Traditional Chinese medicine has been widely used around the world for quite a long time now. Used to promote health and cure illnesses, TCM includes acupressure, tai chi, and Chinese herbal medicines.
One of the key theories of traditional Chinese medicine is based on the two opposing energy forces, called yin and yang, which make up the body’s vital energy or “qi”. This vital force flows in the body through various channels, referred to as mandarins, which ensure proper functioning of bodily organs. Some bodily functions are governed by yin, while the others by yang. When there is an imbalance of yin and yang in the body, it leads to the blockage of qi and a string of illnesses.
Chinese herbs are used to normalize the balance of qi and are known for their effectiveness in treating a range of disorders. Chinese herbal concoctions are easily available today. These herbal products can be bought in the form of teas, tinctures, or powders.
Commonly Used Herbs In Chinese Medicine
Chinese herbal medicines are mostly plant-based. Most traditional Chinese herbal medicines are a combination of a few herbs combined to make formulas based on patients’ needs.
Here are a few popular herbs used and their health benefits:
There are various types of ginseng used in Chinese medicine, but the most popular ones are American ginseng and Asian ginseng. While American ginseng works as a relaxing agent, Asian ginseng has stimulating, warming properties. This herb is also known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It improves brain functions, like memory, behavior, and mood, and strengthens the immune system. Ginseng may also be helpful in reducing the risk of certain cancers, like stomach, colon, liver, and lung cancers, and can improve the health of patients undergoing chemotherapy.
This is a yellow-colored Asian herb used to treat diabetes, hay fever, kidney disease, night sweats, and diarrhea. Astragalus is known to improve the immune system, and also has antiviral properties that help in the prevention of colds.
Red Yeast Rice
Red yeast rice is made by fermenting rice with a type of yeast. It has been used to treat circulatory and digestive disorders. Red yeast rice is popular as a dietary supplement for lowering cholesterol. It is also used as food coloring and preservative.
This Chinese herb is popularly called the herb of longevity. This green, leafy plant is also commonly used as juice or tea. In Ayurveda, it is referred to as brahmi. Gotu kola is commonly used as a dietary supplement and is popular for its anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant properties. It is also beneficial for people suffering from diabetes, and can also be used as a memory-enhancing supplement. Gotu kola herbal tonics are used to enhance memory; they’re also said to improve blood circulation. Gotu kola poultices are used widely to heal wounds. Having anti-anxiety properties, they are used to reduce stress by inducing relaxation.
Yu Xing Cao
A flowering plant belonging to the mustard family, yu xing cao or shepherd’s purse is found easily in Asia and parts of eastern Europe. As a medicine, it’s used to treat circulatory and menstrual disorders. It has anti–inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and has long been used to stop bleeding, both external and internal. Typically, a tea made from the roots of this plant can treat heavy bleeding during menstruation.
Known as a natural antibiotic, ginger has antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. It is excellent for treating digestive problems, nausea, and vomiting. Rich in antioxidants, ginger boosts the immune system and helps fight common cold and flu. It is also said to prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol buildup.
Chinese Herbal Medicines For Lockdown Woes
With the world battling coronavirus, boosting the immune system and keeping the mind and body healthy during days of lockdown is the need of the hour. That being said, here are some amazing Chinese herbal formulas that can help you during this pandemic:
- Jade Windscreen Formula: This formula is ideal for boosting the immune system. It’s widely used to build up “defensive qi”. There is a belief that jade windscreen formula creates a screen to protect the body. Astragalus is one of the three herbs used to make this concoction. Children and elderly are given this formula in the cold winter season to protect them against seasonal flu.
- Gan Mao Ling: Gan mao ling is also called the cold formula and is used to treat cold or flu, mild chills, sore throat, and stiff neck. It’s main functions are to expel wind and virus and clear heat. Gan mao ling consists of Chinese herbs with antiviral properties. You can use it to prevent cold in case you’ve been exposed to someone who has one. Ideally, it should be taken during the early stages of a cold, but can also be used to treat a full-blown flu.
- Ding Zhi Wan: This formula is mainly used for those who are timid and indecisive. It’s used for the anxiety that arises with a sense of fatigue or weakness. It’s said that the heart stores the spirit, and when it isn’t nourished well, symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, and palpitations occur.
- Mien Pien: This formula is mainly recommended to treat anxiety and insomnia as it contains herbs that nourish the yin and blood of the heart. It’s said that when the yin in the heart is depleted, one experiences anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia.
- Xiao Yao San: Made with a combination of several herbs, this formula is mostly used to enhance mood and reduce stress. Also known as “free and easy wanderer”, xiao yao san is said to alleviate pain, ease stress, and balance hormones. It promotes a free and easy mind, and is especially helpful for those who feel uptight and anxious. It’s also an effective treatment for digestion-related troubles and helps in weight loss. It’s suggested by doctors to avoid xiao yao san during menstruation and pregnancy.
- Suan Zao Ren Tang: Used for treating insomnia, agitation, and irritability, suan zao ren tang is known for its calming effect on the heart and spirit. It’s one of the few medicines known to cure insomnia. It’s said to calm the mind, tranquilize the heart, and nourish the liver.
- Six Flavor Teapills: This is one of the most famous and frequently used formulas in TCM. This six-ingredient concoction is most commonly used to improve sub-optimal health and delay aging. It can be used for vertigo, insomnia, tinnitus, weakness in the knees, poor hearing, poor eyesight, and night sweats.
- Bu Nao Wan: This formula is used to increase brain power. In Chinese medicine, the brain function is directly related to kidney function. It’s said to reduce memory related problems.
- Ginkgo Formula: This herbal formula is well-known for promoting longevity and overall well-being. Ginkgo leaves are also known for their ability to benefit the brain. It’s also used as an antidepressant. Ginkgo is a potent antioxidant and works well in eliminating toxins from the body. One of it’s key uses has been to reduce tinnitus in people.
- Bi Yan Pian: Also called a nose inflammation pill, this popular over-the-counter medicine is highly effective for nasal or sinus congestion.
Healthy Practices Prescribed By Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Practitioners
- Experts advise that you should go to bed by 10:30 pm. The body is said to repair itself, especially the liver, between 11:00 pm to 1:00 am, and this can only happen if you are in deep sleep.
- Drink warm or room temperature water as drinking chilled or ice cold water leads to the blocking of pores, which further traps heat, causing blockage of energy. Room temperature water is also good for flushing out toxins and keeps the digestive system healthy.
- Regularly drinking herbal teas helps detoxify and boosts the immune system.
- Traditional Chinese medicine experts advise that it’s crucial to have a wholesome and filling breakfast. Skipping breakfast damages the digestive system and can also shorten one’s lifespan.
- Don’t walk barefoot, even in your room, as it’s believed that doing this causes the body to be colder and weakens immunity. This is especially true for women during their period or those with kidney problems.
- TCM practitioners advise against having very hot food as it tends to harm the tongue, throat, digestive tract, and can cause ulcers.
Taking Chinese Herb Formulas
The most common way of taking Chinese herbs is through drinking teas, but it can be had in the forms of powder, tinctures, and pills. Most herbs don’t smell or taste good, but they have amazing healing properties to help manage any ailment or symptom you may be suffering from, or ensure that your health is at optimum level.
When incorporating a traditional Chinese herb or formula into your health routine, all you’ve got to do is mix it with a small portion of water and gulp it. Don’t try adding honey or other forms of sweeteners as it may change the properties of the medicine, reducing its effectiveness. Finally, enjoy the amazing benefits these herbal medicines bring!