CHINESE HERBAL MEDICINE FORMS A MAJOR PART OF HEALTHCARE PROVISION IN CHINA AND IS PROVIDED IN STATE HOSPITALS today

Chinese herbal medicine is one of the great herbal systems of the world, with an unbroken tradition going back to the 3rd century BC. It is a system of medicine based on a long history of empirical observation and on centuries of clinical trial and error. Through countless years of herbal use the experience and knowledge of herbs has gradually been recorded and passed along leading to the Chinese herbal medicine that is practised today.

Because of its systematic approach and clinical effectiveness it has had a very great influence on the theory and practice of medicine in the East, and more recently has grown rapidly in popularity in the West. It still forms a major part of healthcare provision in China, and is provided in state hospitals alongside western medicine.

HERBAL MEDICINE SEEKS TO CORRECT INTERNAL IMBALANCES AND PROMOTE SELF HEALING RATHER THAN TREAT SYMPTOMS

There is a growing body of research which indicates that traditional uses of plant remedies and the known pharmacological activity of plant constituents often coincide. However, herbal medicine is distinct from medicine based on pharmaceutical drugs. Firstly, because of the complexity of plant materials it is far more balanced than medicine based on isolated active ingredients and is far less likely to cause side-effects. Secondly, because herbs are typically prescribed in combination, the different components of a formulae balance each other, and they undergo a mutual synergy which increases efficacy and enhances safety. Thirdly, herbal medicine seeks primarily to correct internal imbalances rather than to treat symptoms alone, and therapeutic intervention is designed to encourage this self-healing.

HERBAL FORMULAS ARE TAILORED TO THE INDIVIDUAL PATIENT

With over 530 commonly used herbs in the Chinese herbal materia medica, optimal therapeutic effects can only be achieved through clear understanding of the disorder being treated, correct differential diagnosis of the individual and precise formulation of the herbs. This cannot be done without knowledge and experience of the practitioner as there are strict guidelines that must be followed. 

Chinese herbs may be prescribed either as a single herb or, most commonly, as combined herbal formulations. Single herbs are used in treatment when the illness has a clear diagnosis with no complications. For example, Ren shen (Radix Ginseng) is sometimes used alone to restore a persons vital energy that has collapsed. However, using one herb individually is generally not sufficient for treatment: most disease conditions are complex and require the administration of multiple herbs.

Multiple herbs are combined as a herbal formula to achieve maximum benefits with minimal side effects. Chinese herbal medicine is unique in its understanding of how herbs work together synergistically in a formula to increase the overall effectiveness but also understands how to alter the formula to enable each patient to be treated individually.