Traditional Chinese herbal medicine is a practice that dates back for at least 5,000 years – in fact, there are carefully-preserved texts from that time period that support some of the modern scientific research used to develop pharmaceuticals and other treatments. As the world’s oldest and most reliable form of naturopathic medicine, Chinese medicine seeks to harmonize the body to prevent disease. At 1st Choice Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine in Bellevue, WA, we believe your health can benefit from Chinese herbal medicine under the care of an experienced herbalist.
What Herbs Are Used in Chinese Medicine?
Chinese herbal medicine has a rich history that utilizes a broad variety of herbs traditionally found in East Asia, particularly in regions of China where herbal medicine has its roots. The most common herbs used in herbal medicine include astragalus root, ginkgo biloba, cinnamon, ginger, ginseng, gotu kola, and yu xing cao, among dozens of others.
Astragalus root is a herb that is connected to a variety of health benefits, including increasing immunity, preventing heart disease, treating the common cold and fatigue, and reducing inflammation in the body.
Ginkgo biloba is traditionally used for more neurological and psychological benefits, such as increasing mood, preventing memory loss, and treating cognitive disorders, including confusion. Ginkgo is also a known vasodilator, which is why it’s also sometimes used to treat sexual dysfunction.
Cinnamon does more than just taste good – it’s also considered one of the healthiest herbs in the world. Cinnamon has many benefits, including lowering blood sugar levels, reducing heart disease risk, and killing mold and fungus.
Ginger is a well-known homeopathic solution for treating nausea, but it can also be used to aid digestion, and fight against common ailments such as the flu or the common cold.
Ginseng is frequently a feature in tea, but in traditional Chinese medicine, it plays a much larger role. Ginseng is commonly used as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent. This herb is used to lower blood sugar levels, strengthen the immune system, boost brain and cognitive function, reduce fatigue, and correct sexual dysfunction.
Gotu kola is known as the “longevity herb” because it is associated with prolonging good health by promoting liver and kidney health, healing skin diseases, and increasing brain and cognitive function.
Yu Xing Cao
Yu xing cao is a unique herb used to treat a variety of health concerns, including inflammation of the lungs, hemorrhoids, coughs, infections, fevers, bacterial infections, kidney and liver disease, and much more.
How Does Chinese Herbal Medicine Work?
The basis of traditional Chinese medicine is to use herbs as both a preventative and active treatment against diseases. The goal of herbal medicine is to balance the body so your immune system can self-regulate and you can be healthier. On the whole, herbal medicine works by personalizing an herbal prescription for your unique needs.
An experienced herbalist will consult with you during your first appointment to understand your health concerns and your health history. Then, the herbalist will greater a unique herbal combination that will address your health concerns and bring your body back into harmony. During your treatment, you will attend appointments to assess how well you are doing with the prescription and adjust as needed.
Explaining the Principle of Four Qi Herbs
At the heart of herbal medicine is the principle theory of Four Qi Herbs. All herbal medicine prescriptions are formulated from four different categories of herbs, each of which performs a different function to bring your body into balance. The Four Qi herbs include:
The ministerial herb is the active herb or the main ingredient of your treatment. The primary herbs are selected to treat the most concerning of your symptoms, or the root cause of your disease. This could be removing inflammation to treat chronic pain or killing bacteria in the body that is causing infection.
The deputy herb is the one that helps circulate the ministerial herb through the body via the blood. Deputy herbs are usually those that interact most with your blood, which allows for quicker transport of the ministerial herb to the areas of your body that are being treated.
The assistant herbs are those that are selected to address any secondary symptoms that are associated with your main health concern. For example, trouble sleeping, anxiety, muscle weakness, fatigue, and cough are all health concerns that would be treated with assistant herbs.
Finally, the envoy herbs are ones that are hand-picked to bring harmony between the ministerial, deputy, and assistant herbs. The envoy is selected to make the other herbs work better together and to reduce any side effects you may have from the other herbs. The envoy is just as important as the active herbs and is a large part of the reason why herbal medicine is so effective.
How Many Herbs Are Used in Treatment?
The number of herbs that are used to formulate your unique prescription will ultimately depend on both the severity and the complexity of your health concerns. At a bare minimum, herbal medicine requires the use of at least 4 herbs to create a prescription, but it isn’t unheard of for a prescription to have as many as 20 herbs, especially if you have multiple health concerns or your health concerns are affecting multiple body systems.
Although treatment may involve more herbs, this does not make the treatment less effective. The herbs selected for your prescription are done so with your individual health concerns in mind, which means that you are only going to be using herbs that will harmonize your body’s innate healing ability.
What Can Herbal Medicine Treat?
Chinese herbal medicine can treat a very wide variety of health concerns. As one of the world’s oldest health practices, herbal medicine enjoys a long history of treating disorders and diseases, both physical and psychological. Some examples of health concerns that can be treated with herbal medicine include:
- Chronic pain
- Gastrointestinal diseases
- Bacterial and fungal infections
- Muscle weakness
- Cognitive function
- Low mood and mood swings
- Sexual dysfunctions
- Liver and kidney diseases
- Heart disease
- Skin disease
- And more
Is Chinese Herbal Medicine Safe?
