Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a healing system developed in China more than 2,000 years ago, incorporating therapies that are in some cases millennia older. TCM focuses on strengthening the body’s defences and enhancing its capacity for healing and to maintain health.
TCM encompasses how the human body interacts with all aspects of life and the environment, including the seasons, weather, time of day, our diet and emotional states. It sees the key to health as the harmonious and balanced functioning of body, mind and spirit, and holds that the balance of health depends on the unobstructed flow of QI (pronounced chee) or “life energy” through the body, along pathways known as meridians. TCM practitioners see disease as the result of disruptions in the circulation of QI.
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), shu 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 For example, traditional remedies that are derived from endangered species have been replaced by other substances with similar actions.
How is Chinese herbal medicine prescribed?
These 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 maximizes the effectiveness for treating a particular condition, while counteracting and minimizing the unwanted effects of an individual herb.
What conditions does Chinese herbal medicine treat?
In addition to providing effective treatment for a wide range of health disorders, it 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:
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Loss of appetite and common digestive disorders
- Constipation and diarrhoea
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Common cold and influenza
- Chronic headaches
- Skin disorders
- Fluid retention
- Anxiety, depression and stress
- Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis
- Premenstrual syndrome and painful menstruation
- Excessive menstruation
- Impotence and prostate disorders
- Disorders associated with menopause