Chinese Herbal Medicine
What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?
Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) is one discipline within a broad tradition which also includes acupuncture, massage (tuina), dietary therapy, and exercise (qigong), It is one of the great herbal traditions of the world, with a recorded history of more than two thousand years. CHM has retained a strong presence in China today, and is practised nationwide alongside western medicine in state hospitals in the treatment of a wide range of conditions. It has more recently gained popularity in the West expanding rapidly in the Uk since the 1990’s.
Like other Chinese medicine disciplines, CHM is based on the principle that good health depends on achieving optimum vitality and balance – a balance described in the terms of the polarity of Yin and Yang. CHM has a great deal to offer in supporting that vitality and balance.
What does CHM treatment Involve?
Treatment with CHM involves the use of combinations of herbs which are designed to correct the particular disharmony of the individual. The Chinese materia medica contains several hundred commonly used ingredients, including roots, stems, flowers, leaves and barks, together with some non-plant materials. The principle is that a balance of ingredients with certain properties is matched to the individual patient’s pattern, allowing the practitioner to adapt to the changing needs of the patient.
CHM may be administered in a variety of ways. Most commonly it is prescribed either as a tea, to be made up from raw herbs or from concentrated powders, or as a ready-made formula in tablet form. External preparations are also used, including creams, ointments and washes for skin conditions, and compresses for traumatised tissue. Chinese herbal teas tend to be bitter, but most people get accustomed to them quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions
The possible uses of CHM are very wide, and people of any age or constitution can benefit from it.
The following conditions are commonly treated
· Skin disease, including eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea.
Respiratory conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, and chronic coughs ; allergic and
perennial rhinitis and sinusitis.
Digestive complaints, including irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, ulcerative colitis.
Gynaecological problems, including pre-menstrual syndrome, painful periods, menopausal
syndromes, endometriosis, some forms of infertility.
Urinary conditions, including chronic cystitis.
Rheumatological conditions, including rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis.
Headaches and migraines.
Chronic fatigue syndromes.
Anxiety and depression.
Hepatitis and HIV : some promising results have been obtained for Hepatitis C, and supportive
treatment may be beneficial for HIV.
Some metabolic disorders, including diabetes and thyroid conditions, may benefit from supportive
The length of treatment will vary greatly depending on the condition. Anything between one and six
months would be common, though in certain cases treatment outside this range may be suggested.
Your practitioner will discuss with you how long you may need to take the herbs before an
assessment can be made of their efficacy.
There are no standard prices for treatment or herbs, which will depend on the individual practitioner
and the part of the country you are in. You should enquire about charges when making your
appointment. Some health insurance companies may now cover herbal treatment, so do
contact your insurance company to check.
Serious adverse effects from CHM are very rare, and it has a very good safety record. However,
‘natural’ does not in itself mean that no side-effects are possible. It is therefore essential that you
are treated by a practitioner who is trained to a high standard, who monitors each case carefully to
ensure that the patient has no unusual reactions to treatment, and uses suppliers that are
committed to quality.
It is also important that your practitioner takes notes of any drug treatment that you may be
receiving, in order to assess if there is any incompatibility between such treatment and particular
ingredients in the CHM prescription .
The RCHM Demands high standards for admission, imposes stringent rules on its members, and is
actively engaged in initiatives to assure the quality of herbs and herbal products. The public is
therefore well advised to seek help from RCHM Members.
The RCHM has always condemned the illegal trade in endangered plant and animal species, and its
members are subject to strict rules which prohibit the use of any such material.