Over the years we hear reports of contamination or mislabeling of imported Chinese herbal products. Some of these stories turn out to be exaggerated, but others need to be taken seriously.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Gifts of Heaven and Earth
Chinese herbal medicine is easily the most highly evolved medical system in the world. Its immense scale of experience spans countless trillions of administrations over thousands of years.
Over 10,000 natural substances are catalogued in Chinese herbal pharmacopoeia. These substances, referred to as "herbs", consists of thousands of plant species from all over the world as well as both mineral and animal materials. Chinese herbs are most often taken in formulae (combinations of herbs) rather than singly. By combining herbs, synergies have been discovered that vastly increase the medicinal effects. Blending herbs in this way also allows the herbologist to neutralize unwanted side-effects. These blends (formulas) consist of principal herbs, assisting herbs, directional herbs, and herbs that reduce the side effects, or aid the digestion of a particular herb. Herbs can be ingested as boiled teas called decoctions (TANG), milled powders (SAN), pills (PIAN), tablets (WAN), granulated or tinctured extracts, or draughts (steeped like tea). Topically, herbs are used in poultices, plasters, soaks, ointments, washes, and fumigants (burning herbs).
The potent odors and flavors of Chinese herbs are legendary. Boiling the herbs and drinking the tea will provide the fullest experience of these medicines. Commonly, Chinese herbs are boiled in ceramic pots for 20 - 40 minutes, the dregs are strained out and the "tea" is taken warm or at room temperature. Boiling times are averaged according to the composition of the formula. Flower and leaf will yield medicine in 10-20 minutes. Roots take 20 to 40 minutes; Shells and minerals must cook for at least one hour. A few herbs, like mint or tangerine peel, must be quick-boiled 3-5 minutes lest they loose their valuable volatile oils. These are added separately to the boiling mixture just before completion.
The Chinese invented the pill. Chinese doctors were prescribing pills in the twelfth century, much as we do today. Ancient formulas were often prepared as pills made from milled herbs bound with water, honey, ginger juice, or other substances.
Therapeutic dosages of powders or pills range between 3 - 10 grams daily. That's usually three to thirty pills, two or three times a day. That may seem like a lot of pills to take. But it's really only a few grams of herb powder. Our body perceives, and responds to herbal medicine as it does to food, not as it does to a hyper-concentrated chemical. Herbs are like vegetables, very powerful vegetables.
The constituents of herbs can be extracted by water, alcohol, vinegar, glycerin, or chemical solvents. Most herbologists prefer to use low temperature water extractions rather than the standardized extractions used by Herbacuetical pill makers.
Simply soaking and herb in Alcohol, vinegar, or glycerin yield tinctures. They're easy to make and to take.
Massage and Body Work
Touching the Body, Moving the Qi
Massage was a precursor of acupuncture as the ancients learned to make the qi respond to touch and to the qi of the practitioner. Through millennia of massage and observation, the pathways were discovered, and so were many of the acupuncture points.
Asian massage promotes the movement of Qi, Blood, and fluids. TUI NA, SHIATSU and other massage techniques are used for healing and to prevent illness as well as for pleasure.
Like yin and yang, Asian massage should be hard and soft, fast and slow, pleasurable yet slightly painful. Points and channels are stimulated to promote flow. Limbs are stretched and pulled. Sometimes the torso is gently twisted. You won't fall asleep getting shiatsu or TUI NA. You will feel thoroughly massaged.
Movement & Martial Arts
Movement and Health
The Door Hinge Never Rusts
Stagnation is the enemy of health. Activity, the great remedy.
Movement Quickens the Blood and Scours the Vessels; permitting the free flow of blood and qi. Exercise extends the blood to the smallest vessels, deeply nourishing the body. This same circulation clears waste. When you are lethargic, your cells wallow in their own excrement
Qi Gong (Chi Kung):
Ruling The Qi
Qi Gong (Chi Kung) is a method of energy cultivation to enable internal power. It is used for health, vitality, increasing longevity, athletic performance, and expanding the mind."
Qi Gong is not exactly meditation. In meditation, the mind is stilled to reach a state of awareness or union with the Absolute. In Qi Gong, the mind is focused on directing energy, rather than thinking or not thinking. This is called Hsing Qi meaning where the mind goes, the energy follows.
Qi Gong isn't exactly visualization either. Image-matter created by visualization arises in the imagination, existing yet not existing. Qi, however, exists. Qi exists outside the imagination. Qi Gong, therefore, is a much more physical and arguably more powerful discipline than creative visualization.
