The roots of modern pharmacology are embedded in ancient herbal medicine. Some of the most well known drugs were originally derived from plants. Penicillin from fungus, aspirin from willow trees, digitalis from foxglove leaves and morphine from poppy flowers. And while a lot of the western world now relies on these convenient remedies for ailments, there are still a lot of people who rely on traditional medicine.
Chinese Herbal Medicine is a natural therapeutic modality that has evolved over 5000 years of practical application and research. It can be a very powerful tool for treating or enhancing the treatment of almost any condition. Chinese herbs are usually combined together in order to create a formula rather than using one single herb. By combining herbs, the patient’s whole constitution can be treated to promote overall health and not just the patient’s chief complaint.
When creating a Chinese herbal formula, there is a universal method in order to create a balanced formula. This method divides herbs into a “chain of command,” indicating the amount and purpose for an individual herb within a formula. The hierarchy divides herbs into “Chief”, “Deputy”, “Assistant”, and “Envoy”. The chief herb in the formula is the herb in which the formula is based on. Its focus is to treat the main condition of the patient. The deputy herbs in a formula are directed either to aid the chief herb or to help treat secondary issues. The assistant herbs in the formula are used to decrease side effects and enhance the function of the chief and deputy herbs. The envoy can almost be seen as a catalyst and is the guide that leads the rest of the formula and shows it where to go in the body. When this hierarchy of herbs is put into effect, a very harmonious formula is created especially for the individual, and targeted at the specific needs of that person.
One of the positive aspects of Chinese herbal medicine is the ability of each formula to be completely modified and directed at the specific needs and conditions of each individual patient. It is common for individuals to have several pharmaceutical prescriptions, addressing each independent condition. However, in Chinese Medicine, the patient may only be prescribed one Chinese formula that covers all of the conditions at once. This slight but remarkable difference is what makes Chinese medicine such a unique modality. By diagnosing each patient’s constitutional pattern, rather than separating it into multiple conditions, a patient can be treated holistically.