Chinese Herbal Medicine

Chinese Herbal Medicine: Combining Nature with Science

Chinese Herbal Medicine: Combining Nature with Science

Chinese herbal medicine is an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine. Chinese herbs consist mostly of natural plants and minerals whose individual cultivation, preparation and properties have been studied for thousands of years.

How Chinese herbal medicine differs from pharmaceutical drugs and western herbalism is that single herbs are synergistically combined into formulas to treat each person’s underlying pattern of disharmony, not just their symptoms.

How is a Chinese herbal formula composed?

Instead of isolating single active compounds to treat a disease, Chinese medicine practitioners intentionally combine single herbs into formulae to suit each patient based on their individual symptoms.

The knowledge of combining single herbs into formulas was first recorded in Shennong Bencao Jing, a classic book of Chinese herbal medicine written over 2,000 years ago.

There are 8,980 herbs compiled into Zhong Hua Ben Cao (Chinese Materia Medica 1999) and 1,444 Chinese herbal formulae collected in 2010 edition of the Chinese Pharmacopoeia.

Chinese herbal medicine formulae are composed according to the following principles:

  • Single Effect: using only one medicinal substance to treat a patient;
  • Mutual Accentuation: the combination of two herbs with similar functions to enhance their combined effects;
  • Mutual Enhancement: the combination of two or more herbs with different actions in which one of the substances enhances the effect of the other;
  • Mutual counteraction and suppression: a combination in which the toxicity or side effects of one herb are reduced or eliminated by another;

Some herbs are never used together in the same formula because of:

  • Mutual antagonism: the ability of two substances to minimise each herb’s positive effects;
  • Mutual incompatibility: the combination of two substances causes side effects or toxicity which would not be caused by any one of the substances if used alone.

Each formula is also guided by the “Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi” principle of having:

  • Chief herbs that provide the main therapeutic effect;
  • Deputy herbs that enhance or assist the therapeutic actions of the chief;
  • Assistant herbs that provide one or more of the following functions: treating accompanying symptoms, moderating the harshness or toxicity of the primary substances, or modifying the thermal properties of the formula; and
  • Envoy herbs that either guide the other herbs in the formula to a specific channel or organ, or exert a harmonising influence over the whole formula.

The individual herbs and dosages of each formula are composed for each person, and further modified after each course, to address specific symptoms and to reduce any side-effects.

The end result is a form of highly personalised medicine.

What forms of herbal medicine do you offer?

Our clinic prescribes both patent Chinese herbal medicines in pill or tablet form and concentrated powdered herbs which can be easily taken for your convenience.

We don’t prescribe any raw herbs which require you to cook them at home.

Promoting the safe use of Chinese herbal medicines

In light of past news reports in the media, we hope to inform our clients about the safe and appropriate use of Chinese medicines.

All of the Chinese medicines dispensed by our clinic are listed and regulated by the Australian Government Therapeutic Goods Administration for quality and safety.

We do not use any medicines containing endangered or illegally traded wildlife ingredients.

Chinese herbal medicines and formulas, like western pharmaceutical drugs, contain various active ingredients which are intended for the treatment of health conditions. Their use requires professional knowledge and thus should be prescribed by practitioners qualified in Chinese Herbal Medicine.

Our clinic does not recommend taking Chinese herbal medicines without professional advice. Harm can occur when any medicine is taken without professional advice, or when individual herbal ingredients are supplied in inappropriate and dangerous dosages. Beware of medicinal products you can order from overseas which may not be regulated or safe.

Always inform your doctor and other health care practitioners about all of the medicines you are taking. This includes Chinese medicines, other herbal medicines and supplements.

Do you sell Chinese herbs to the public?

It is a policy of our clinic not to sell any over-the-counter Chinese medicines to the public without a consultation.

Our practitioners will provide medication as appropriate to your condition only after they have conducted a traditional Chinese medicine consultation.

Furthermore, they will advise you when it is appropriate to change or discontinue your Chinese herbal medication as part of your follow-up consultations.

What is your clinic’s position on the use of animal products in Chinese medicine?

All Ping Ming Health clinics do not use any animal products in the herbal medicines that we dispense to our clients. In Australia, it is prohibited to import or sell illegally traded animal products, and our clinic is firmly against activities such as rhino and tiger poaching, and bear bile farming.

Scientific References

Browse our collection of scientific research on Chinese Herbal Medicine: Combining Nature with Science. It includes recent and reputable papers published by peer-reviewed journals within the last 10 years.

Frontiers in Pharmacology

2019, Jul 11

Systems Pharmacology for Investigation of the Mechanisms of Action of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Drug Discovery
Frontiers in Pharmacology

TCM is a complex mixed system with multiple components and multiple targets; thus, the identification of the potential bioactive molecules and the dissection of the underlying mechanisms of action to establish the optical drug combinations are the essential tasks of TCM. Fortunately, the advent of systems pharmacology framework provides powerful tools for TCM studies: 1) new methods for identification of active components/groups of TCM from the whole perspective. More than 10 mathematical models, including PreOB and PreHF, have been developed, which overcome the limitation of TCM in pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic experiments, providing convenient approaches for the discovery of effective substances; 2) large-scale target prediction systems of TCM, with three approaches (SysDT, WES, and Pred-binding) as new tools for drug target discovery; 3) the probability ensemble approach (PEA) model as a novel tool for the dissection of mechanisms of action and the prediction of new indications of TCM; and 4) a novel network of elementary subgraphs and a dynamic model was proposed for the large-scale screening of weak-binding compound in TCM.

Zhang W, Huai Y, Miao Z, Qian A, Wang Y. Full Article

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

2016, Apr 13

Synergism of Chinese Herbal Medicine: Illustrated by Danshen Compound
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) is a major part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the use of synergistic compound formulae (复方 fù fānɡ) is a main therapeutic tool that is customarily composed of multiple medicinal herbs with different pharmacological properties. The combinational use of herbal medicines is at the heart of CHM and continues to play a very important role in the treatment of disease. The synergism of herbs is based on the Traditional Principles for Constructing Chinese Herbal Medicinal Formulae and the Principles of Combining Medicinal Substances. The principles are evidenced by an example formula, Compound Danshen Formula, and recent research has unveiled pharmacological and pharmacokinetic properties of the formula. This review provides preliminary explanation of CHM theory, which helps to better understand the rationale and the principal mechanism of herbal synergism and the clinical application of the formulae. However, further investigation is needed to provide more evidence of the molecular and cellular mechanisms of the synergism of CHM formulae.

Su X, Yao Z, Li S, Sun H. Full Article