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  • Maria Lee Sun Sheng

Chinese Herbal Medicine

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) has been used as a form of treatment for a multitude of ailments ranging from acute infections to chronic fatigue.


Traditional Chinese herbal medicine consists of some 6,000 substances derived from plant, animal and mineral sources, each with its own unique property and specific effect on the body.


Herbs are viewed in terms of their properties (cold, cool, warm, hot, or neutral), flavours (pungent, sweet, sour, bitter, or salty) and the respective organs they affect (eg liver, spleen, and kidney).


Over the past 5,000 years, Chinese herbal medicine has evolved into an art form of its own. Ancient herbal information was gathered, complied, formulated, tested, and handed down from generation to generation. Today, practitioners of Chinese medicine continue to prescribe herbal formulas because they are a powerful therapeutic method.


The prescribing of Chinese herbal medicine is based upon individual pattern differentiation using “four techniques diagnosis” including pulse and tongue. Individual herbs are combined to form a formula to increase the benefits of particular actions, and minimize any harmful side effects.


In order to create the most effective formula, the herbs are used in different quantities and for different purposes. This allows the herbalist to create a formula aimed at addressing individual needs. Within each formula exists a specific hierarchy of herbs:


Chief (Jun)herb – has the greatest effect upon the principle problem and is the most important ingredient. It is the energetic and therapeutic focus of the entire formula.


Adjuvant (Chen) herbs – strengthen the curative action of the chief herb. These herbs usually address secondary signs and symptoms.


Assistant (Zuo) herbs – The role of assistant herbs is to support and reinforce the effects of other herbs. They also help moderate or eliminate any harsh properties of herbs within the formula.


Guiding (Shi) herbs – harmonize, guide and focus the action of the entire formula on certain meridians or areas of the body.


Chinese herbal formulas combined this way offer specific synergistic actions and effects upon the body and mind.


The art and skill of creating a formula lies within choosing the precise and most effective herbs that target an individual’s disharmony.


It is important to work with a qualified herbalist who can prescribe the correct formula, monitor progress and adjust it as needed.


In my clinic, the herbal prescription is based upon individual pattern differentiation and specific herbs are chosen to form a complex herbal formula which has been proven to be effective in the long history of TCM practice. These herbal prescriptions are available in the form of: raw herbs, granules extracts, tablets/capsules, tinctures, or lotions/creams.




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