Chinese Herbal Medicineacupuncture, Chinese massage and exercise therapy, is one of the components of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a complete system of medicine with a recorded history of over 2000 years.
Traditional Chinese Medicine fundamentally differs from Western medicine in its understanding of the human body and its approach to diagnosing and treating illnesses. Western medicine takes a mechanistic view of the body in which different organs are viewed as each performing an individual and self-contained function, much like the separate components within a machine, and consequently its treatments target individual symptoms largely in isolation. By contrast, Traditional Chinese Medicine views the body as an integrated system, and diseases as manifestations of imbalances within that system. Therefore Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments aim primarily at restoring and maintaining balance and harmony within the body.
Throughout its recorded history Chinese herbal medicine has been the subject of extensive research into all aspects of its use, and this continues today. In Chinese hospitals, Chinese herbal medicine is regularly used alongside Western medicine.
The Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine (RCHM) enforces a strict policy requiring all prescriptions to use exclusively plant ingredients, and prohibiting the use of any type of endangered species.
- Skin diseases
- High cholesterol levels
- Digestive disorders
- High blood pressure
- Menstrual and gynaecological problems
- Depression and other emotional problems
- Chronic fatigue
The first step in assessing your overall condition involves taking your "case". This is generally done by means of an extensive interview, and for this reason the first consultation may take longer than subsequent sessions.
The herbalist will then examine your tongue and take your pulse. Pulse taking is very different from the taking of the arterial pulse by a Western doctor. Pulses are felt in both wrists, and their quality, rhythm and strength are all significant as they help assess the flow of energy within your body. Tongue examination is visual and is also an important diagnostic tool. The structure, colour and coating of different areas of your tongue provide an in-depth insight into your physical health.
A number of pre-prepared formulae are available in pill form. These products are very convenient, as they are ready to use, but limit the practitioner's ability to adjust the formulae to the needs of individual patients.
Individually prescribed formulae may come in one of three forms. The traditional method of preparing herbal formulae is by decoction. The prescription is provided to you as a mixture of the required herbs in dried form, which are then boiled in water at home to prepare the decoction.
Another way of providing tailored prescriptions is as highly concentrated powdered extracts prepared to the herbalist's specifications. You place the powder in hot water to recreate the decoction.
The third alternative is to package the powdered extracts in capsule form.
Because of their complexity, the natural compounds used in Chinese herbal medicine are inherently more balanced than medications based on single active ingredients, and therefore far less likely to cause side effects. In addition, the fact that prescriptions consist of complex formulae where groups of herbs work in synergy further increases their safety.
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