As we transition back to our roots as a primarily Traditional Chinese Medicine focused clinic, I am reminded by the fall “cold and flu season” of one of the core healing modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) – Herbal Medicine. Its written history and practice stretches back for over 2,500 years. So I thought I would start off a new series of newsletters speaking about a Chinese herb as relevant to that season, and its functions as we use them in the TCM approach. Since fall is the time of the Metal element and the Lungs, my selection for this issue is Huang Qi – Astragalus.
Before we learn about Chinese Herbs, allow me to introduce our latest addition to the clinic – Chrystal Malapas, BSc, RAc! Chrystal is a Registered Acupuncturist who has additional training in Japanese Acupuncture as well as Facial Acupuncture Rejuvenation. Japanese Acupuncture is ideal for people who have higher sensitivity, as the needles used are much thinner and the techniques are such that most often, one does not feel the needle or Qi sensation. Facial Acupuncture Rejuvenation is a constitutional approach to reducing fine lines, sags and wrinkles in a natural, non-toxic way. Try Facial Acupuncture out for $10 off when you mention this newsletter! For more information on Chrystal’s schedule and services, please visit our website.
A little about Chinese Herbs before we begin to learn about Huang Qi (Astragalus). TCM does not use herbs in the same way that Western and Naturopathic medicine uses them. Western herbalism primarily treats diseases or symptoms, such as headaches, menstrual pain, etc. Chinese herbal medicine when practiced as part of TCM, is based on an individualized diagnosis as well as disease diagnosis. This means that patients receive a custom herbal prescription designed to treat both the symptoms or disease and their individual pattern or root cause. In addition, Western and Naturopathic medicine tends to use 1 or 2 active ingredients extracted from the herb. TCM uses the whole herb which has its own inherent checks and balances, and also when designing a formula, creates balances to the whole formula accordingly to the individual – thus no side effects and continuing the holistic approach. Most of the medicinals in Chinese medicine have very low toxicity compared to common Western drugs. When they are prescribed according to a correct TCM pattern diagnosis, they should have no side effects, only beneficial healing results.
Fall is the time of Metal, which is associated with the Lungs and Large Intestine meridians. The Lungs are one of 3 meridian systems that encompass our complete immunity according to TCM. One of the Lungs main roles is to provide “Wei Qi” immunity, which translated to “Defensive Qi”. As it sounds, it is our first line of defense, or the “front line”. Thus in the fall and spring, when there is a higher amount of viral pathogens that surface in the changing of the seasons, we want our “Wei Qi” to be strong, as well as our core immunity. If Wei Qi is chronically weak, we may see symptoms such as frequent or lingering colds, spontaneous sweating, or shortness of breath.
Huang Qi (Radix Astragali membranaceus) whose common name is Astragalus, has several main actions and indications in Chinese Medicine, one of which is to boost and solidify “Wei Qi”. In addition this herb helps to strengthen one of the other meridian systems that contribute to our core immunity – the Spleen meridian. Huang Qi also strengthens the Yang Qi of the Spleen and Stomach, of which a weakness may manifest in signs and symptoms such as low appetite, fatigue, edema, diarrhea or loose stools.
Many of my patients have received an immunity boosting Chinese herbal tea called Jade Curtain. This tea is based on the classic TCM formula called Yu Ping Fang San – Jade Wind Screen Formula. The functions of this formula is to strengthen your Lungs and your Wei Qi, and by doing that you are strengthening the first line of defense – that defensive wall around you that protects you against pathogens. Imagine a Jade wall surrounding you – this is your Jade Screen or Curtain. Huang Qi is one of the main herbs in the this formula because of its Wei Qi, Lung and Spleen Qi strengthening functions, and is one of the reasons why this tea is so effective in cold and flu times. Whether you are trying to prevent yourself from getting sick, or would like to get well sooner, this formula does the trick in a quick, effective and natural way, no matter what varying type of pathogen that is circulating.
Chinese Herbs are not meant to be used individually or as stand-alone, unlike Western traditions. Herbs used whole are more balanced, however used individually with a person, it may not be balanced for that person. That is why Chinese Herbs are traditionally given as a formula, grouped together with checks and balances, and customized to fit the pattern of that individual person. Everyone has different manifestations of signs and symptoms and varying constitutions, so when we fit things better and are more focussed than general, they work better. With this ability to customize according to TCM principles, Chinese herbal medicine can treat a full range of human illnesses, sick as colds and flus, allergies, gynecological disorders, digestive disorders, degenerative diseases, pain and more. In particular, Chinese herbal medicine is particularly good at promoting the body’s ability to heal and recuperate.
If you wish to seek Chinese Herbal Medicine, be informed that in British Columbia, the practice of Chinese Herbal Medicine is a regulated profession under the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists. A practitioner of Western or Eastern medicine must have the license of R.TCM.H. (Registered TCM Herbalist), R.TCM.P. (Registered TCM Practitioner), or Dr.TCM (Registered Doctor of TCM). Only these 3 types of licences allow the practitioner to practice Chinese Herbal Medicine in BC. At Red Tree Wellness, Sonia F. Tan, R.Ac., R.TCM.P. is licensed for Chinese Herbal Medicine, and also does consultations that only involve herbs should a patient not with to receive acupuncture. Check the website and booking calendar for more information.
Enjoy the harvests of the season and may you have good health and happiness.
Sonia F. Tan
BA, BA(H), DTCM, R.Ac, R.TCM.P.