Herbal and Traditional Chinese Medicines


Any system of that uses various parts of plants to treat symptoms and promote good health is generically referred to as herbal medicine. The use of herbal medicines was, for centuries, the only form of treatment available to most of the population in most cultures around the world. Traditional Chinese medicine combines herbal medicine with their theory/philosophy that there is a universal life force - chi which manifests itself within our bodies. This life-force has two complementary qualities yin and yang.

Traditional Chinese medicine and the life-force.

Yin and Yang - need to be balanced for a healthy body.

Yin and Yang - need to be balanced for a healthy body.

The Chinese traditional belief is that yin and yang need to be balanced within the body. Yin is seen as a vigorous force, whilst yang is a restraining force and that the chi must be allowed to flow evenly for good health. The Chinese traditionally believe that without this balance between yin and yang and the easy flow of chi through the body ill-health will result. Traditional Chinese medicines are, therefore, designed to restore the balance between yin and yang and maintain the flow of chi throughout the body. The four most significant factors in this approach to good health from the Chinese are the use of; acupressure, acupuncture, t ai chi and herbalism. The following gives you some information on traditional Chinese herbal medicines, but well also return to the other three Chinese medicine traditions later.

Chinese Angelica.

Chinese Angelica, or dong quai to give it its Chinese name, is an attractive plant that can grow to 2 meters tall or more. A relative of the celery family it has hollow stems, bright green leaves and clusters of white flowers between May and August. Chinese Angelica has been used as a traditional Chinese medicine for over 5000 years and, due to its primary use in women for menopausal and menstrual problems, it is also known as female ginseng by Chinese physicians. Chinese Angelica is renowned for its ability to act as a tonic to treat fatigue and pallor, if not actual anemia, caused by iron deficiency which is often associated with heavy menstrual blood loss (menorrhagia). It also has anti-spasm properties, which can help to reduce and treat painful menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhoea). However, thats not the end to the curative properties of Chinese Angelica. When menstrual blood loss is scanty (oligomenorrhoea) dong quai will stimulate the blood flow and help to cleanse the uterus by removing any debris. The key medicinally active part of this plant is its root; which contains the following ingredients: the volatile oil ligustilide, coumarines and vitamin B12. How to use Chinese Angelica the root it is most commonly available as a powder. Take 3 grams twice a day, one teaspoon of powdered root in a cup of boiling water. If taken as a capsule, please follow the manufacturers instructions.


Root ginger can come in some very funny shapes!

Root ginger can come in some very funny shapes!

Zingiber Officinale is undoubtedly one of the greatest traditional herbal medicines and it is a Chinese one too. Used by Chinese doctors for over 3000 years it became popular in Europe some five or six hundred years ago. Ginger is best known as a cure for digestive disorders and nausea, including morning sickness and migraine sufferers. It contains volatile oils that act as ant-inflammatory drugs, making ginger an effective health supplement in the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis. Available in capsules and as a dried powder, the ideal way to take ginger is by using the fresh root. How to use ginger take 2 grams of freshly grated root three to four times a day. Cover the grated root with boiled water and then strain it to make a tea drink.

Ginkgo Biloba.

Also known as the maindenhair tree, ginko biloba is a tree that can live for up to 1000 years and its leaves have been used in Chinese medicine for over 5000 years. After being dried the ginkgo biloba leaves are crushed and formed into tablets in order to standardize the dosage delivered. The active ingredients are ginkgo flavonglycosides, ginkgolides and bilobalide. Together, in the right doses, they are known to improve blood circulation to the brain, reducing the overall stickiness of the blood, and can be effective in reducing short-term memory loss in the elderly. Although not yet shown to be a treatment for Alzheimers disease, it is known to delay the onset of the worsening of this condition. Studies have shown that in young people without any memory loss, ginkgo biloba improves concentration, memory and psych-motor skills. Its general stimulant properties also help in the treatment of Raynauds disease, chilblains and tinnitus. How to use ginkgo biloba available as capsules, tablets and teabags, ideally take one 50mg tablet three times a day with meals.


Ginseng is probably the best known of Chinese herbal remedies.

