Herbal medicine is a very safe and effective way to treat a wide range of physical and psychological complaints. It has been used reliably for thousands of years, and its effectiveness is backed by documented clinical case studies and modern scientific research. It can be used in conjunction with other modalities to create an enhanced, synergistic healing effect. Herbal medicine can be dispensed as tablets, capsules, prepared herb granules that you mix with hot water, or a pre-cooked liquid tea, packaged in individual servings.
Chinese herbal medicine has been studied, developed, and utilized for thousands of years, and it has evolved through time to meet the needs of each generation. Modern scientific research continues to add to this vast wealth of knowledge and help us gain better understanding how medicinal herbs can be used to address modern day disease and illnesses. From rather simple concoctions to more complex and incredibly detailed therapeutic tools, it is a sophisticated healing art.
Chinese herbs are usually combined into comprehensive formulas containing about 12-14 different herbs. The formulas are designed to deliver a chemical signal to the body, which not only treats symptoms, but also helps to resolve the root cause of disease, improve the function of the internal organs, and restore balance to the entire body. The reason herbs are generally not taken as individual substances is because, in a formula, the herbs work together, each one responsible for a different function, to treat the whole body. For example, think of this in terms of an herbal formula being like a soup. You cannot determine which single ingredient makes the soup tasty and nutritious. It is the combination of many ingredients, cooked together in one pot, that makes the soup more nourishing and taste good. Just as one needs a balanced diet containing different foods, herbal formulas are simply more powerful and effective than any single herb taken on its own.
Chinese herbal medicine can have powerful effects. It is a complex art that requires years of study and training. While herbs are considered ‘natural medicine’, they can cause adverse effects if incorrectly administered. For this reason, it is very important that a qualified and licensed practitioner in Chinese medicine prescribe your herbs for you. This way, a safe and effective formula, which addresses your particular, unique condition and body type can be provided. Do not try to self-prescribe herbal formulas or rely on the advice of a well-meaning friend or store clerk.
Eating is a hot topic in the UK, partly because we seem to do it so badly. For all of our modern scientific knowledge, our eating habits have made us one of the world leaders in obesity, diabetes and heart disease. We know all about vitamins, minerals, fats and carbohydrates--so why aren't we healthy? While the reasons are no doubt many (processed food, sedentary lifestyle, cheap calories, etc.), one way back to a healthier lifestyle can be found in the East Asian tradition, which has developed and honed the practice of food therapy over many thousands of years.
Here are a couple of examples/tips on healthy eating according to the East Asian tradition:
1. Balance Is Beautiful
In the West, we can be found casually eliminating whole food groups, say fats or carbohydrates, or trying to exist on a single type of food (the grapefruit diet, anyone?). That's an anathema in the East, where we're advised to pursue balance in our bodies and in our minds by eating a variety of foods to maintain health. No single ingredient or kind of ingredient is vilified or consumed to excess. As one Chinese proverb says, "Sour, sweet, bitter, pungent: all must be tasted." Food is also used to bring balance between the individual and his or her natural cycles and parts of the environment. Particular foods are thought to counteract an individual's personal tendency toward, say, restlessness or fatigue, and different choices are recommended for different seasons. Take a food's temperature, for example.
2. Take The Temperature
Are you the kind of person who runs cold? Or do you tend to feel hot? What is the weather like outside? According to the East Asian tradition, the answers to these questions can help guide your healthiest food choices. In the interest of balance, traditional Chinese medicine advises people who tend to run cold to gravitate towards "warm" foods and spices. This refers not only to the food's physical temperature, but also to its effects on the body (think of breaking a sweat when you eat a curry). On the warmer end of the spectrum are foods and herbs such as ginger, chili peppers, cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg, green onions, and walnuts. Warm foods are also especially appropriate in the winter or an unusually cold day.
Similarly, people who tend to run hot or who are in a hot environment are advised to consume more cool foods (think of the tingly cool sensation you experience when consuming a mint beverage). In addition to mint, cool foods and herbs include citrus, tofu, milk, lettuce, celery, cucumber and tomato.
For more information: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen: Recipes from the East for Health, Healing and Long Life (Da Capo Lifelong), with Chinese medicine experts Yuan Wang, L.Ac., and Warren Sheir, L.Ac.