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Herbology is the art of combining medicinal herbs. Herbology is traditionally one of the more important modalities utilized in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Each herbal medicine prescription is a cocktail of many herbs tailored to the individual patient. One batch of herbs is typically decocted twice over the course of one hour. The practitioner usually designs a remedy using one or two main ingredients that target the illness. Then the practitioner adds many other ingredients to adjust the formula to the patient's Yin Yang conditions.
Sometimes, ingredients are needed to cancel out toxicity or side-effects of the main ingredients. Some herbs require the use of other ingredients as catalyst or else the brew will be ineffective. The latter steps require great experience and knowledge, and make the difference between a good Chinese herbal doctor and an amateur. Unlike western medications, the balance and interaction of all the ingredients are more important than the effect of individual ingredients. A key to success in TCM is the treatment of each patient as an individual.
Chinese herbology often incorporates ingredients from all parts of plants (leaf, stem, flower, root) but also ingredients from animals and minerals. The use of parts of endangered animals has created controversy and resulted in a black market of poachers who hunt restricted animals. Most herbal manufacturers have discontinued the use of any animal parts from endangered animals.
History of Chinese herbology
Chinese herbs have been used for centuries. The first herbalist in Chinese tradition is Shennong, who is said to have tasted hundreds of herbs and imparted his knowledge of medicinal and poisonous plants to the agricultural people. 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, and dates back somewhere during the early Han dynasty. Succeeding generations augmented on this work, but arguably the most important of these was the Compendium of Materia Medica (Bencao Gangmu) compiled during the Ming dynasty by Li Shizhen, which is still used today for consultation and reference.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Herbology"
of Chinese Herbology
West Herb School