Traditional Chinese herbal medicine has been practiced for more than 5,000 years. From earliest times, Chinese medicine has been associated with the forces of nature -- the earth and sea, the seasons and climate, plants and animals. There is a strongly held Chinese belief that the human body is a microcosm of the grand cosmic order and that the forces at work in man are the same as those of the universe. All the elements of the earth are significant in traditional Chinese healing. Unity with nature is actually a common belief held throughout many civilizations in the history of the world.
Digestion and breathing extract qi from food and air and transfer it to the body. When these two forms of qi meet in the bloodstream, they make human-qi, which circulates through the body as vital energy. The quality, quantity and harmonious balance of your qi determine your state of health and span of life. Conditions which can upset the balance of qi are climatic factors, emotions, phlegm congestion and stagnant blood. Because one cannot control variables that affect qi, like the weather and seasonal changes, paramount importance is placed on diet and breathing exercises.
Qi is further affected by the condition of the organs that absorb it. If the stomach and lungs are not functioning properly, they cannot extract and absorb the qi's vital energy in sufficient quantity, so the entire body suffers. When a person becomes ill, Chinese herbal doctors first look to the patient's lifestyle and habits for things that might affect qi. Many qi-deficient conditions can be corrected with the powerful tools of lifestyle, breathing and hygiene changes.
Demystifying Chinese herbs by learning and understanding how the herbs are used gives us a new opportunity to obtain more healing tools. Chinese herbal healers learn largely from observation. They look to observation (sight, hearing, smell and touch) and questioning the patient for confirmation of their diagnosis. Disease is viewed as an imbalance of two opposing energies, yin and yang, in the major body systems.
Chinese herbal medicine also recognizes qi as an important part of medicinal plants. Herbs are thought to possess specific parallel characteristics with humans. The qi energy of certain herbs has a natural affinity for certain parts of the human body and the ability to work effectively with them to restore vital energy. Body balance is the goal as natural functions are steered back toward the direction of harmony. Chinese herbal treatment always works with the opposite herb characteristic to the human problem. For example, a fever is treated with cooling herbs; a cold is treated with heating herbs.
Although the bio-chemical constituents of Chinese herbs have long been known, the real healing ability of an herbal medicine depends on the integration of complexity of its components. A prescription for a Chinese remedy may contain four to twelve herbs or more. There may be many different solutions for the same symptom, depending on the underlying imbalance. Traditional Chinese herbal formulas aim for broader spectrum healing and normalizing results - to balance hormones, regulate blood components, enhance immune function, reduce inflammation and improve digestion.