Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine
About Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine, Eight Principles and Five Elements
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) was given its name during the Cultural Revolution by the Chinese government in the 1950s. TCM is characterized by a somewhat materialist approach to diagnosis and treatment. This approach has strong ties to the western linier model of healthcare making it a very useful for integrating eastern and western medicine.
Prior to the Cultural Revolution, a practice of Chinese medicine was identified by the family lineage from which it sprang and the school of thought that outlined a foundation for diagnosis and treatment. Over thousands of years several schools formed and from these schools the classical texts of Chinese medicine emerged. During the Cultural Revolution many scholars from various lineages went into hiding or died. To this day practitioners are still piecing together the wisdom of the classics by retracing the steps and translating classical texts. Chinese medicine here in the west is in a constant state of deepening. Armed with the foundational principles of Chinese philosophy, medicine and cosmology, practitioners in the west reach ever deeper for what seems like endless subtlety and refinement of understanding.
The notion of the Eight Principles and the Five Elements are imbedded in the cosmology of early Chinese culture in its Taoist tradition. These concepts are used to inform and interpret all aspects of life from the subtle to the mundane and from the individual to the nation. It is only as the medicine and the culture expanded and attempted to conform to western linier models that the Five Element and Eight Principle systems became distinguished from one another. Fundamentally these two systems are naturally integrated and both are necessary for the clinical practice of Chinese medicine.
The fundamental difference between the Five Element and the Eight Principle approach is this. The Eight principle approach looks for what is out of balance, stagnated or obstructed while the Five Element approach looks for what is in balance for one's wholeness deep within and ever present. Both eyes are needed to see depth and restore health. In order to help with Chinese medicine the practitioner must have the eyes to see the disharmony while at the same time support and encourage that which is whole, healthy, in true within. Acupuncture and herbal medicine heal by suggesting a deep and subtle reminder to the body and being of its own healing potential and natural state of harmony and balance.
About Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese herbs have been used as medicine for more than 2500 years. The effectiveness of these medicinal substances has been documented in China and in other parts of Asia for centuries. Knowledge of the power of Chinese herbs was passed down through generations of herbal medicine scholars and finally transcribed into the texts that are still used today. The ancients classified more than 300 plants, minerals and animals into 18 categories based on the way they affect the body. These herbs are further classified by qualities such as the meridians affected, taste and temperature. Such distinctions remain at the foundation of Chinese herbal medicine theory and practice today. The prescription of Chinese herbal formulations is an art that draws on a strong foundation of Chinese natural philosophy, and Chinese medicine theory. These theories are ancient ways of understanding the microcosm of the body through the macrocosm of the natural world. The philosophy of Chinese medicine states, the dense (that with form such as blood, organs, and tissue) and the subtle (formless energy, breath, and qi) in all of existence, are intimately related and are constantly influencing one another. Thus, the use of Chinese herbal medicine is a way of restoring harmony by regulating the subtle and the dense energies of the body.
Several Ways to Receive Herbal Medicine
Traditionally, Chinese herbal formulas are prepared as soups or teas, and are considered food medicine. Chinese herbs are still available in what is called raw or loose form. That is, they are dried roots, leaves, rhizomes, minerals and seeds, which can be combined into unique formulas then brewed at home by the patient. Most westerners are not interested in taking herbs in this form for two reasons - it requires time-consuming preparation and because the resulting tea usually has an unfamiliar taste and smell. Today, herbs are prepared as tinctures, tablets, capsules and powders to accommodate the modern busy lifestyle of western culture. A tincture is an alcohol-based liquid concentrated formula. Tinctures and powders are especially useful because they can be easily combined, simulating the versatility of raw formulas. Herbs are also applied to the skin. When prepared for this use they are called balms, liniments and oils. These herbs powerfully relieve aches and pains, chest congestion, and skin infection and may be given for their subtle energetic effects on the mind and spirit as well. In whatever form they are provided, herbal formulas are designed using the principles of Chinese Medicine theory, and they hold an essential place as a primary component of treatment.
Quality and Safety of Herbs
I use the highest quality herbal products. Where possible I purchase organically grown herbs. The capsules, tablets, granules and tinctures are quality controlled and each batch is tested to ensure the absence of toxins. For more information on the safety and quality of the herbs I prescribe see the following web sites.