Herbal medicine is itself a powerful method of healing. Western drugs often control symptoms, but do not alter the disease process (antibiotics eliminate bacteria but do not improve a person's resistance to infection; diuretics rid excess fluid without improving kidney function). Chinese herbs treat the underlying condition as defined by traditional diagnosis, and rarely cause unwanted side-effects.
Just as soil becomes depleted through overuse, so the Qi, Moisture, and Blood are eroded by overwork, emotional tension, mental strain, too much or too little exercise, and inadequate diet or rest, impairing the capacity of the Organ Networks to do their jobs.
Since fatigue results from a lack of Qi, herbs that nourish the Qi have an energizing effect. Since blurry vision, restless sleep, and irritability result from depleted Blood, Blood-enriched herbs improve vision, sleep, and equanimity. Since dry skin and dehydration arise from insufficient Moisture, herbs that replenish it soften the skin and relieve an otherwise unquenchable thirst.
Herbs assist the Organ Networks in the performance of their tasks. Particular herbs enhance the capacity of the Heart to propel the blood and soothe the mind, the Spleen to manage digestion and fluid equilibrium, the Lung to handle respiration and the body's defenses, the Liver to maintain resilient emotions and supple limbs, and the Kidney to sustain sexual and regenerative power. Some herbal formulas address ailments such as colds, allergies, inflammations, or cramps with dramatic and immediate results, while others fortify body reserves over time.
For example, Jake's stuffy head and cloudy senses are relieved by herbs that dispel Heat and Wind. Herbs that strengthen the Lung and Qi will increase his resistance to colds and flus. Kate experiences menstrual distress as a result of congested Qi, Moisture, and Blood in the abdomen - a traffic jam that results in sore and swollen tissue, a puffy face, irritability, lethargy, and cramps. Herbs that invigorate her circulation can dislodge the pile-up, relieving her symptoms.
Linda is concerned about the signs of aging that occur as Essence and Blood diminish. Herbs that nourish the Kidney and Liver replenish Essence and Blood so that health bones, supple skin, shiny hair, and an even temperament prevail while the fading of sexuality or hot flashes are prevented.
Chinese herbs are usually combined in formulas to enhance their individual properties and actions. Symptoms and signs are matched with therapeutic effects, reflecting the particular conditions and needs of each patient. Tonic formulas restore eroded body resources; regulating formulas decongest the Qi, Moisture, and Blood, relieving discomfort; and purging formulas eliminate adverse climates, inviting clear weather.
Formulas are available in a variety of forms: crude herbs to be boiled into tea, liquid bottled extracts, ground herbs packaged in pills, and powders. Herbs, more like foods than drugs, can supplement our diet and fortify our constitution as well as prevent or remedy ailments. Sometimes long-term use of herbs is desirable whereas extended use of pharmaceuticals would not be healthy.
© 1991 by H Beinfield & E Korngold. Between Heaven and Earth, A Guide to Chinese Medicine. Ballantine, 1991.
© 1973, 1987 by C Huang. Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain. Celestial Arts, 1987.
© 1980 by Beijing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, et. al. Essentials of Chinese Acupuncture. Foreign Languages Press, 1980.