herbs have been used for centuries. The
first herbalist in Chinese tradition is
Shennong, a mythical personage, who is said
to have tasted hundreds of herbs and imparted
his knowledge of medicinal and poisonous
plants to farmers. The first Chinese manual
on pharmacology, the Shennong Bencao Jing
(Shennong Emperor's Classic of Materia Medica),
lists some 365 medicines of which 252 of
them are herbs.
The Shen Nong's Herbal Classic, a 2000-year
old medicinal Chinese book is considered
today as the oldest book on oriental herbal
medicine, classifies 365 species of roots,
grass, woods, furs, animals and stones into
three categories of herbal medicine:
- The first category, called "superior",
includes herbs effective for multiple
diseases and are mostly responsible for
maintaining and restoring the body balance.
They have almost no unfavorable side-effects.
- The second category comprises tonics
and boosters, for which their consumption
must not be prolonged.
- The third category must be taken, usually
in small doses, and for the treatment
of specific ailments only.
The Four Natures ertains to the degree
of yin and yang, namely cold (extreme yin),
cool, warm and hot (extreme yang). The patient's
internal balance of yin and yang is taken
into account when the herbs are selected.
For example, medicinal herbs of "hot",
yang nature are used when the person is
suffering from internal cold that requires
to be purged, or when the patient has a
general cold constituency. Sometimes an
ingredient is added to offset the extreme
effect of one herb.
The Five Tastes are pungent, sweet, sour,
bitter and salty, and each taste has a different
set of functions and characteristics. For
example, pungent herbs are used to generate
sweat and to direct and vitalize qi and
the blood. Sweet-tasting herbs often tonify
or harmonize bodily systems. Some sweet-tasting
herbs also exhibit a bland taste, which
helps drain dampness through diuresis. Sour
taste most often is astringent or consolidates,
while bitter taste dispels heat, purges
the bowels and get rid of dampness by drying
them out. Salty tastes soften hard masses
as well as purge and open the bowels.
 The Meridians
meridians refer to which organs the herb
acts upon. For example, menthol is pungent,
cool and is linked with the lungs and the
liver. Since the lungs is the organ which
protects the body from invasion from cold
and influenza, menthol can help purge coldness
in the lungs and invading heat toxins caused
by hot "wind."
Herbs are provided in tea, powder, pills
When taking herbs, certain foods must be
avoided. The patient will be informed of
what foods to avoid.