Eastern Herbology has its roots in nutrition, in particular in China where herbs, seeds, minerals, barks and other remedies are a part of the daily traditional diet.
That being said, the term herbology or herbal medicine itself doesn’t quite encompass the array of natural substances used in this medicine.
The broad range of medicinal substances used in traditional Chinese medicine includes minerals, seeds, dried fruits, mushrooms, grasses, flowers and animal products amongst others.
Many of these remedies are recorded in Shennong’s Materia Medica, or Shénnóng B?n C?o J?ng, the oldest book on Chinese herbal medicine. This text is a compilation of oral traditions written between 300 BC and 200 AD, and includes agricultural advice on how best to cultivate and harvest medicinals using biodynamic and organic farming methods that ensure the full therapeutic potency of each raw ingredient.
Healthy food and lifestyle are believed to be the foundation of health and disease prevention, thus the strong presence of medicinal substances in traditional Chinese gastronomy. However when illness prevails, despite healthy diet and lifestyle, herbs, acupuncture and/or moxibustion should be used to cure the body of illness and regain vitality.
Client tailored herbal prescriptions are formulated by the practitioner to meet the specific needs of each patient.
Patented formulas, on the other hand, are standardized recipes, and are more frequently recommended in the treatment of common disorders.
These are the most common forms in which Chinese medicinals are dispensed:
Decoctions require boiling loose herbs to extract their medicinal substances.
Granules are made from drying the medicinals and making them into an easily dissolvable form and packaged. These are mixed with liquids to be consumed.
Pills are made from dried and ground herbs that are shaped into small round pills. This form is convenient and a great option for those who prefer to avoid the strong taste of some prescriptions.
Tinctures are liquid remedies extracted in food grade alcohol, vinegar or glycerin.
Liniments are oils infused with medicinals and are used topically.
Popular Chinese herbs used today include ginseng, licorice, astragalus, cinnamon, shiitake mushroom, and ginger amongst others, and can easily be found at health food stores, markets and grocery stores. Some of these may be a staple in your kitchen already.
Throughout the centuries many of the medicinals listed in ancient texts have been collected intensely for their medicinal value, though in some cases, this excessive sourcing has lead to the depletion of these precious resources, some of which are now close to extinction.
In most cases practitioners offer alternative medicinals of equal or similar therapeutic effect, however unfortunately a large black market in China and around the world creates demand for even some of the scarcest natural resources.
That being said, and despite some mistrust regarding the quality and purity of herbs grown in China, commercial herb growers are in fact strictly regulated using the Good Agricultural Practice Standard (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practice Standard (GMP). These procedures have as goal to safeguard the health of consumers as well as ensure the high quality of the medicine grown. Pesticide use, sustainability and heavy metal content are all regulated under these practices.
Due to the value of the TCM market in China, traditional Chinese remedies are under intense scrutiny by the government, as it is in their best interest to ensure that the products that contribute so largely to their exports economy remain safe and effective worldwide.
In Canada importers and exporters of endangered plant and animal species and their products are regulated by the international CITES treaty certificates (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention). This treaty protects said endangered and threatened wildlife from over exploitation.
For more information regarding plant and animal life in TCM go to;