Chinese Herbal Medicine has been used for over two thousand years in the treatment of various ailments and disease and has been prescribed for anything as simple as the common cold to digestive issues, pain, regulating the menstrual cycle and skin issues to name a few.
Chinese herbal medicine is unique in that rather than using a single herbs or single supplements, such as western herbs and supplements, Chinese Medicine herbal formulas are put together in multi-herb combinations. Traditionally with an “emperor” herb or herbs that target the main complaint or pattern, followed by “minister” herbs that target secondary complaints but also assist the emperor, and lastly “assistant” herbs that either reduce side effects or guide the herbs to specific parts of the body or channels for optimal effect.
1. Chinese Herbal Medicine is unique.
As mentioned above, Chinese herbal prescriptions are uniquely put together with different formulas and single herbs by skilled practitioners and are made to tailor to the clients specific ailments. Typically this means rather than many generic drugs/supplements which are made in a one size fits all fashion, Chinese herbal formulas can target multiple signs and symptoms as well as negating possible side effects.
The synergistic effects of each of the single herbs in a particular formula are greater than the sum of their value, which allows formulas to treat multiple ailments that may seem unrelated.
2. Chinese Herbal medicine can be effective in treating skin conditions.
Chinese medicine views the diagnosis of skin conditions such as eczema more by how the signs and symptoms present such as the colour, look, size, itchiness and location of nodules as well as other health and lifestyle symptoms. By doing this we are able to tailor a herbal medicine formula to best treat the unique symptoms of the client and will treat them as a whole rather than just the skin condition itself.
Although more research needs to be done, a review of seven randomised controlled trials testing Chinese herbal medicine in treating atopic dermatitis have shown that herbal medicine may be effective in the treatment of skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis. All the trials reported significantly improved symptom severity of atopic dermatitis and all were well tolerated.
3. Support and boost energy.
Chinese Herbal medicine as mentioned above is prescribed to treat the client as a whole and addresses not only the main complaint of the client but also aims to improve the digestion, sleep and mood of the client. If the digestion is working properly the client will absorb nutrients from food better and have well formed and regulated bowel movements. If sleep is improved and the client is able to get 7-9 hours of deep restful sleep this will improve the mood and along with the improved digestion will indicate the client is dipping into the rest and digest healing state and all of this together will result in a boost in energy.
4. Help with sleep issues and insomnia
Herbal medicine has the ability to assist with insomnia and other sleeping issues such as unrestful sleep, high frequency waking, inability to get to sleep to name a few. A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials to evaluate the effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine for patients with primary insomnia found overall that patients who received Chinese herbal medicine reported lower levels in the PSQI (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index), AIS (Athens Insomnia Scale) and sleep onset latency (time from fully awake to fully asleep) compared with placebo and the weighted mean difference of Chinese herbal medicine vs placebo were associated with higher total sleep duration and sleep efficiency.
5. Manage stress and putting the body into rest and digest
Everyday life, whether it be busy at work, getting up early or going through a global pandemic, can very easily put us into the ‘fight or flight’, sympathetic nervous state. Being in this state for prolonged periods can have trickle down effects causing poor sleep, digestion and mood. Chinese Medicine has a great ability to nudge the body into the ‘rest and digest’, parasympathetic healing state. Both acupuncture and chinese herbal medicine can assist with tipping the body into rest and digest which allows better stress management as well as improved digestion and more restful sleep leading to improved mood and energy.
6. Improve digestion and promote homeostasis
Like acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine has the great ability to aid in proper digestion and alleviate digestive issues via nudging the body into the ‘rest and digest’ response. Chinese herbal formulas can have particular effects on IBS and IBS type symptoms. A randomised controlled trial to determine whether Chinese herbal medicine was effective in assisting with IBS and IBS symptoms stated that patients in the active treatment group (standard and individualised CHM) had significant improvement in bowel symptom scores as rated by patients and by gastroenterologists and significant global improvement as rated by patients and gastroenterologists. Patients also reported that treatment significantly reduced the degree of interference with life caused by IBS symptoms. All of which indicate Chinese herbal medicine formulas appear to offer improvements in symptoms in some patients with IBS.
7. Fertility Support and Regulation of the Menstrual Cycle
Traditional Chinese herbal medicine is also commonly used to support fertility and regulate the menstrual cycle. A practitioner will gather detailed information of the menstrual cycle, as well as general health questions to develop a tailored treatment plan to support healthy menstruation and fertility.
A systematic review of the efficacy of traditional Chinese Herbal medicine in the management of female infertility suggested Chinese herbal medicine can improve pregnancy rates two-fold within a four month period compared with western medical fertility drug therapy or IVF.
8. Anti-inflammatory effects
Research suggests some Chinese Herbs may have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects. For example Bai Shao Yao (Paeonia lactiflora Pall), a barkless dried root which has been traditionally used for arthritis, muscle cramps, spasms and fever for over 1200 years has recently had some research that may suggest a Bai Shao Yao water/ethanol extract known as TGP can inhibit both acute and subacute inflammation as well as the proliferation of lymphocytes and production of proinflammatory cytokines and IgM-antibodies.
9. Little to no side effects.
Chinese herbal formulas prescribed by a registered practitioner are very safe and have little to no side effects to worry about. Each formula even has inbuilt support herbs to lessen any possible side effects. For example if a particular formula may be strong in the stomach, herbs such as gan cao are often included to moderate other herbs and support the stomach lessening any side effects such as bloating or upset stomach.
10. A little boost everyday
A great benefit of taking Chinese Herbal medicine is that it is quite simple and easy, allowing you to have treatment at home or on the go. At Village Remedies we prescribe Chinese herbal medicine in a granule form (powder) which is simply mixed with hot water from the kettle and drank twice a day. This makes it easy to keep up with the prescription as there is no cooking time needed (unlike traditional raw herbs).