How Does Chinese Herbal Medicine Work?

Each herb has been meticulously studied and recorded for its flavor, therapeutic property, and organ system in which it is active. Flavors include sour, bitter, acrid, salty, and sweet. Therapeutic properties span cold, cool, neutral, warm, and hot. The organ systems cover the various systems that make up our entire anatomy. These attributes synergistically offer the Chinese medical viewpoint on an herb’s therapeutic actions. Each herb is then categorized according to its primary therapeutic action. These include diaphoretics (cleansing through sweat), anti-inflammatories, diuretics (cleansing through urine), digestives, internal warmers, relaxants, tonics and many other categories. Given all this, herbs are then combined into formulas to accomplish several tasks simultaneously and these herbal formulas are categorized in the same manner as the singular herbs.

After evaluating a patient’s chief health concerns, an herbalist will construct a formula specific for her and her condition at hand. Every person that is evaluated will likely receive a different formula, even if the conditions are the same. Since each body is different, the reason for a disorder’s existence will be unique as well. And each unique person requires different tools for healing. Taking knee pain as an example, one patient may need more help circulating blood to alleviate pain and regenerate injured tissue, while another patient may need their immune system strengthened as their knee pain may only surface when they’re sick or when the weather changes.

Each herb has a multitude of active chemical compounds that are responsible for how an herb accomplishes its various tasks.  Studies abound on Chinese herbs and how they affect the body, subdue pathogens and infections, enhance circulation, and even slow aging.  In an herbal formula, a veritable soup of hundreds, if not thousands of active ingredients stimulate the body to respond in a desired ways, depending on the design of the herbal formula


Author: Tao of Wellness Clinic, Santa Monica