What is Chinese Herbal Medicine ?

Chinese herbal Medicine refers to one of the three main aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the others are Acupuncture and Tuina. Chinese herbs have been used for thousands of years. The first traditionally recognized herbalist is Shénnóng , who is said to have lived around 2800 BC. He allegedly tasted hundreds of herbs and imparted his knowledge of medicinal and poisonous plants to farmers. His Shénnóng Běn Cǎo Jīng (Shennong’s Materia Medica) is considered as the oldest book on Chinese herbal medicine. It classifies 365 species of roots, grass, woods, furs, animals and stones into three categories of herbal medicine.
Every Chinese herb has its unique nature and flavour, and can be used individually or in a formula to regulate the balance of human body. There are four natures and five flavours. The Four Natures are: hot, warm, cool, or cold . Hot and warm herbs are used to treat cold diseases, while cool and cold herbs are used to treat heat diseases. The Five Flavors, sometimes also translated as Five Tastes, are: acrid/pungent, sweet, bitter, sour, and salty. Each of the Five Flavors corresponds to one of the zàng organs, so they can regulate the functions of body. Also each flavor implies certain properties and therapeutic actions of a substance. Saltiness “drains downward and softens hard masses”; sweetness is “supplementing, harmonizing, and moistening”; pungent substances are thought to induce sweat and act on qi and blood; bitterness “drains heat, purges the bowels, and eliminates dampness.
There are roughly 13,000 herbs used in China and over 100,000 medicinal formulas recorded in the ancient literature. Plant elements and extracts are by far the most common elements used. The forms of formula include decoction, pills, powders, etc. Chinese herbs also can be applied externally .