Chinese Herbal Medicine FAQS
An herbal science that has survived the ravages
of time, politics and religion
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a very ancient medical system. It has continuous written records that date back over 2500 years. Medical historians argue that Traditional Chinese Medicine is the oldest form of medicine on the planet.
Historians base their analyses only on written records. Over time, missionaries and other religious and political zealots have destroyed nearly all of the ancient written scientific, medical, historical and spiritual texts of the peoples of the world.
There are many forms of indigenous medicines that have been practiced for aeons. It's extremely difficult to learn about these ancient medical systems. The only knowledge of them rests with a handful of individuals who have dedicated their lives to practicing their system. When those individuals are gone, all that knowledge goes with them. This process has been going on for centuries, but the pace of loss over the last 500 years or so has been staggering.
Traditional Chinese Medicine falls part-way into this category. Much more of Chinese medicine has been lost than has been saved. Even so, it is certainly one of the oldest, most respected and powerfully effective medicines in the world today.
The ancient Taoists developed much of Chinese herbalism centuries ago. These masters of yore were profound natural scientists. Their incredible sensitivity and intelligence led them to develop an herbal science that continues to be one of the most sophisticated medical sciences in the world even today.
Chinese herbalism, acupuncture and feng shui
are the vestiges of a once great scientific community
This group of medical pioneers served humanity in the deepest ways they could. They did this by reintegrating individuals and their communities with the power of nature to promote balance and health.
We have an incredible opportunity to use this ancient science now. We can use it to bring ourselves back into a state of natural harmony.
Often times the reason we become ill is precisely because we have lost our connection with what is real and natural. Much of our modern lives, especially our food, is denatured. It's stripped of its vitality and healthful essences. Chinese herbs offer you a powerful vehicle to return yourself to nature in a very physical way- by eating it.
Many people outside of China don't know it, but Traditional Chinese Medicine uses herbal medicine as its primary method of treatment.
Why are Chinese herbs so powerful?
Chinese herbs are so powerful because they link us back to the wild organic nature we're missing in our domesticated lives. Many of these herbs come from remote mountains and valleys in rural China. Families of herbologists have cultivated these priceless natural gems in their pristine native locations for centuries.
Many Chinese herbs aren't cultivated at all. They're gathered in the wild at the perfect moment of potency to create a desired effect. Chinese herbs can't be grown just anywhere. It takes the right soil and weather conditions to produce these herbs. It also takes superb technical ability, a high level of art and the correct spirit to produce these therapeutic effects.
That's only part of the story. The incredible power of Chinese herbs really comes from two things:
1) How you combine them, and
2) The insight you apply to them as you decide when and how to use them.
This power and insight is precisely what I can bring to you when you come in for a treatment. Why? Because of my extensive and highly advanced training in Chinese herbalism, combined with over twenty years of experience.
How are Chinese herbs different from Western herbs?
It comes as a surprise to some people, but the ancient European systems of medicine were very similar to Chinese medicine. They were also very much like other indigenous medicines around the world at that time. Yet the rise of predatory religion and its bedfellow, modern science, eventually led to some fundamental differences between Western and Eastern herbal practices.
Most of what people consider Western or European herbalism today treats symptoms one by one. They try to treat disorders with labels such as headache, menstrual pain, etc.
Some so-called Western herbalists go even farther to prescribe herbal treatments based on the chemical components of the herbs they use. This is just like using Western medicine, but in an herbal form.
Taking or prescribing herbs in either of these ways lacks holistic foundation. It's been totally cut off from its origin and methodology. It has very limited, if any, value.
Chinese herbalism, on the other hand, never lost touch with its holistic roots. It's a complete science within itself. So when you take a Chinese herbal formula that has been prepared for you by a qualified Chinese herbalist, you're getting the value of the whole system. That value is gigantic.
I never treat symptomatically with Chinese herbs.
If you come in with specific symptoms, I first need to distinguish which of many kinds of clinical types your symptoms come from. In other words, why are the symptoms happening?
I need to fine-tune the diagnosis of your clinical type to a very high degree for your treatment to be effective. Discerning your clinical type includes hundreds of factors including your symptoms, constitution, emotional, mental, personal, temporal and environmental factors and much more.
Another way Chinese herbs differ from Western herbs is the way they're prescribed.
Western herbalism generally uses one herb at a time to treat a specific symptom. Chinese herbalism always uses combinations or families of herbs to treat an entire pattern. This is the incredible synergy of Chinese medicine. It's where the power comes from. Understanding and utilizing the principles of synergy is one of the major differences between Western and Chinese herbalism.
Most of the herbs I use are very mild. But when they're combined properly, they become very powerful. Any herb or substance has beneficial as well as harmful properties. The beauty of Chinese medicine is that combinations of herbs lower or completely eliminate their unwanted effects. At the same time, herb combining dramatically enhances their beneficial effects.
Does all this seem amazing to you? It is! The complexity and power of Chinese medicine boggles the imagination. How did the ancients discover all of this and pass it down for our use today?
We'll never know, but we can be grateful.
Can you take Chinese herbs if you're pregnant?
I treat women at all stages of pregnancy from pre-conception through and beyond post-partum. I use very mild treatments both with acupuncture and herbal medicine for expecting mothers.
Can you take Chinese herbs if you're taking other medications at the same time?
I've found that Chinese herbs are very complementary with other forms of medications. I often use Chinese herbs to treat the side effects of the other medications my patients are taking.
Can you take Chinese herbs if you're using homeopathy?
In my experience, the acupuncture and herbal formulas I use are absolutely complementary to homeopathy.
Don't Chinese formulas use endangered species?
Classically, the answer is yes. Yet in classical times those animals weren't endangered. There also weren't very many people who needed to use them for medicine. Even then, very few of them had access to those animals.
In my clinical practice I try to never use products that come from an animal origin unless it's absolutely necessary. Even so, I never use rare or endangered animal or plant species to treat my patients.
This is one of the big reasons why I never prescribe pills. Pills often contain trace amounts of products from endangered species. They may also contain other unknown substances, often including western pharmaceutical drugs.
I only give herbal mixtures to my patients that I prepare myself.
Why can't you just take pills?
I need to create your formula exactly for you or it simply won't work. I use extremely precise combinations of very mild herbs. This generates specific effects to help your body heal itself.
Making a formula that perfectly matches your pattern and what you need in the moment is actually a miracle of timing and subtlety. Could you benefit as much from taking a pill that was created in a factory somewhere? I don't think so.
How do the herbs taste?
In all my years of experience I haven't found anything that makes the herbs taste better. Many times people ask if they can mix their herbs with juice or other foods. My answer is that you can, but only if you want to ruin the satisfaction you would gain from enjoying the taste of the food.
Many people have an interesting experience when they drink the herbs. At first the herbs seem to taste awful. Then after they take the herbs for a while they begin to taste good. I don't know if anybody can explain the technical reasons for why this happens. The medical classics say, "When you drinks the herbs, you're tasting yourself." Maybe this explains it. I don't know.
I want to mention here that freeze-dried herbal powder mixtures are much more palatable than the kind that you cook down. You just might not get to taste as much of yourself in the process.
If you really don't want to go through the experience of tasting something so exotic, there are many solutions available from the fabulously tasty to the absolutely tasteless, colorless and odorless. I'll find something for you that suits your needs.
John Mini, M.S.C.M./ L.Ac.