Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings
Answers

What is Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine?

The system of herbal medicine that developed in China differs in several significant ways from European herbal medicine. The most obvious difference is that the Western herbal tradition focuses on “simples,” or herbs taken by themselves. In contrast, traditional Chinese herbal medicine (TCHM) makes almost exclusive use of herbal combinations. More importantly, these formulas are not designed to treat symptoms of a specific illness; rather, they are tailored specifically to the individual according to the complex principles of traditional Chinese medicine. For this reason, TCHM is potentially a deeply holistic healing approach. On the other hand, it is both more difficult to use and to study than its Western counterpart.

TCHM is widely used in Asian countries, both in its traditional...

In the traditional system of Chinese herbal medicine, herbal formulas can be used to treat virtually any condition. Some of the most common uses in China include liver disease ( hepatitis and cirrhosis ), sexual dysfunction in men , infertility in women , insomnia , colds and flus , menstrual pain , irregular menstruation, and menopause .

Acupuncture is often used along with herbs as a supplemental treatment; in addition, extraordinarily detailed lifestyle suggestions are common. It is not unusual for a traditional practitioner to “prescribe” dinner, as well as counsel changes in living situation (for example, move from the basement to the first floor or face the bed south rather than north). Exercise systems such as Tai Chi and Qigong may also be recommended.

Safety Issues

There are several serious safety concerns with the use of TCHM.

One concern involves the use of multiple herbs typical in this approach. In general, conventional medicine makes a point of using as few medications as possible (in theory, at least) because the greater the number of medications, the greater the risk of harm. (Also, when medications are used together and harm does result, it’s hard to know which drug was at fault.) From this perspective, formulas consisting of 5, 10, or 30 herbs are quite worrisome.

Interestingly, such combinations are actually designed for the purpose of reducingrisks. According to TCHM theory, the various herbs in a formula balance and moderate each other. Unfortunately, this theory has never been put to the test, and there are reasons...

 
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