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The Role of Herbal Therapy in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Herbal therapy is a very important part of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Herbs are used to treat most ailments.  When used properly they can play a vital role in helping to prevent disease. Currently there are over 600 herbs used in TCM.

In TCM, herbs are combined in certain ways and various potencies depending on the ailment that is being treated. Most herbal remedies are composed of anywhere from four to twenty different herbs blended together. There are certain characteristics that are important with regards to how the herbs are used.

Characteristics of Herbs Used in TCM

  • Temperature:  Herbs are used at four different temperatures - hot, cold, warm or neutral.   For example, herbs that are warmed are used to treat heat disorders just as herbs that are used when cold are for the treatment of cold disorders.
  • Taste:  Herb tastes are sour, bitter, spicy, salty or sweet.  Sour herbs act as constrictors. Bitter herbs are used to treat disorders that require bodily fluids to be cleared or purged.  Sweet herbs will tone and harmonize the body, and spicy herbs treat disorders in which stimulation and vitalization is necessary. Salty herbs treat disorders that require softening.

Once the herbs are combined in a certain manner they can be prescribed in a couple of different forms. Tea is one of the most common ways that herbs are used in TCM. A bag of herbs will be prepared and then boiled for about 30 to 60 minutes in order to reap their full effects.  Herbs can also be given in pill form, or as extracts and powders that need to be mixed with water before using them.

In TCM, herbal therapy is used to treat everything from the common cold to very serious health conditions. Herbal therapy can also be used to prevent disease by insuring the body is getting the best nutrients needed to maintain optimal health.

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