Chinese herbal medicine is the fundamental of Chinese medicine. There are about 300 commonly used raw herbs, which are classified according to three methods:
- Four Natures: according to the degree of yin and yang, the herbs are grouped into cold (extreme yin), cool, neutral to warm, and hot (extreme yang).
- Five Tastes: according to the taste, the herbs are grouped into pungent, sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, each of which has its specific function and character. Pungent herbs are used to generate sweat and vitalize qi and blood. Sweet herbs tonify or harmonize the body systems. Sour ones are astringent and consolidated, while bitters dispel heat, purge the bowels, and get rids of dampness. Salty herbs soften hard mass, as well as purge and open the bowels.
- Meridians: different herbs work on different meridians. For instance, menthol is considered pungent and cool, which works through the meridians of lung and liver.
There are numerous famous formulas in Chinese herbal medicine that have been used for generations for common illnesses. They are pre-made in several forms such as fine power, capsule, pellet and tablet, as well as tinctures that are concentrated liquid extracts of herbs. Taking herbs in those forms is more practical and convenient. However, they are pre-formulated based on the common problems. If a person’s problem does not fit the specific indication, the practitioner should prescribe a specific formula according to the person’s state of yin and yang and the elements that govern the affected organs. Remember that a key to success in Chinese medicine is to treat each patient as an individual. This procedure requires great experience and knowledge, which makes huge difference to the patient’s outcome. Unlike western medicine, the balance and interaction of all the ingredients are considered more important than the effect of individual ingredients.