Chinese herbal medicine is part of an integrated system of primary health care, known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that has an uninterrupted history of development dating back thousands of years in China and other parts of East Asia.
The origins of Chinese herbal medicine in China can be traced back at least 5000 years, making it one of the oldest and most long-standing health care systems in the world.
In the intervening millennia, the practice of Chinese herbal medicine and TCM has developed and matured to become what it is today – a natural and holistic system of primary health care that is being used by people from a wide range of cultural and social backgrounds to effectively treat a wide range of chronic and acute health problems.
Chinese herbal medicine takes an holistic approach to understanding normal function and disease processes and focuses as much on the prevention of illness as on the treatment.
Most diseases or illnesses present with a core set of recognisable signs and symptoms, but the actual presentation of a particular disease or illness will vary from person to person. For this reason, people with similar health conditions may be provided with quite different Chinese herbal medicine prescriptions.
A qualified practitioner is able to prescribe a Chinese herbal formula that specifically matches and treats your individual health problem. As your condition changes and improves with treatment, the Chinese herbal treatment is also adjusted and modified until the desired health outcome is achieved.
Today, there are more than 450 substances commonly used in Chinese herbal medicine – most are of plant origin though some animal and mineral substances may also be used. You may find some in your kitchen, such as ginger, garlic and cinnamon, while others such as chrysanthemum and peony flowers, are more likely to be found in your garden! Many of the substances used will be unfamiliar to you and have names like chai hu (bupleurum), di huang (rehmannia), and huang qi (astragalus). Some substances that were used traditionally are no longer part of modern professional Chinese herbal medicine practice. For example, traditional remedies that are derived from endangered species have been replaced by other substances with similar actions.
Chinese herbal medicines are prescribed either singly or made into formulae which take into account the individual therapeutic action of each herb and well as the effects when combined together. A well constructed formula maximises the effectiveness for treating a particular condition, while counteracting and minimising the unwanted effects of an individual herb.
In addition to providing effective treatment for a wide range of health disorders, Chinese herbal medicine may also be used to assist with general health maintenance and disease prevention. By strengthening and enhancing normal body functions, the immune system is boosted and a general sense of well-being promoted.
A snapshot of conditions typically treated with Chinese herbal medicine includes:
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