Medicinal herbs have been used for centuries by ancient Chinese, Greek, and Egyptian civilizations to treat disease and promote health. Records of the first herbal prescriptions in China, date back to the third century and have been regularly updated since then. Much of our modern pharmaceuticals were originally derived from herbal sources.
Chinese doctors were the first to synthesize thyroid hormone from jujube dates to treat goiter. The Chinese were also the first to extract male and female hormones from urine.
While acupuncture balances the body’s energies through external application of needles, herbal medicine alter the body’s internal energies.
Chinese herbal medicines differ from Western drugs in two important ways. The first is intent. Many Western drugs use a single biologically active compound to treat symptoms. Even drugs designed to treat underlying problems rarely restore optimum functioning to the body. Traditional Chinese medicine is based on a completely different model. Because TCM endeavors to diagnose and treat the underlying imbalances that are keeping the body from its fullest expression of health, Chinese herbs are prescribed not mitigate symptoms but to treat their causes.
The second difference is the medication itself. The potency of drugs produces side effects. Herbs contain natural energetic substances whose essence gently corrects underlying deficiencies or removes obstructions. The synergy of these substances produces their potent effects. The active ingredients are buffered by the whole plant and blended with other herbs, reducing their side effects. If you look at the composition of most Western medications at the molecular level, it’s easier to understand some of the problems that can arise when we try to apply these chemical substances in the natural environment of the body.
In the West, we are very concerned about research and much research has been done on the “active” ingredients contained within an herb. This myopic technique of validating whether something is effective does not take into account the whole function of the herb or its action when blended into a prescription. Herbs, when prescribed by a knowledgeable TCM doctor are completely safe and very effective.