Chinese Herbal Medicine




In Chinese herbal medicine the laws of Yin & Yang and other elements are used. Herbs have different natures – heat (Yang), cold (Yin), neutral, astringent, sweet, sour, bitter, salty, warm and cold.
In simple terms (its much more complicated) a person who shows signs of yin deficiency will do well to take more yin herbs while a person who shows signs of yang deficiency should take more yang herbs. The formula for a person that has a symptoms of heat (Yang) will be predominantly cooling (Yin) however there may be warming herbs combined in this formula also. The formula for a person that has a symptoms of cold (Yin) will be predominantly warming (Yang) however there may be cooling herbs combined in this formula also.
A person that has symptoms of heat (Yang) using warm (Yang) herbs would find their symptoms exacerbated rather than reduced and vis-a-versa cold (Yin) herbs should not be taken for cold (Yin) symptoms as the cold herbs would exacerbate their symptoms. This is why a Chinese medicine doctor needs to make such a diagnosis.
Depending upon the persons condition different herbs will be employed and the formula will be balanced with yin (cooling) and yang (warming) herbs and not just yang or yin herbs. Two people may have similar symptoms but will be prescribed slightly different formula. This differs from western medicine where people get the same pill (or medicine) for the same group of symptoms – western medicine is a one-size-fits all approach and TCM is scaled towards the individual.
Chinese medicine aims to treat the root of the disease (symptoms) rather than just the symptoms. Ultimately the TCM practitioner is trying the bring the body back into balance. However western medicine is very effective at reducing symptoms quickly in emergencies and this is something Chinese medicine is not generally capable of. There is a place for both systems and the systems can be synergistic.
Ive trained in hospitals in China and have seen Chinese western trained doctors (who have spent another 2-3 years training in Chinese medicine) administer Chinese herbal formulas via intravenous infusions. Ive seen these IV infusions used for sepsis and stroke along side western medical interventions. This takes Chinese medicine to a whole new level however its not something that is legally allowed here in Australia.


Chinese Herbal Prescriptions


This video explains the components of a Chinese medicine herbal formula


More research is now occurring in Australia and other parts of the western world in the field of traditional medicines because of recent increased research funding by Governments – driven by an increasing need for complementary health care treatments. Although research is being increasingly conducted in the West, much more high quality evidence is still needed.
Evidence from the Cochrane Collaboration assessment (2009) found that 22 of 42 reviews on Chinese herbal medicine were unable to reach conclusions about whether the technique worked for the condition under investigation because there was not enough good-quality evidence. The other research found 20 of 42 reviews on Chinese herbal medicine suggested possible benefits but could not reach definite conclusions because of the small quantity or poor quality of the studies.
A clear limitation for the advancing use of Chinese herbal medicines is the real need to increase our knowledge of the active ingredients and mechanism of action of the herbal medicines. Many scientific testing methods are limited at this point in time to single herb analysis thus cannot accurately measure synergistic mechanisms of action with regards to an array of herbs in a formula.

The US Governments National Institute of Health continue to add to the body of research that supports the efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine.
Examples of western Chinese medicine herb research:

  1. US National Institute of Health (NIH)
  2. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine
  3. National Centre for Biological Information 
  4. National Centre for Biological Information