Chinese herbal medicine is one of the great herbal systems of the world, with an unbroken tradition going back to the 3rd century BC. Yet throughout its history it has continually developed in response to changing clinical conditions, and has been sustained by research into every aspect of its use. This process continues today with the development of modern medical diagnostic techniques and knowledge.
Because of its systematic approach and clinical effectiveness it has for centuries had a very great influence on the theory and practice of medicine in the East, and more recently has grown rapidly in popularity in the West. It still forms a major part of healthcare provision in China, and is provided in state hospitals alongside western medicine.
Chinese herbal medicine, along with the other components of Chinese medicine, is based on the concepts of Yin and Yang. It aims to understand and treat the many ways in which the fundamental balance and harmony between the two may be undermined and the ways in which a person’s Qi or vitality may be depleted or blocked. Clinical strategies are based upon diagnosis of patterns of signs and symptoms that reflect an imbalance.
The ancient oriental peoples of south-east Asia including China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, not only understood how herbs were beneficial on the coarse level as food supplements, but knew how the character of different herbs and plants – reflected in where they grow and under which conditions they to grow to thrive – produce a signature or vibration characterised as a quality of Qi.
As the Qi of plants is the same Qi that permeates our bodies, the ancient Oriental physicians were able to correlate disease – reflected in Qi imbalances and deficiencies – and use the Qi of plants and herbs to correct the Qi disturbances in the patient.