Chinese Herbology

Chinese Herbology

Chinese Herbology

by Bonnie McLean O.M.D., A.P., M.A., B.S.N.

The historical roots of modern pharmacology were embedded in herbal medicine.

For example:

ASA- white willow bark

Morphine- seeds of poppy flowers

Penicillin from fungus

Quinine from the bark of cinchona tree

Digitalis from foxglove

About ¾ of the world’s population still rely on traditional medicine.

Western pharmaceutical drugs capitalize on a single biological active ingredient to produce a specific physiological effect. This accounts for the potency and for the side effects. Drugs are used to control symptoms but often do not treat the pathological process, eg. antibiotics may eliminate bacteria but do not improve a person’s resistance to being infected, diuretics rid the body of excess fluid but do not enhance kidney function, ASA controls arthritic pain but doesn’t not alter the degenerative course of the disease.

With herbs active ingredients are enfolded within the whole plant which tends to buffer the side effects. They often blended together to enhance desired effects and counteract unintended results. Herbs, like vitamins and supplements, can be used for prevention and for healing.

There are written records of Chinese herbs 2,300 years old in China. Chinese herbology is now a sophisticated system including 6,000 substances.

Chinese herbal formulas come from plant, mineral, and animal substances- and are assimilated in the digestive, respiratory, and skin systems.

These formulas reorganize the body constituents ( Qi, Moisture, and Blood ) within Organ Networks and oust the adverse climates ( wind, heat, cold, dryness, and dampness.)

These are the qualities that are used in categorizing Chinese herbs:

Nature- warm, cool, or neutral

Taste- sour, bitter, sweet, or bland, spicy, or salty

Configuration- shape, texture, moisture


Properties- tonifying, consolidating, dispersing, and purging

Chinese herbal prescriptions are either tailored to fit the individual patient or designed to fit general conditions. They may be taken in a number of ways. Individualized prescriptions are usually taken as a tea. A prescription of raw herbs or powder may be infused in hot water. Tinctures may also be used. Formulas that are designed to fit general conditions are called patent formulas. They may be found in tea bags, powders, capsules, tablets, or extracts. Chinese herbs may also be used externally in salves and poultices. Tiger Balm is a popular salve found in the U.S.

Cold, greasy, spicy, and sour foods should be avoided during the process of taking medicinal herbs.

Some commonly used “First Aid” Chinese herbal patents are:

Yin Chiao Chieh Tu Pien- sneezing, sniffles, and the sore throat of the first stages of a common cold.

Gan Mao Ling- also for the first stages of cold or flu symptoms

Zhong Gan Ling- once a cold or flu is in progress if the symptoms are chills, body aches, and headache.

Hsiang Cheng Chi Pien ( Lopanthus Anti-Febrile Pills )- if nausea and diarrhea are present

Lo Han Kuo- dry cough or thirst and sore throat with cold and flu

Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan ( Pinellia Expectorant)- for coughs with sticky or yellow phlegm

Fritillary-Loquat cough syrup- also for coughs with sticky or yellow phlegm

Yunnan Pai Yao- a lifesaving remedy for wounds, hemorrhages, shock, infections, and surgery

Curing Pills- indigestion, diarrhea, nausea, headache, stomach flu, hangovers, motion sickness, reactions to MSG, jet lag and traveling with irregular sleeping and eating

Wu Chi Pai Feng- menstrual and other female problems

Bi Yan Pian- respiratory allergies with sneezing, itchy eyes and nose, cough, wheezing, postnasal drip, sore throat, and headache

Chinese herbs are not only medicinal. There are also tonic herbs called “superior herbs” which are not used to treat, or even prevent, disease. They are used to fortify the body/mind, to strengthen the life functions, to encourage natural harmony, to enhance one’s adaptability, and to generate radiant health and longevity. These herbs should have no side-effects. They should not be taken during illness.

Tonic herbs are divided into four major types:

Energy tonics

Blood tonics

Yang tonics

Yin tonics

Three minor types are:

Organ-meridian tonics

Herbs that regulate energy

Herbs that regulate the blood

The Major Tonic Herbs:

Ginseng- The most renown of Chinese herbs. It is an energy tonic with restorative qualities which enhance tolerance to stress and which balance metabolic equilibrium.

Tang Kuei- A blood tonic that is considered the ultimate woman’s tonic herb. It regulates menstrual function, builds and detoxifies the blood, and can have a sedative effect.

Chinese Licorice Root- The most widely used Chinese herb. It is used as a harmonizing ingredient of many formulas and has detoxification and anti-inflammatory effects. It has a function similar to adrenalcortical hormones. It is considered an energy tonic.

Ho Shou Wu- China’s most renown longevity herb. It is and energy tonic used as a sexual tonic. It also has anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, and sedative effects.

Schizandrae fructus- A yin and yang tonic considered a youth preserver, beautifier, and aphrodisiac. It has pain-relieving qualities and is mildly sedating.

Lycii Fructus- Lycii berries are well known as a liver and blood tonic. They increase vitality and improve night vision. They have a blood sugar balancing and mild sedating effect.

Astragali Radix- Energy tonic that fortifies the defense mechanism. It is also a blood tonic that improves blood circulation and regulates fluid metabolism. It is claimed to build respiratory endurance.

Rehmanniae Radix- Yin and blood tonic that purifies blood. It is said to strengthen the bones and tendons to to reduce fever.

Codonopsitis Radix- An energy and yin tonic used in the same manner as ginseng. It restores the body’s vigor, stimulates the production of blood, and clears the lungs.

Atractylus- An energy tonic that affects the digestive system and balances the appetite. It strengthens the muscles and has a mild stimulant quality.

Suk Gok- Yin tonic, especially to the kidney. It is a longevity herb and is particularly useful in replacing spent adaptive energy. It is said to build sexual vigor.

Red Jujube Dates- Yin and energy tonic. It is said to purify the 12 organ meridians and to “clear the openings” of the body.

Cinnamon- Yang tonic, especially the yang of the kidney. It promotes good circulation and enable the qi to flow freely. It is used to warm the viscera and to calm the nerves. It famed in China to be a sexual tonic.

Wild Asparagus Root- Yin tonic used by the sages to open the heart center, tonify the kidney, and prolong life. It has a slight diuretic effect and believed to enhance sexuality.

Tienchi- Blood and yin tonic used in China to improve circulation and prevent anxiety.

It is said to lower blood pressure, improve regularity of the heartbeat, and reduce blood cholesterol.

Royal Jelly- Yin and energy tonic. It is considered to be as close to being a complete food as is known to man. It promotes longevity.

Poria- Yin and energy tonic. Next to licorice, it is the most widely used herb in Chinese herbalism. It regulates bodily fluids and strengthens the kidneys and bladder. It is considered a heart and lung tonic and is helpful in regulating blood sugar.


Between Heaven and Earth by Harriet Bienfeld LAc and Efrem Korngold LAc OMD

Chinese Tonic Herbs by Ron Teeguarden, Tea Garden Herbal Emporium.