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    Chinese herbal medicine is one of the great herbal systems of the world, with an unbroken tradition going back to the 3rd century BC.

    Chinese herbal medicine, along with the other components of Traditional Chinese Medicine, is based on the concepts of Yin and Yang. It aims to understand and treat the fundamental balance and harmony between the two. Clinical strategies are based upon diagnosis of patterns of signs and symptoms that reflect an imbalance.

    What is an herb?
    Herbal Medicine and Modern Pharmacology
    What can Chinese Herbal Medicine treat?
    Who can have treatment?
    What are the herbs like and how much will they cost?
    Are herbs safe?


    Initially Chinese Herbal Medicine has been developed as a branch of folk medicine and primary health providers were shamans(1) before 5th millennium B.C.

    Although in texts of late Warring States (403-221 B.C) there were references to over 120 herbs, first Chinese Materia Medica is considered “Divine Husbandman’s Classic of the Materia Medica” (Shen Nong Ben Cao) which contains description of individual herb. It appeared during later Han dynasty 25-220 A.D.:

    More and more herbs have been added to Chinese Materia Medica throughout the history and nowadays it contains more than 5,700 herbs.

    What is an herb?

    From Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective an herb can be defined as substances of different origins:

    - Plants (roots, leaves, seeds, bark);
    - Animal products (bones, horns, shells, etc):
    - Mineral;

    whose constituents posses therapeutic, tonic, sedative, purgative, protecting , or other pharmacologic activity

    Herbal Medicine and Modern Pharmacology (2)

    There is a growing body of research which indicates that traditional uses of plant remedies and the known pharmacological activity of plant constituents often coincide. However, herbal medicine is distinct from medicine based on pharmaceutical drugs.

    Firstly, because of the complexity of plant materials it is far more balanced than medicine based on isolated active ingredients and is far less likely to cause side-effects.

    Secondly, because herbs are typically prescribed in combination, the different components of a formulae balance each other, and they undergo a mutual synergy which increases efficacy and enhances safety.

    Thirdly, herbal medicine seeks primarily to correct internal imbalances rather than to treat symptoms alone, and therapeutic intervention is designed to encourage this self-healing process.

    What can Chinese Herbal Medicine treat?

    Chinese Herbal Medicine is successfully used for a very wide range of conditions. Among the more commonly treated disorders are:

    Stress Management and Psychological problems (e.g. depression, anxiety)

    Skin disease, including eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, urticaria

    Gastro-intestinal disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, ulcerative colitis

    Gynecological conditions, including pre-menstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhoea, endometriosis, infertility

    Chronic fatigue syndromes, whether with a background of viral infection or in other situations

    Respiratory conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, and chronic coughs, allergic and perennial rhinitis and sinusitis

    Rheumatologic conditions (e.g. osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis)

    Urinary conditions including chronic cystitis

    Many of these conditions, especially in their chronic forms, create great difficulty for conventional medicine, whilst Chinese herbal medicine has a great deal to offer.

    The results that can be expected and the length of treatment required will depend on the severity of the condition, its duration, and the general health of the patient.

    Who can have treatment?

    Chinese medicine can be used by people of any age or constitution. Your practitioner will take any previous or current illness or medication into account before providing treatment.

    With suitable adjustments for dosage and with some conditions which will be determined by your practitioner, children and pregnant women can be very well treated with Chinese herbs..

    What are the herbs like and how much will they cost?

    Herbs are now available in a number of formats, both traditional and modern. The traditional method is to boil a mixture of dried herbs to make a decoction or to use pills. The herbs are also now commonly prescribed as freeze dried powders or tinctures. The herbs will at first taste unusual and often bitter to anyone who has not tried them before, but the vast majority of people get used to the taste very quickly.

    There are no standard prices for treatment or herbs. You should enquire about charges when making your appointment. Many private health insurance companies are now covering acupuncture and a few will also pays for herbal treatment. You should contact your insurance company to check.

    Are herbs safe?

    Chinese herbs are very safe when prescribed correctly by a properly trained practitioner. Over the centuries doctors have compiled detailed information about the Materia Medica and placed great emphasis on the protection of the patient.

    Allergic type reactions are rare, and will cause no lasting damage if treatment is stopped as soon as symptoms appear.
    The provision of good quality authenticated herbs is also very important to protect public safety, and the Government is currently working to regulate in near future Herbal Medicine and the quality of herbs in order to ensure that the herbs quality and Herbal Medicine practice meet the highest standards.

    1) Mircea Eliade – “Histoire des Croyances et des idées religieuses”, Payot, Paris 1978
    2) Source: Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine


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