What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?

Soo Owens
Soo Owens
Some people find that the local Chinatown is a good place to look for a Chinese herbalist.
Some people find that the local Chinatown is a good place to look for a Chinese herbalist.

Chinese herbal medicine is part of a widely-practiced medicinal system originating in eastern Asia that is now known as traditional Chinese medicine. This system treats the imbalance that is thought to exist when a person is ill. Chinese herbal medicine is an important component of traditional Chinese medicine that attempts to restore this imbalance. It formulates remedies not only from herbs but also from minerals and other naturally occurring organisms, both plant and animal.

In Chinese herbal medicine, camellia tea is used as a stimulant and pain reliever.
In Chinese herbal medicine, camellia tea is used as a stimulant and pain reliever.

In addition to Chinese herbal medicine, traditional Chinese medicine relies on acupuncture and dietary therapy as well as several forms of massage to treat its patients. Traditional Chinese medicine adheres to a concept of balance that is thought to have originated with Taoist beliefs. This practice of medicine holds that qi, the metaphysical life energy, fails to flow correctly when some imbalance within the human system exists. This flow can be set right again by realigning one's qi.

Ginseng, which increases alertness, is a popular herbal supplement associated with China.
Ginseng, which increases alertness, is a popular herbal supplement associated with China.

The practice of Chinese herbal medicine is most prevalent in eastern Asia, mainly China and Taiwan. While it often utilizes parts of plants, Chinese herbal medicine also uses animal and mineral ingredients. The resulting formulations are usually a medley of ingredients from beneficial herbs, animal parts, and minerals, the combination of which is used to treat almost any internal ailment. While herbs are believed to possess the most potency and efficacy in treating the specific ailment, minerals and animal parts are thought to maximize the herb's effects and to provide healing and therapeutic properties that help alleviate the illness' symptoms.

Minerals, plants and animal parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Minerals, plants and animal parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Of the plants used in Chinese herbal medicine, none are, perhaps, more recognized than ginseng. It is sold in many countries well beyond Asia. Treatments derived from Chinese herbal medicine rely mostly on the root of the plant, which is thought to have adaptogen qualities that enhance the human body's resilience, preventing fatigue and stress among other common ailments. It is possible to overdose on ginseng, leading to bleeding and a number of other side-effects.

The tradition of Chinese herbal medicine is most prevalent in China and Taiwan.
The tradition of Chinese herbal medicine is most prevalent in China and Taiwan.

Other plants that are integral to Chinese herbal medicine include aconite root, which contains a debilitating neurotoxin, and strychnine tree seeds, which are used for a variety of medicinal purposes as well as a pest poison. Camellia tea is believed to extend one's life and is also used as a pain reliever and stimulant, while seekers of an aphrodisiac attempt remedies with horny goat weed. The goji berry plant, also known as wolfberry, is widely used in Asia to treat a number of ailments.

Animal parts, ranging from seahorses to human placenta, are similarly utilized in Chinese herbal medicine for their purported healing properties. Snake oil, which is believed to cure a number of maladies, is a common herbal medicine that is familiar to the Western world. Impotence and infertility are believed to be curable by ingesting dried human placenta or tiger's penis.

Shark fin soup and rhinoceros horn are also believed to possess healing properties. The most popular animal-based ingredient is the seahorse, which is used to treat almost any condition. The practice of using animals in Chinese herbal medicine has elicited criticism from the public because of the endangered status of some of these animals.

Minerals are another important element in Chinese herbal medicine is. One popular mineral is mercury sulfide, called the elixir of immortality by some herbalists, which sees frequent use as a sedative. Lead oxide and asbestos are two other key minerals in Chinese herbal medicine, which are believed to remove parasitic organisms from the body and cure impotence, respectively. Each of these minerals has been shown to be toxic.

Discussion Comments

anon338539

That is very sad that animals must suffer because of us! How many more seals, sea horses and tigers need to be killed to fulfill people's pleasure? It will not help you. Try to avoid stress, eat healthy and do not overeat.

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    • Some people find that the local Chinatown is a good place to look for a Chinese herbalist.
      By: Guillaume Baviere
      Some people find that the local Chinatown is a good place to look for a Chinese herbalist.
    • In Chinese herbal medicine, camellia tea is used as a stimulant and pain reliever.
      By: teressa
      In Chinese herbal medicine, camellia tea is used as a stimulant and pain reliever.
    • Ginseng, which increases alertness, is a popular herbal supplement associated with China.
      By: Maxim Lavrov
      Ginseng, which increases alertness, is a popular herbal supplement associated with China.
    • Minerals, plants and animal parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
      By: Monika Wisniewska
      Minerals, plants and animal parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
    • The tradition of Chinese herbal medicine is most prevalent in China and Taiwan.
      By: Elenathewise
      The tradition of Chinese herbal medicine is most prevalent in China and Taiwan.