In Chinese culture, herbs are routinely part of the normal diet, since they are regularly used in cooking soups and for other forms of recipes. Contrary to the term “Chinese herbs”, herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) include different types of substances in addition to plants. These substances include minerals, shells, different types of animals or insects. Herbs are given according to their Qi and Blood energy. According to traditional Chinese medicine, each herb has a specific energy, and when in line with the energy of an individual, can restore the person’s health. Therefore there are two components – energy of the person and energy of the herbs. They are combined on a case-by-case basis according to the need of the person. The practice of Chinese medicine generally revolves cooling what is hot and warming what is cold. Herbs are instrumental in balancing the energies of a person, and have been proven to be safe and effective over the centuries.
The energy dynamics of Chinese herbs have been observed by skilled Taoist physicians for centuries. By closely examining individual materials, their features were documented. How it is done is pretty remarkable. A physician took a specific herb through Qigong (meditation), and experienced the energetic characteristics of the substance. In this way, each part of a plant, animal, shell or insect and their qualities was methodically classified. When prescribing herbs, three things must be considered: 1) What is the energy of the herb – warming or cooling; 2) What is the effect of its energy – increasing or decreasing; and 3) To which organ or part of the body is the energy directed?
By balancing herbs a mixture, Chinese herbal formulas can be used to remedy a variety of health conditions. Such formulas are known as “patents”. Separate herbs together can produce a better effect than a single herb. In the meanwhile, formulas provide greater safety because an individual herb with too strong energy can be offset by other herbs. If you’ve visited a Chinese herbalist, you might have noticed that herbs are frequently prepared in combinations. This is how Chinese herbal medicine is practiced. Even though acupuncture may be more well-known in the West, Chinese herbal medicine can in fact treat patients more effectively in some cases. While Chinese herbs have powerful healing effects, they are also gentle in action, and nourishes both Qi and Blood.