As herbal medicine rises in popularity, we’re starting to see an effort by companies to expand past the well-known remedies of the West and adopt some of the traditions of the East, especially those of India and China.
Chinese herbal medicine has a long and storied history that predates most of the West’s in terms of botanical science and the effects various plants and minerals have on the human body. What makes these Eastern traditions are littered with recipes using herbal compounds that we had no access to or knowledge of in the West.
To this day, we don’t have “English” or Anglicized words for many of China’s most powerful plants, and know them either by the Pinyin or nicknames. Their system of herbology was sacred, and dealt in the movement of energy, unlike Western medicine which was more primitive and concerned itself more with the release of toxins and reduction of inflammation.
It is for this reason that more and more attention and praise is being aimed at Chinese herbal cures, as they are often more potent even than the popularly vetted Western herbs.
The Power of Traditional Medicine
Our current medical industry is severely lacking in practical, holistic therapies and practices. Yes, we’ve come a long way with allopathic solutions for problems, such as curing infections with Penicillin, the ability to amputate limbs safely, organ transplants, and the like. But these medical practices are for extraordinarily dire circumstances. Where modern medical practices fail is in the prevention and gentle rehabilitation of illnesses and diseases.
This is because in the ancient world, people couldn’t afford to just chop off their limbs or replace organs when the going got tough. Those in the know, who understood the power of nature and what plants could do, spent their entire lives devoted to the study of medicinal compounds, which led to an advanced herbology that is lost on the today’s “chop shop” medical mentality.
Anyone who isn’t aware of the effectiveness of herbal medicine as compared to today’s crude and oftentimes asinine methods is usually left wondering what makes “herbs” so special. Can we really trust what’s in a plant?
Of course we can. That’s where the power of traditional medicine really comes into play. The same process of evolution that makes fruits and vegetables so healthy for us is likely why so many herbs and other kinds of plants hold compounds that are extremely beneficial to human beings and other animals.
Notable Chinese Herbal Cures
Not actually an herb at all, but a root or more specially a rhizome, is well known as a digestive aid.
It also has been used in traditional medicine of the East for centuries. It has the ability to neutralize poisons in food, increase circulation, and improve breathing. Despite its popularity in cooking, it is still used extensively as a medicine, especially as a means of combating nausea. It may be consumed raw or as a tea, or even incorporated into powdered medications for very easy consumption and application. Ginger acts strongly in the body, quickly relieving digestive qualms.
The leaves of this plant have been shown to stimulate the body and has been used traditionally to combat infections, colds, and other kinds of general sicknesses. This is due to high concentrations of alkaloid compounds. It is also known as a metabolic enhancer, thus its use at times to control and reduce weight.
Taken in the proper doses, it can be extremely effective at stimulating a lethargic metabolism and setting a person on track to proper health. This herb has come under fire in popular media for its purported side-effects, though much of this is due to charlatans peddling “weight loss” cures that include shoddy herbs and incorrect doses. Before fad diet pills and other Western medical practices came along, Ma Huang was used for thousands of years in China regularly.
This dark-colored herb most specifically affects the blood, and can assist greatly in issues of aging, blood clots, heart problems, and auto-immune illnesses.
It can also reduce the rate at which hormones cease to be produced, which contributes to its popular use as an “anti-aging” herb. Because of its all-purpose usage, it’s found alongside many herbal remedy mixtures and tonics, and is one of the more popular powdered and pill herbs on the market.
This root has been long heralded as a blood-strengthening substance. It has its highest rate of use among women because it will help to regulate uterine contractions as well as blood flow, but when employed in herbal mixtures it can be used by both men and women to nourish the blood, soothe the intestines, improve general blood circulation, ease tension, and provide pain relief. This is another herb that is perfect as a tea, and is commonly ingested as such.
Chinese Herbal Philosophy
Many ancient cultures had an understanding of nature that is lost on modern day science. We may know the chemical composition of a certain herb through and through, but these material understandings lack a certain subtly that many cultures from our past possessed as a rule. And we are not necessarily speaking of spiritual or religious understandings of these substances either – there is a distinction.
In the Far East, natural substances and phenomena were often catalogued by the kind of energy states they produced (as opposed to alternative ancient sciences in the West, which tended toward cataloging minerals and plants simply by their energy signature).
Did an herb “slow” a person’s energy? Hasten it? Make it flow better? Cause disruption or chaos? By observation and years of communing with the natural world, herbal practitioners and alchemists were able to produce certain effects with relative certainty. The elemental nature of a plant’s effects on the human body are extremely important, and the ancients knew this all too well. What occurs on the subtle level will transpose onto the physical.
Similar understandings of natural substances could be found throughout much of the ancient world. Perhaps it was perfected in India, where large tomes of elemental effects were discussed in tandem with yoga and proper diet. The “warm,” “mucus forming,” “cold,” tastes, for example, are an extension of this knowledge.
By contrast, the West did not catalogue the effects of plants so much as their imbued essence. Where Chinese herbal philosophy stands out from others, is in its keen understanding of herbal teas and potions. Through extensive testing, they were able to discern the optimal time certain herbs and roots needed to be steeped or boiled to draw out the optimal amount of nutrition, without altering the subtle effects of the plant.
We can appreciate the superior understanding of natural forces that were known in those days, and bring these philosophies to the present.
Many great companies are currently trying to market these concoctions and powders from the ancient world, so we can once again benefit from them. Amazing healing products, such as this Turmeric Bone Health Supplement and this Mind Sharpening and Anxiety Relief mixture full of Bacopa and Ginkgo are just two examples of the kind of quality product being brought to us from the East.
To fully understand our own health, an holistic perspective is necessary. Every aspect of both ourselves and nature must be taken into account in order to grasp the whole. Chinese medicine seeks to do this, by bringing together the subtle and the chemical into one cohesive view. Expect Traditional Chinese Medicine to make further inroads in the West in the coming years as demand for herbal remedies increases and people continue to look for more holistic answers for their health problems.