What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?
Chinese herbal medicine originates from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and has been used for thousands of years to prevent disease.
It is the most popular form of herbal therapy used in the world today.
TCM practitioners use yin and yang theory together with signs and symptoms to formulate herbal products that contain medicinal substances to treat a wide range of chronic health problems. Endangered species are not used in Chinese medicine in Europe and the UK. Instead individual herbs are selected for their healing properties and herbal therapy.
People are often unaware that many western pharmaceutical drugs actually originate from herbs, for example aspirin comes from the bark of the willow tree. The bark of the willow tree has been used for centuries as a herbal formula for pain. Only a few hundred years ago, before there were concentrated drugs, doctors in the UK and Europe would prescribe herbs such as willow tree bark to their patients.
In East Asia and North America, Chinese medicine uses animal products and minerals. However, in the UK and Europe the use of animal products in medicine is illegal. I do not use any animal products in my formulas.
All the herbs I use are of the highest quality and are prescribed in a tailor-made formula to meet each person's individual needs. I personally take them on a daily basis, the same quality I prescribe to my patients.
Chinese herbal medicine has a long history in East Asia. The use of plants probably originated not long after fire was invented and people started cooking. This knowledge later developed into one of the most sophisticated and unbroken herbal medical traditions of the world.
What's unique about Chinese herbal medicine is that it is one of the most developed and advanced forms of traditional medicines, with an unbroken tradition dating back to the 3rd century BC.
The earliest known herbal textbook is a list of prescriptions for specific ailments, found in the Mawangdui tombs in China, which was sealed in 168 BC. Traditionally the oldest materia medica is Shénnóng Ben Cao Jing (Shennong's Materia Medica). It classifies 365 species of roots, grass, woods, furs, animals and stones into three categories of herbal medicine: The famous medical textbook the Neijing Suwen - The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine is thousands of years old and outlines the theories of traditional Chinese medicine.
Today, food is still used as the first line of medicine in East Asia where different herbs are added to cuisine for their health benefits. If this first line of medicine fails, then people seek a herbalist for a herbal medical prescription.
How do Chinese herbs work?
Chinese herbs work differently to western medicine drugs. Herbs are holistic and natural so take time to work but then have less adverse effects.
Each herbs has an action, a flavour and enters certain internal organs. A herbal prescription will often contain between 6-12 different plants that work with each other to treat the health problem.
Watch my animated video below which explains how Chinese herbs work.
What are the benefits of Chinese herbs?
Chinese herbs are often overlooked in healthcare treatment. This is because most people are unaware of their benefits and most acupuncturists don't practice herbal medicine (which is a great shame).
The use of plants can greatly benefit both male and female health. Whereas acupuncture helps to regulate energy and blood flow, it can't give you what you don't have. Herbs however, can give you what you don't have, for example energy, blood and yin.
They are more effective at regulating digestion, reducing anxiety, clearing heat, etc.
There is growing research into the benefits of herbs.
How will Chinese herbs make me feel?
Chinese herbs are natural and holistic upon the human body. The effects of the herbs takes time, usually around 2-3 weeks. They build up strength within the body. As they are natural they don't have side effects. Pharmaceutical drugs are quick as they are concentrated, but because they are quick they tend to have more side effects.
Some of the improvements seen after taking them can be subtle whilst others more noticeable. It depends on what is being treated.
They treat the whole body, mopping up other problems that people have, so they get a greater sense of overall health and well-being. People tend to feel more energy, sleep better, their digestion improves, they either feel less cold or less hot and are emotionally more stable.
The longer a person takes them the better the effects.
What's better, acupuncture or herbs?
In China, people tend to use herbs first and acupuncture treatment second. Most acupuncturists in the west can't prescribe herbs, which in China is considered very unusual, so only offer acupuncture. As I've been trained the Chinese way, I offer both herbs and acupuncture.
The difference between acupuncture and Chinese herbs is that acupuncture helps the body to help itself, but can't give the body is lacking. Herbs however, give the body what it's lacking. For this reason, they are considered in East Asia to be stronger and more effective than acupuncture.
A combination of acupuncture with herbs, dietary therapy and lifestyle advice is the most effective form of treatment to combat a variety of health problems. Unlike western medicine drugs which have adverse effects, you are a lot less likely to have adverse reactions or allergic reactions with herbs.
Chinese herbal medicine London
Dr (TCM) Attilio D'Alberto graduated from Beijing University in China and has over 14 years of practicing Chinese herbal medicine in London.