Herbal medicine is a major component of Chinese medicine as it is part of the methods of treatment. Currently, around 600 various herbs are commonly used to treat ailments. The herbs are classified in two major categories: their temperature and taste.
The temperature of the herbs is based on the extent of the yin and yang, which is a concept that refers to opposing forces creating a whole. Cool herbs are under the yin while hot herbs are the yang. The distinction is based on how the herbs feel. For example, peppermint is considered as a cool herb because they feel cold. The five tastes in herbs are sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and pungent.
The combinations made by both taste and temperature provide the herb the healing properties. It is important to know that herbs are not stuck to just a single quality. The various properties may affect one organ system or more.
Heat disorders can be remedied by warm herbs. However, it should still be blended with cool herbs to create an overall balance. Neutral herbs, or gentle herbs, are those that are neither hot nor cold.
When it comes to tastes, sour herbs are often used in perspiration such as for protracted cough or chronic diarrhea. Bitter herbs clear heat, purge the bowels, lowers the qi or energy, improves appetite, and dries damp. They can be used in treating people with arthritis or leucorrhoea. For sweet herbs, there is a purpose of toning and harmonizing the many of the important systems of the body. They can also inhibit pain. Spicy herbs circulate the qi and vitalize the blood. They basically have the effect of enhancing the body’s metabolism. Finally, salty herbs clean out the bowels and soften masses that form in the body.
What makes Chinese herbal treatments unique is the way that the ingredients are formulated. In other herbal practices, the herbs are usually given singly or makes use of small combinations of herbs with the same function. Chinese herbalists rarely use a single herb to treat an illness. Each formula used usually contains at least four herbs. In some instances, the preparation made by the practitioner can make use of up to 20 herbs.
Decoction is a term used to refer to the traditional technique of preparing herbal medicine. It comes in the form of concentrated tea. The practitioner measures out the daily dosage of every herb and blends them together in a container or bag. The patient can then boil the herbs in water. What was decocted can then be consumed more than once in a day.