Due to a certain "life change" (yes I got married) I found myself having insurance coverage like never before. I absolutely adore acupuncture so I thought, well, need it or not, I can have this service and it is COVERED!!! So lately, I have been receiving wonderful relaxing treatments by a woman down the street here in West Hollywood. So wonderful and relaxing I think she should have me sign a waiver before driving home. During one of my sessions while I was looking at all of her herbs, it dawned on me that during my training and now in practice, I use a ton of western botanicals but not a lot of eastern ones, so, what better topic to review and share!
Chinese herbs have been around for a long, long time - five thousand years, give or take a few - and they are highly effective for treating all sorts of health problems. I believe that they work best when used within the paradigm of Oriental medicine. In other words, Chinese herbs are much more likely to work well when a patient receives the herbal prescription from a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, and receives the practitioner's guidance and support around using those herbs.
Some 500 to 600 herbs, animal byproducts, and minerals comprise the traditional Chinese materia medica. These herbs are used by TCM practitioners in all kinds of combinations, based on a complex diagnostic system. Naturopathic and TCM doctors use the same general approach - we base diagnosis and treatment on evaluation of imbalances, deficiencies, and excesses, and the ability of various treatments to counteract them. TCM is based on ancient theories involving the flow of energy (qi), made up of a balance of yin and yang energies, along energy pathways (meridians) that run throughout the body. Qi is manipulated by supporting either yin or yang with specific herbal combinations, or by directing its movement with acupuncture, acupressure, cupping (where glass vials are applied to the skin with a gentle vacuum) or moxibustion (burning of herbs at acupuncture points).
Many Chinese herbs are beginning to enter the mainstream of herbal medicine, and these herbs are widely available in health food and supplement stores and increasingly popular with consumers for maintaining optimal health or to correct an imbalance that is making them feel unwell. Here are a few of the herbs customers might be looking for, and why they are believed to be beneficial for their health.
One of the best-known Chinese herbs, panax is what's known as an adaptogen - it enhances cellular metabolism, increases endurance and energy, and is believed to enhance brain function and boost alertness. Any adaptogen (which may also be referred to as a tonic) earns its title by improving the body's ability to tolerate and recover from stress, whether that stress is physical (intense exercise), chemical (exposure to toxins), or biological (contracting an illness).
Panax ginseng. This tonic, adaptogenic herb increases the amount of oxygen that passes from the bloodstream into cells to be burned for energy, improving exercise performance and breakdown of carbohydrate and fat stores. These effects explain why ginseng is so popular as an energy and endurance booster. It's also thought to increase fuel availability in the brain, enhancing alertness and thinking ability. Panax ginseng contains chemicals called ginsenosides, which mimic the adrenal hormones made in the body when stressful situations arise. Those hormones enhance energy, strength, and alertness, helping us to rise to the occasion. In other words, ginsenosides specifically support the function of the body's natural stress-resistance system.