Traditional Chinese herbal theory is an incredibly complicated and profound description of both human physiology and pathomechanisms occurring within the human body. With roots stretching back to foundational texts written in the 2nd century, it has benefited from an elaboration of theory and clinical application through scholarly debate and discourse for the past 1800 years, right up to the present day. The sheer volume of texts and discourses (numbering in the hundreds of thousands) of this living tradition is staggering, and shows Chinese herbal medicine to be the most sophisticated herbal medicine system in the world.
Chinese Herbalism addresses complicated patterns of imbalance, that don’t respond to healthy changes in diet, exercise, lifestyle, or even acupuncture. These are usually conditions that are more chronic, such as digestive, hormonal, respiratory, urogenital, neurological, sleep, autoimmune, etc. although they can simply be chronic pain, as well.
Sometimes, the patient has complicated and debilitating symptoms, that conventional medicine has not been able to provide relief for. Sometimes, the aches, pains, and feelings of being chronically unwell have been around for so long that people assume that this is just the way life is, and explain it away with age, stress, or past injury.
In many, many cases, it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to keep suffering or ignoring problems.
The real power of Chinese herbal medicine is in treating the whole person.
Chinese herbal medicine treats the entirety of the body, not just the symptoms. This is a night-and-day different approach from conventional medicine.
For example, let’s suppose a patient has headaches. Conventional medicine will simply seek to treat the headache. It may go so far as to name the headache and describe it, such as “tension headache” or “migraine.” But, at the end of the day, the goal is only to treat the headache.
From a Classical medicine point of view, the headache is only a symptom of an underlying problem. What we need to do is understand WHY someone gets the headache. This “why” is the underlying pattern. If we can treat the underlying pattern, the headache will go away on its own.
In the clinic, this looks like the difference between a patient with headaches who also has stomach aches and irritability and runs hot, vs a patient with headaches who also has anxiety and palpitations and runs cold. Whereas they both may be given the same conventional pharmaceuticals for their headaches, from a Classical Chinese medicine point of view, these are two fundamentally different people who must be treated in a completely different way.
The real power of Chinese herbal medicine is in treating the whole person. So, if the headache is just a symptom, if we treat the underlying cause of it, not only does the headache go away, but so does the stomach ache, irritability, and overheating. In short, if the pattern is treated correctly everything must get better.