Chinese Herbal Remedies

To fully do justice to the topic of  Chinese herbal remedies would require several lengthy volumes.  In this article we offer a brief introduction...

chinese herbal remediesChinese herbal remedies form one of the more important parts of  traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Differences with Western Medicine

If someone asked me to describe the biggest difference between western medical practices and TCM, I believe I would have to say it is the way TCM treats each specific patient as an individual.

For example it is traditional for each herbal medicine prescription to be a type of cocktail of many herbs tailored to the individual patient.

A particular remedy generally uses one or two main ingredients to target a specific illness.  Then many additional ingredients may be added to adjust the mixture to match the specific yin/yang condition of the patient.  Somethings may be need to offset certain toxicities or side-effects of the main ingredients, others might need to have additional herbs to act as a trigger or catalyst.

This seems to me, far different from the western approach of prescribing a pre-packaged drug or remedy for a patient.  In fact, one of the keys which is considered vital in determining whether or not a TCM doctor is any good is his or her ability to effectively blend and mix herbs to fit the specific needs and characteristics of a specific patient.


Chinese herbal remedies quite often incorporate ingredients from all parts of plants, such as the leaf, stem, flower, root, and also ingredients from animals and minerals. Because certain formulations call for the use of parts of endangered species, such as seahorses, rhinoceros horns, and tiger bones, for example, TCM has been criticized and blamed for the development of a black market of these ingredients supplied by poachers who hunt restricted animals.  As a result, a larged number of herbal suppliers have discontinued the use of any parts from endangered animals.

Another difference between Chinese herbal remedies and other more traditional medical systems is the fact that marine products are used to a much greater degree.

Chinese remedies, like others can be administered orally or be through external application, such as the of medicated, herbal adhesive plasters applied to the skin in order to treat certain diseases, however the two most common ways to using herbs are to make a strong tea that should be simmered for about an hour or possibly more, or to make large pills which are held together with honey.

Commonly use herbs

The most commonly used herbs are (in no particular order):

  • mushrooms

  • ginseng which has been used for over two thousand years

  • wolfberry

  • dong quai which is best known for its long term relief from menopausal syndromes

  • astragalus

  • atractylodes

  • bupleurum

  • cinnamon and cinnamon bark which reduce allergy reactions

  • coptis

  • ginger which apart from use as a herb is used by many cooks in preparing Chinese cuisine.

  • hoelen

  • licorice

  • ephedra sinica

  • peony

  • rehmannia

  • rhubarb (believed to be the first herb ever imported from China)

  • salvia


In summary the traditional chinese medical approach to health care is radically different from what western medicine does.  Its use of herbs and naturally found remedies is a large factor make it attractive to those who prefer more natural healing methods.

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