates ingredients from all the parts of the plants; the leaf, stem, flower, root. They also use ingredients from animals and minerals. Some former key ingredients are from resources that are now extinct. For example, seahorses, rhinoceros horns, and tiger bones are all endangered species and the continued use resulted in the black market and poachers, however many practitioners no longer use such ingredients.
The History and Tradition
Chinese herbs have been in use for centuries. The first recorded user of this ancient Chinese tradition is Shennong. Shennong was a mythical personage, who has been said to have tasted hundreds of herbs and passed the knowledge of medicinal and poisonous plants onto the agricultural community. The first manual dates back to the first century during the Han dynasty.
The name of this manual was the Shennong Bencao Jing, which translates as being Shennong Emperor’s Classic of Materia Medica. This manual listed over 350 medicines of which over 250 of them were herbs. This early piece of literature included lists of prescriptions for specific ailments. A later piece of literature was discovered in the Mawangdui tomb which was sealed in 168 B.C.E.
Generations later other works were created. In the 7th century during the Tang Dynasty, the Yao Xing Lun was written. This work translates as the “Treatise on the Nature of Medicinal Herbs”. The most important manual that is still used today is the Compendium of Materia Medica. This was compiled during the Ming Dynasty by Li Shizhen.
Many centuries later, the ancient practice of Chinese herbal therapy still exists. It is a form of therapy that has been adopted by the alternative health culture of today. Alternative health is described as being medicinal practices that do not conform to modern day, scientific-based medicine. Herbology is used in Western cultures to help maintain wellness. Fresh herbs are used in cooking, teas, made into supplements, or creams to use topically. Things like garlic are not only used to improve the taste of sauces and stir-fry but also to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Peppermint and ginger are used to help with nausea. Echinacea is taken to achieve a level of calmness.
To understand the importance of Chinese herb medicine and herbal remedies today, one must dwell in the past and discover its journey. This journey is what makes the practice so great and time honored. However, before you go into your back yard and start ingesting the flora, it is best to research and contact a specialist in the field of herbology. You do not want to find out the hard way that you discovered a deadly herb.
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