Tai Qi is a discipline of exercises developed by Taoist monks in the 13th century. It's a martial art that can be practiced at any age. Its movements are gentle and fluid, not forceful. It's practice is for self defense, but also for self improvement.
Tai Qi improves coordination and helps harmonize mind and body. Studies show that tai qi benefits the body in profound ways. Improved mental outlook, better coronary circulation, higher immunity, lower incidence of pain have been shown. Studies on senior citizens show that T'ai Qi improves balance and prevents falls.
If you want to study T'ai Qi, check your yellow pages under "Martial Arts".
Acupuncture & Moxabustion:
Where There's Pain There's No Flow.
Where There's Flow, There's No Pain
Acupuncture is a complete medical system originating in China thousands of years ago. Today it is used throughout the world to treat hundreds of different ailments. Acupuncture involves the insertion of hair-thin sterile needles at specific points on the body. Acupuncturists adjust the flow of Qi (vital energy), thereby influencing other nourishing and/or cleansing flows such as blood, waste, food, hormones, and lubricating fluids. Performed properly, the technique is nearly painless.
How Does It Work?
Numerous controlled studies have shown that acupuncture works for a variety of ailments. Billions of people testify that it is effective, but how?
Some scientists believe that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system. They theorize that needling effects peripheral nerves, which reaches the central nervous system.
Others studies reveal that acupuncture makes endorphins. These are morphine-like substances made naturally in your body. This, some believe, is the mechanism behind the effectiveness of acupuncture.
According to Chinese medicine, acupuncture works by promoting or directing the flows of energy and fluids (Qi and Blood) in our body. Our bodies are nourished by these flows; much as a garden is irrigated by canals or trenches.
In a garden, irrigating flows are regulated by gates or valves. In our bodies, these gates are the acupuncture points, and by manipulating them an acupuncturist helps to control this flow of energy.
When heat's a treat.
Heat can be beneficial. When the body lacks heat, adding it is therapy. It's like adding energy to the body.
Moxibustion is a heat treatment where acupuncture points are heated by burning an herb called moxa (made from artemisia leaf) on or near the point. Burning on the skin is called direct moxibustion. Burning it near the skin called indirect moxibustion. Sometimes we burn moxa attached to the needles. This is called warming needle technique.
Moxa sticks are like cigars which are burned close to the affected area (about an inch). When the spot becomes too hot, the moxa stick is withdrawn, then after a moment, it is returned. This results in a kind of pecking at the spot with the moxa stick. Do it 5-20 minutes per session, 1-3 sessions per day. Just be careful to ventilate the smoke, careful of falling ashes, and careful to extinguish the stick (roll) by suffocating it in sand or salt or rice.
Theory of the Organs
The Zhang / Fu
In Traditional Chinese Medicine the internal organs have the same names as those we know. However in TCM, the organs are more than flesh and blood. They also perform tasks with QI (energy) which are not understood by modern science.
As Chinese medicine is largely about energy (qi), the organs also produce, circulate, and store this energy. To the Chinese doctor, the biological function of an organs is often secondary. When the qi is normal, the organ will behave normally.
Chinese medical theory groups the organs into YIN Organs (most important), and YANG Organs (less important)
The YIN organs
The heart, spleen, lungs, kidneys, liver, and pericardium (surface of the heart) are called the ZANG are considered the most important. They are structurally solid, and responsible for the creation and storage of qi and Blood.
The YANG organs
are the large intestine, small intestine, stomach, gall bladder, urinary bladder, and triple-warmer (which is a functional conglomerate of all the yang organs). They are known as the FU and are considered less important. They are hollow organs, responsible mainly for the transportation of food and for elimination. The odd sixth pair of organs, known as the Pericardium and Triple-Heater, also have energetic functions that are not attributed to the other organs.
Functions of the Organs
|YIN Organs||Yang Function||Yin Function||YANG Organs||Function|
|Heart||Circulates Blood||Home to the Shen*||Small Intestine||Transports food and fluids|
|Spleen / Pancreas||
|Transforms QI||Stomach||Digests Food|
Controls the Pores
|Directs QI Downward||Large Intestine||Transports Stool|
Rules Reproductive QI
Stores Essence (JING)
|Urinary Bladder||Regulates Urination|
|Liver||Detoxifies Blood||Smooths QI
Home to the Hun (spirit)
*(God, mind, supreme being)