Understanding Herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine

There are tens of thousands of herbs recorded in Traditional Chinese Medicine books!

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an alternative treatment that originated from China thousands of years ago. This ancient health system focuses on not only treating a disease or symptom but it looks into your overall health and wellness. 

TCM looks into the balance and harmony of your entire body. The demand for these alternative treatment methods started to peak in recent years especially since some of its practices are now recognised in the Western world too especially treatments like acupuncture, cupping and exercise like Tai Chi. 

Another important area of TCM is traditional herbs. The benefits of these herbs as well as its herbal formulas have been recorded since the beginning of TCM. Meaning to say that, its benefits have been enjoyed by many since thousands of years back! 

However, the efficacy of some of these herbs have been in question especially with the lack of scientific medical evidence. Though, over the years, there are some that have undergone

scientific research to confirm its health benefits.

TCM as an alternative treatment may not be for everyone but this does not mean that it does not have its own set of benefits. For one, studies have found a positive relation in herbs used in TCM that can help with arthritis and trouble with sleeping.

One unique element about TCM herbs is that, besides using it to manage one’s health, it can also be included in your daily meals to maintain your health. Discover some of the common herbs used in TCM as well as its list of possible benefits.

The A-B-C of Chinese Herbs

From common herbs like ginseng and ginger to less commonly known herbs like Astragalus,

we would like to introduce to you a list of natural herbs commonly used in TCM.

#1 Ginseng

A type of root, ginseng is one of the most popular herbal remedies that’s recognised in the Asian and Western world. There are many types of ginseng available in the market with the two most popular being American and Asian ginseng.

Each type of ginseng has its own unique active compound. For example, between Asian and American ginseng, the former is found to have invigorating properties whereas the latter is helpful as a relaxing agent.

Some of the health benefits found in ginseng include to reduce inflammation, a health benefit found in a study on Korean ginseng and it may help to increase energy levels

as well as fight tiredness.

#2 Gingko biloba

A type of flora native to China, Gingko Biloba is an ancient tree with many scientifically  recognised health benefits. Both its leaves and seeds are used in TCM. Though mainly its extract which is derived from its leaves have been used for scientific research. 

Several scientific research have found Gingko Biloba to contain powerful antioxidants that is able to fight and neutralise free radicals. Though, Gingko Biloba must still be consumed with caution as it could have adverse effects towards certain diseases.

On top of that, other health benefits that have proven to be beneficial include improved blood circulation and heart health as well as cognitive function.

#3 Wolfberry

Also known as goji berries or gou qi, the wolfberry is a popular fruit found in many nutritious Chinese cuisines. Its natural sweetness makes it a popular ingredient especially in herbal Chinese soups.

The Chinese Wolfberry is rich in vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, vitamin A and zeaxanthin. Its health benefits include preserving skin and eye health. A 2011 study found that older adults who consumed Chinese wolfberry supplements had less hypopigmentation or yellow deposits in their eyes after 90 days.

Although the benefits of Chinese Wolfberry can be enjoyed by the young and old, if you’re consuming blood thinners, it’s best to consult your doctor before consuming any form of wolfberry as it could interact with blood thinning medications. 

#4 Dang gui

Scientifically known as Angelica sinensis, the Dang Gui herb is a root that is often dried and used for medicinal purposes not only in TCM but also in traditional medicine in Japanese and Korean traditional medicine.

Dang Gui has a unique fragrance that not everyone may appreciate and for those who are sensitive towards its scent, you may be able to identify the use of this herb in your food, without even spotting the root.

Dang Gui is found to be beneficial especially among women as it is believed to help ‘enrich’ their blood. This herb is popular especially for women who are recovering post-pregnancy, menstruating and experiencing menopause. This is also the reason why Dang Gui is also commonly known as the ‘female ginseng’.

#5 Licorice root

The history of the health benefits of licorice root dates back to ancient Egyptian times where it was used as a remedy for all diseases. In China, this herb is one of the most popular herbs in TCM due to its various health benefits.

Science has found that the licorice root can help to soothe symptoms related to the gastrointestinal tract such as heartburn and gastritis. Plus, it has also shown to be beneficial for breast and prostate cancer patients who are undergoing treatment. The efficacy of this herb towards managing some of the side effects of cancer treatment has also made this root a part of some cancer treatment plans.

Many have benefited from the extensive list of Chinese herbs that can improve your health and wellbeing. As these herbs gain more popularity around the world, its becoming widely available in other countries as well and can be found in several forms including in pills, tea, powder, dried and fresh.

Sidebox: A note of precaution

When consuming herbs, although natural, it’s always important to take note of that it may not be suitable for everyone. Do seek advice from a certified TCM practitioner and practice caution especially if you are:

  • In your golden years. 
  • Consuming other medications as it could react and cause adverse effects. 
  • Breastfeeding and pregnant. 
  • Scheduled for a surgical procedure as some herbs could have blood thinning properties.