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COMPASS MAGAZINE, MAY. 1999. VOL. 6 ISSUE 5

The Eastern Way of Healing

By Barbara Healy

chinese herbal medicine eastern healing taiwan

With a known history of over 2500 years, Chinese herbal medicine is an organized system of medical knowledge containing more than 7000 remedies proven through centuries of use, pharmacological research, and modern clinical experimentation.

In both written and unwritten form, this holistic practice has evolved over the centuries using primarily plant extracts and some other natural substances to treat diseases. The Chinese have developed a complex diagnosis and treatment system, tailored to an individual's patterns of disharmony, which, it is claimed, if left unchecked, can lead to illness. The theory of yin and yang, where opposite poles need to work together within a person for good health to occur, is a primary theory in Chinese herbal medicine.

 

The western science approach has focused on isolating active chemicals in a particular herbal substance. The Chinese believe that actives evolved side by side for a particular reason. It is believed that separating them disturbs their natural balance. An eastern doctor fights infection by prompting the body's natural defenses to combat a disease while the western doctor isolates the organ or a specific condition and either remove the organ or sets a target to attack.

In the West three factors have contributed to a revival in the use of herbal medicine. First, there is public concern about the cost of drugs that produce unacceptable side effects (for instance penicillin, which can cause serious allergic reactions). Second, in Europe, it has been proven that natural substances can address may modern health concerns with minimal side effects. Thirdly, China and Japan have successfully integrated modern medicine with traditional herbal remedies.

 

Locally in Taiwan, herbal medicine shops (zhong yao fong) continue to serve loyal customers much as they have done throughout Asia for centuries. Effects of herbal medicine are gradual and cumulative, rather than sudden and dramatic. The natural products are sold in the form of pills, tablets, medicate oils, plasters, and water-soluble granules. If sold in their raw state, they are taken home and boiled, often in clay pots, to create a thick broth. Doctors practicing herbal medicine in Taiwan have four tools to diagnose a problem and determine what mix of herbs best suit a patient's condition. They listen to a description of symptoms; observe the patient; check pulse rate, tongue color and texture, and other body parts for signs of illness; and then delve for specifics.

Overall, the belief that good health is mintained through proper nutrition, ample activity and quiescence is universal today and herbal medicine is a primary advocate to facilitate a healthy and well-balanced state of being.

Well-proven herbal remedies include:

  • Bark of cinchona tree for antimalarial drug, quinine
  • Qing haosu for antimalarial drug
  • Dried seed of papaya for dysentery
  • For scurvy (caused by vitamin C deficiency): rosehips
  • Beriberi and rickets can be cured with a mix of herbs
  • Ginger root in soup helps as decongestant
  • Mint and menthol sooth sore throats
  • Oil of cloves is used to numb aching tooth
  • Wild nuts from a jungle near Guangxi for rheumatism
  • Ganoderma mushrooms for chronic intestinal problems

Find Chinese Herbal Medicine in Taichung

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