Value of Chinese Herbs
The use of herbs in China, developed over thousands of years, is intimately tied into the balancing of energies in the body.
They are often used as preventative medicine and taken regularly to build up and strengthen a person's constitution.
When a person is already sick, herbs are usually prescribed based on a thorough diagnosis involving many factors, in addition to any specific symptomatic condition.
The action of the herbs is sometimes described in terms of what they do. For example: "warming and invigorating," "cooling and calming," or "removing damp from the spleen."
The use of herbs is both an art and a science. Generally, they tend to have a slower and gentler effect than other techniques, and, for this reason, they are used for long-term treatment of chronic conditions, rather than in emergency situations.
Their function is usually to right an imbalance, or regulate an organ in much the way that an acupuncturist would use a needle. Because some people do not like to be needled, they prefer herbs, but then they have to deal with the taste of the herbs, which can be unpleasant.
Tonic herbs are often combined to make soups, which provide nourishment and gentle stimulation to organs. The soups may be simmered from one to three hours.
Herbs can be classified according to their tonifying capabilities. Yang, or energy tonics, are those like ginseng, licorice or astragalus. Yin, or blood tonics, include herbs such as dong quai and tienchi.
A number of books in the catalog list various important herbs and discuss the principles for using them. Since selection of herbs can be complex, it is best to obtain them from a competent source.
Herbs are highly regarded in China, not only for their curative powers, but also for building up energies in the organs and throughout the body. In this sense, they complement physical exercises such as T'ai Chi Ch'uan.