What is Oriental herbal medicine good for?
Oriental Nutrition Concepts & Herbal Remedies
When we talk about nutrition in modern western science, we think about protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, water and roughage (fiber).
In the orient, there are other kinds of approaches about food. All foods are classified by taste - sour, bitter, sweet, pungent or salty. Western science also knows about this, as this is so obvious to everyone. The oriental belief is that each taste corresponds with a bodily organ. The ancients believe tastes correspond to specific organs and affect their functions.
Let me give you one example. Many people are concerned about obesity. According to western theory, obesity comes from fat. There are many approaches to remove fat. In this example, we just discuss the relationship between taste and organ.
When fatty food arrives into duodenum, the gallbladder, which is attached to the liver, releases bile. Bile aids the process of digestion of lipids. Where does bile come from? The bile looks yellow or green. The taste is very bitter. In the oriental view, we don’t know what the chemical component is of the bile and how it is made in the body. All we can tell is the bile is bitter. The bile is a concentration of bitterness and stored in gallbladder. Unless we eat bitter tasting foods, where does the bitterness come from? (Examples of bitter foods are cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, radish, mustard, olives, watercress, coffee, beer and unsweetened chocolate)
Lack of bile means more lipids in the body. When there are more lipids, the heart needs to work harder to pump and deliver blood into the blood vessels and the fatty body. In Western theory, this means cholesterol is accumulated; Oriental theory simply calls it blockage or stagnation. As you understand, bitter taste relates with heart and help. All other tastes and organs can be explained this way.
Here are some examples of the functions of all tastes.
Sour: astringent and prevents or reverses the abnormal leakage of fluids and energy.
Bitter: drains and dries
Sweet: tonifies, harmonizes and moistens
Pungent: disperses and moves
Salty: purges and softens
Bland: leeches out dampness and promotes urination
All foods or herbs have a certain temperature in nature. They are either hot, slightly warm, warm, neutral, cool, slightly cool, or cold. This is another unique approach of the Oriental viewpoint. Tastes are yin and temperature is yang.
Most foods in temperature are close to neutral or warm or cool. When we know all these characteristics, we can use them to help individual needs. Someone who is always cold can select warm foods. Someone who always feels hot can select cool foods. This application gradually helps the individual’s particular needs and their health. If someone chooses food without this kind of knowledge, it may be harmful for the body.
Oriental Herbal Remedies
Individual herbs have a more distinct nature than ordinary foods. We use individual herbs for treatment purposes. If someone suffers with fever, we treat with herbs whose nature is cold. If the fever is due to lung heat, we select individual herbs entering lung whose temperature is cold. If the fever is on superficial skin, we use herbs whose activity is dispersing, which introduces sweating.
We use different methods of treatment depending on where the disease is located. Some disease is on the skin, some is deep inside and some disease is between the two. Here are eight different methods of herbal treatment commonly used in the clinic. We use either one method or a combination of methods.
- sweating: skin disorders, acute edema, common cold
- vomiting: ingestion of poisons (not used much these days)
- draining downward: constipation
- harmonizing: half exterior and half interior disorder, fever & chill alternately such as malaria
- warming: cold attack from less warmness in the body
- clearing: internal heat or heat in the organ
- reducing: gradually reduces or eliminates accumulation due to stagnation of food or other causes, such as blood stasis, food stagnation, phlegm, abscesses
- tonifying: by enriching, nourishing, augmenting or replenishing that are weak or deficient
Oriental herbal treatment does not use just one individual herb. We combine different herbs to treat any kinds of diseases or symptoms. For example, in the case of lung heat, we use an herb to remove lung heat with an additional herb to guide the above herb to the lung.
When patients get acupuncture treatments with herbs prepared by the clinic, patients have many advantages. They usually recover faster. All discomforts, pains and diseases begin with Qi and blood deficiency. We can say acupuncture belongs to Qi and herbs belong to blood. Qi is yang and blood is yin.
Oriental herbal medicine treats the full range of human diseases - acute, chronic and degenerative diseases. Oriental herbal medicine is especially good for promoting the body’s ability to heal and recover from illness and aging. Herbs can treat a wider range of diseases than acupuncture. With herbal treatments, there are less side effects and a slower response compared with modern medicines, which often have a fast response.
Many practitioners have been working for thousands of years to add or subtract individual herbs to make the perfect formula. Now we have all kinds of herbal formulas to treat any kinds of symptoms you can name. Even though oriental herbal medicines have been very effective and proven so, most Americans have only heard about acupuncture.
Oriental Medicine is a comprehensive system of health care
Oriental medicine is used not only for pain management, but also as a comprehensive system of health care and health maintenance. Modern medicines usually have a function of sedation, like an aspirin that alleviates pain. Some oriental medicines also have sedating functions and others have tonifying functions.
Tonification means supporting weakness or tiredness of body using herbs like ginseng and combined with other herbs. This is a very important concept. When we take tonifying herbs for disease prevention and aging, they can increase our immunity and improve our health, making us free from discomforts, pains and diseases. Even cancer patients can be treated for the side effects of chemotherapy with oriental herbs, enhancing their quality of life.
It was difficult to prepare herbs in the old days. For instance, certain container material cannot be used to boil herbs. Nowadays clinics select and prepare all herbs, boil them for 2-8 hours, separate herbs and liquid (tang) with machines just made for this purpose and fill liquid herbs into plastic bags making it easy for a patient to drink them.
One disadvantage of herbal remedies is that herbs taste bitter like coffee without milk or sugar. To avoid unpleasant tastes, we sometimes make herbs into capsules for children although the effectiveness is less than with the liquid formula. We also give advice on what foods to avoid during herbal and acupuncture treatment.
When you take herbal treatment with acupuncture, you do not have to come for acupuncture treatments every day. Herbal remedies are a good choice for a busy person. Herbs can be a substitute of acupuncture. They can save time and a trip to the clinic as you can take herbs in your home.
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