Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Three Legs of Chinese Medicine

Chinese medicine is said to stand on three legs namely, Acupuncture, Herbs and body work/Massage. Exercise is also very important, so activities like walking, qi gung or tai qi, are excellent ways of strengthening your qi. In today's post I will talk about all three but primarily about herbs as this is the area people know the least about.

All of Chinese medicine is focused on moving energy or qi (pronounced chee) in your body. If the energy in your body is strong enough, plentiful, and moving well then you should be and stay healthy. In utopia this would be the case. However, in today's world this is not possible. Most of us don't eat well, don't sleep enough, have too much stress and don't relax. All of these factors injure our energy/qi. The ways to restore our qi and repair the damage done is through Chinese medicine.

Acupuncture is one way to help the body utilize the energy it has to the best of its ability. Acupuncture however cannot add energy to the body. It acts as a director of the energy.

Body work/massage also acts in the same capacity as acupuncture. However bodywork has the additional advantage of being more hands-on. Touch has been shown (as discussed in a previous post) to have many positive and beneficial effects on the on the nervous and limbic systems.

Chinese Herbal Medicine is the modality that gets the least fanfare. This is probably due to the American palate & temperament. You see Chinese herbs require preparation and the time needed to prepare (in their most beneficial form) them. Additionally, they don't have a particularly good taste or smell. Plus people often don't like to think about what the herbs are.

There are three forms that Chinese herbs are available in raw herbs, freeze-dried powders and pill form. They are listed in most to least effective. Raw herbs usually come in dried form and require cooking to make the tea. The powders are mixed with water to form a tea. The pills are just swallowed.

Chinese herbs are classified into many categories and by channel/meridian affinity. Chinese herbs are also almost never prescribed singly, but rather in formulae. This gives the practitioner the ability to manipulate the formula to suit the individual patient (this is not possible in the pill form). It also give the practitioner the ability to moderate certain attributes in the herbs in the formula that maybe either too strong or too weak.

The use of herbs also allows the effects of the patient's treatment to be extended and enhanced. It also allows the practitioner to treat problems that may not have been able to be addressed during the acupuncture session for whatever reason.

The use of Chinese herbs does require the guidance of an educated practitioner. It would be very difficult to just pick up a text and start self-treating. I don't say this so that you would be tied to me as a guide, rather as a statement of caution and fact. Chinese herbology is very complex and a lack of knowledge or a little bit of knowledge can be very harmful. That said, understand that Chinese herbs are very safe and have been used safely for many thousands of years in many countries and for millions of people. In fact some of the formulae have remained basically unchanged for many thousands of years because they work. Used safely Chinese herbs have no negative side effects and except for a few herbs, don't interact negatively with modern drugs.

I hope this information is helpful to you. I encourage you to do your own research and to learn more about the wonderful effects of Chinese Herbal Medicine.

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