Probably the best known of all traditional herbal Chinese medicines is ginseng. Chinese Ginseng, properly known as panax ginseng, has been used for over 6000 years and was once so prized as a medicine that battles were fought for possession of the land on which it grew. Folklore has it that ginseng will enhance male virility, but the real value of this Chinese medicine is that it is an aid to boosting the physical activity and energy of people taking it. In China, at least, it is also said to be able to improve the mental prowess of elderly people. However, there is good evidence that ginseng does strengthen the bodys natural immune system; giving users increased protection against infections and even helping to reduce levels of stress. Harvested in the autumn, it is the root that contains the active ingredients; the most important of which are the ginsenosides. How to use ginseng 1.5 grams a day of the dried root is recommended, which can be used in cooking. However, if possible buy this product as a capsule or a prepared liquid tonic; and follow the manufacturers advice.


The original use of glycyrrhiza glabra is lost in time, but it is a very ancient Chinese herbal medicine. Ideally it is the root of four year old liquorice plants that are used to make medicines to treat digestive disorders like gastritis. Liquorice is also used in the treatment of mouth and stomach ulcers, as the anti-inflammatory properties of liquorices glycyrrhic acid and flavanoids form a protective gel over them. Liquorice is a known laxative and is useful for treating liver complaints and to stimulate the adrenal glands. Liquorice can be purchased in capsules or as a dried root. How to use liquorice for ease of use most people will take liquorice as a capsule or prepared tincture. To use the root yourself you need to prepare your own tincture of it, mix 5 ml of this with up to 250 ml of water, taking it as a drink after your three main meals of the day. For mouth ulcers, simply use the diluted tincture as a mouth-wash.


Schisandra berries can restore your zest for life.

This vine can grow to more than 6 meters in length and has pink flowers and red berries. It is the berries of the schisandra that are used as a Chinese medicine. The full name for this plant is schisandra chinensis wu-wei-zi, which refers to the complex mixture of sweet, sour and salty flavors of the berries. The berries contain essential oils, lignans and natural acids that can help in the treatment of liver diseases and even hepatitis. Other benefits associated with schisandra are: the relief of stress, restoring your zest for life, improving concentration and even acting as an aphrodisiac. How to use schisandra chew 5 grams of the dried berries a day

A word about Chinese traditional medicines t ai chi and tai chi.

Tai Chi is an ideal form of ecercise for keeping fit, supple and relaxed.

It would be very easy to confuse t ai chi with tai chi! T ai chi is a Chinese philosophy dating back thousands of years and encompasses several schools of thought including Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Basically, t ai chi is regarded in traditional Chinese medicine as being vitally important to the individuals mental health and happiness. However, tai chi, or more correctly tai chi chuan, is a martial art; first thought to have been practiced as early as the 12th century. However, in keeping with the overall philosophy of tai chi; which includes health and meditation along with its martial arts form, tai chi can be an important aspect of maintaining overall good health. The physical exercise involved in the execution of tai chi relieves stresses in the body and mind as well as promoting physical fitness. Also by practicing meditation tai chi exponents will find inner calmness, relieving stress and maintaining good health.

Animal products and traditional Chinese medicines.

Traditional Chinese medicines do, of course, include the use of animal products. However, concerns over the conservation and welfare of some of the animals used; has rendered these particular Chinese medicines virtually unobtainable in the west.

Traditional medicine precautions.

You are always advised to seek expert opinion from your fully qualified and professional medical advisor regarding taking any health products. These traditional health supplements are all perfectly safe for most people to use. However, some precautions of particular importance here are:

Chinese Angelica pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid it. Sufferers of menorrhagia are advised not to take it immediately before and during menstruation. Fair skinned people should not exceed the recommended dosage, as it can cause sensitivity to sunlight in some cases.

Always read the instructions for using any health supplement!

Always read the instructions for using any health supplement!

Ginger heartburn can be experienced by some users. People with severe stomach ailments should build up their dosage of ginger slowly and take it with food.

Ginkgo Biloba some people report mild headaches or stomach upsets, which disappear after a day or two.

Ginseng pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid it, so too should anyone with high blood-pressure (hypertension). Do not consume a lot of coffee when taking ginseng and avoid taking it in the evening; as it they may cause over-stimulation and insomnia. Ginseng should only be taken for two to four weeks followed by a four week break from it.

Liquorice pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid it. Use sparingly with children. Long-term large doses should be avoided as it can contribute to water retention and high blood pressure.

Schisandra pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid it.

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