Originating in ancient China, traditional Chinese medicine has evolved over the ages. It stretches back thousands of years the first written example dating back to 168 BC. Practitioners use a variety of body and mind practices and herbal remedies for both treatment and prevention of health problems.
The underlying principles of this tradition are very different from Western Medicine models. Scientific research shows that Chinese herbs are successful in treating a variety of ailments, especially gynecological and gastrointestinal disorders.
According to ancient Chinese philosophy, all living things are sustained by a balance of two opposing forces of energy. These forces are yin and yang. Together, yin and yang create Qi. When yin and yang are off balance, there is a blockage of Qi and illness can result. Practitioners use Chinese herbs as a way to help restore balance to the individual. Unlike most western medicine practices, Chinese traditional medicine does not separate the mind and the body. Instead, it understands the mind and body to interact together.
Ginseng is the “King of Herbs” and has a long list of benefits. It helps strengthen your immune system, replenish energy, and help your memory. Many people take this herb daily as a way to stay healthy.
Dong Quai, the “Queen of Herbs” is also very popular. Many women take it daily as a way to strengthen reproductive organs and regulate their period. Often cooked into soup or rice dishes, dong quai is also known to help with high blood pressure, asthma, and anemia.
Schisandra or Wu-Wei-Zi means “five-flavored berry.” It is a life-extending plant and berry. It is an “adaptogen”, which means it helps prevent disease and stress. Schisandra treats high cholesterol, pneumonia, sleep problems, depression, and memory loss.
Chestnuts, or Castanea, might be a familiar reference in popular holiday tunes. But in Chinese traditional medicine, these sweet tasting snacks go much further. Considered to be a warming food, chestnuts nourish the spleen, kidneys, and digestive system.
Rhemmania, or Chinese foxglove, is a Chinese herb that treats a wide range of ailments. It helps to treat health concerns like blood circulation, fatigue, and liver function. A tonic made from the rhemmania root may even be able to benefit people with diabetes by alleviating neuropathy and swelling, though scientific research is needed.
Obviously, these Chinese herbs are the very tip of the iceberg. Practitioners spend entire lives studying this ancient wisdom. As helpful as the internet can be, if you have questions about a specific plant or are looking for assistance with a health condition, seek professional opinions and guidance.
Some Chinese herbs such as ginseng grow all over the world. However, medical-grade Chinese herbs must be grown in China because of the specific soil and climate needs of each plant.
As with many various approaches to health and wellness, it is so important to do your research. If choosing to incorporate Chinese herbs into your life, do not buy unvetted herbs online. There are reports of some Chinese herbs being contaminated by heavy metals and pharmaceuticals. Make sure to consult certified Chinese Medicine practitioners. If you are taking other medications and have a chronic health condition, talk to your doctor. Some Chinese herbs can have negative side-effects and will interact with western medicine.
In order to be responsible consumers and health advocates, it is important to continue to educate ourselves. This is true especially since this practice and philosophy can so easily be appropriated in irresponsible ways.
If Chinese herbs are not a part of your inherited cultural identity, use your time and curiosity in a way that is positive and respectful. If you are seeking out additional, more in-depth information about Chinese herbs, there are some really cool places to dig in even deeper.