Yes, herbal medicine is a perfectly safe alternative treatment to Western medicine. In fact, Chinese medicine often has fewer side effects than Western medicine and can be more effective. Herbal medicine can sometimes be safer for those who have particular drug allergies, or who are sensitive to Western medications.
Can You Combine Western Medicine With Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Yes and no. Generally speaking, it’s not ideal to use Western medication with Chinese medicine to treat the same health concern, such as heart disease. This is because Western medicine is also formulated from ingredients derived from nature, so there is a higher risk of unintended side effects if Western and Chinese medicine are combined without supervision from medical practitioners.
However, there are some instances where combining Chinese medicine with Western medicine can be very useful. For example, patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation may use herbal medicine to treat side-effects from cancer treatment. In the same vein, some patients may prefer to use Chinese medicine as their primary health treatment and supplement with Western medicine as needed.
What Are the Benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Chinese medicine, both acupuncture and herbal remedies have countless benefits. For example, these are natural treatments that pose significantly fewer side effects than Western medicine and may prove more effective overall in treating your health concerns. Other benefits for this treatment include:
Personalized for Your Needs
Herbal medicine and acupuncture are both personalized to your needs. Because Chinese medicine requires a more hands-on approach to see results, patients are afforded a personalized healthcare experience that will maximize treatment efficacy and minimize unnecessary side effects. The dosing and frequency of Chinese medicine is also customized to fit your exact needs.
Long-Term and Short-Term Treatments
Chinese medicine can be used on both a long-term and a short-term basis. Short-term treatments, such as those for the common cold or other bacterial infections, can help boost your immune system and give your body the tools it needs to regain health. Long-term treatments, such as those for chronic inflammation or other long-lasting diseases like heart, liver, and kidney disease, are equally as effective in managing symptoms and bringing the body back into balance.
Rigorous Product Testing
The herbs used in herbal medicine go through rigorous testing to ensure that each herb used in your prescription is of the highest quality. Some of the 15 tests these herbs must pass include heavy metal tests, pesticide tests, total yeast, and mold test, E.coli test, salmonella test, and total bacterial count tests.
Good Alternative Treatment
Herbal medicine is a good alternative treatment for those who are not fully benefiting from acupuncture treatments. Herbal medicine is also a good alternative for some Western medicines, such as those to treat inflammation or those that have harmful long-term side effects.
Elevates Whole Body Health
Chinese medicine is designed to elevate your whole body health. While your symptoms are being treated, so too is the root cause of your health concern. In addition to the dual-focus of Chinese medicine, the entire body benefits from the restoration of your health, and the right herbal combination can also prevent repeated health concerns.
What Are the Core Principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Traditional Chinese medicine has a naturopathic, homeopathic, and holistic view of your body and your health. There are four core principles of Traditional Chinese medicine, which include:
Chinese medicine believes each of your body systems is part of an integrated whole and that your health is only complete when each of your body systems is functioning in harmony with the others. The integrated whole principle is part of the reason why the envoy herb is used, as the integrated whole is meant to promote internal balance.
Connected to Nature
Chinese medicine also believes that you are connected intrinsically to nature. What that means for your health is that your herbal medicine treatment will factor in the time of the year, your geographical location, the time of day, your age, and your genetics into your treatment to create your unique herbal prescription.
Chinese medicine and modern science both agree that your body is armed with a self-healing ability. This is evident in your body’s innate immune system, the body’s natural regenerative response, and even concepts such as brain plasticity. In other words, Chinese medicine understands that your body has all the building blocks of restorative health and requires only a guiding element to realize your self-healing capacity.
Prevention Better Than Cure
Finally, Chinese medicine also believes that prevention is the best type of cure. Chinese medicine will teach you bio-feedback so you can pay attention to the signs of health your body tells you each day. What this means for you is that you will benefit from being able to recognize early warning signs before symptoms fully develop, which gives your body the advantage of time to fight against disease.
Are You a Good Candidate?
Most patients are good candidates for herbal medicine and acupuncture, particularly those who have chronic health concerns. Some of our patients include veterans and workers comp patients who are seeking holistic, long-lasting treatments for their health concerns. We will assess whether you are a good candidate for Chinese medicine during your consultation appointment.
Enlighten Your Health With Chinese Herbal Medicine
A 5,000-year-long history of success speaks for itself. In a number of situations, Chinese herbal medicine is a safe and effective alternative to Western medicine that allows your treatment to be wholly customized to your individual needs. Following the principles of Chinese medicine, you can enlighten your health and your quality of life. If you’re ready for traditional Chinese medicine to improve your life, call 1st Choice Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine in Bellevue, WA to schedule your consultation appointment today.