23 Aug How do Chinese Herbs work and what do they treat?
For more than 3,000 years, Chinese herbs have been used to treat a range of health issues and ailments. In the last few decades, they have become increasingly popular in Europe and America, where individuals unsatisfied with Western medical treatments have pursued the healing power of herbal remedies for the relief of many conditions.
The Chinese Materia Medica, a pharmacological reference book used by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners, describes thousands of medicinal substances — primarily plants,
but also some minerals and animal products used in herbal therapy. Different parts of plants, such as the leaves, roots, stems, flowers, fruits, seeds and branches, are typically used in Chinese herbs.
How do Chinese herbs work?
TCM practitioners believe herbs — which contain naturally active compounds like minerals, vitamins, proteins, enzymes, chlorophyll, alkaloids, oils, resins, mucilage, cellulose, tannins, polysaccharides, terpenes, and trace elements of nutrients — can help the body reestablish a healthy state by altering the nature of biological activities.
The effects of Chinese herbs and their therapeutic value have been studied for centuries to determine how they react differently in individuals based on a person’s physical and psychological makeup. That precise knowledge allows those trained in TCM to individually
prescribe the exact amount of herbs to treat a particular condition and restore internal systems.
Traditional Chinese herbs are often combined in formulas — sometimes up to 20 herbs — and each formula contains four components that play a crucial role in healing:
● The chief herb addresses the main cause and symptoms of a disease and is used in large
doses to maximize effect.
● The deputy herb reinforces the main herb and assists in treating the associated symptoms.
● The assistant herb reinforces the chief herb or treats the secondary symptom, counteracts any toxicity issues, and works in synergy with the chief herb to treat complex disorders.
● The envoy herb, which is used in small doses, directly channels all the herbs to the affected areas of the body and harmonizes the formula.
While you can order Chinese herbs online and buy them at health stores and pharmacies without a formal prescription, it’s best to seek the advice of a trained herbalist who understands the ingredients used in prepared herbal products or custom herb prescriptions, what they are used for and how the formulas affect the body. In the United States, you can obtain Chinese herbs from approximately 30,000 licensed practitioners across the country who
normally are required to have a master’s degree and continuing education credits.
Chinese herbs are administered in the form of teas, capsules, tablets, liquid extracts, tinctures, granules, ointments or powders. In the United States, they are sometimes marketed as dietary supplements and therefore fall under less stringent FDA regulations than prescriptions or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, making it imperative you find a trusted and high-quality source.
Like chemically synthesized prescription and OTC medications, Chinese herbs are indicated for a certain amount of time, based on the health concerns of a patient. Some Chinese herbs can be effective after a few doses, while others are taken for months or even longer to alleviate symptoms and pain. And just like pharmacological substances used to treat medical issues, Chinese herbs can have serious side effects if not taken as directed.
What do they treat?
While the list of herbs used in TCM is exhaustive, about 300 plants containing antiviral, antibacterial and immunomodulating properties are commonly prescribed for different conditions.
Specifically, Chinese herbs have long been used to resolve functional disorders like weak digestion and elimination, boost poor immune system response, balance hormone and estrogen deficiency, and treat abnormal tissue growth such as tumors and cysts. TCM herbal formulas are also regularly used to treat allergies and asthma.
Some TCM formulas are now under intensive study in the United States and other countries where herbal medicine is not considered a primary course of treatment. In 2015, Kangliaite, an anticancer drug with active ingredients extracted from coix seed, was cleared for phase III clinical trails by the FDA for its efficacy in treating pancreatic cancer. Kanglaite has
demonstrated significant effects on middle or late-stage malignancies of pancreatic, lung and liver cancers, increasing life expectancy when injected together with chemotherapy.
A clinical study in Australia also is investigating the effectiveness of Sailuotong, a complex combination of ginseng, ginkgo and saffron, which has shown in preliminary studies to improve
the cognitive and memory impairment associated with vascular dementia.
To learn more about how Chinese herbs work to treat a variety of health issues, contact Sicari Healing Arts to schedule a consultation.