Chinese Medicine and Proven Herbal Supplements

Chinese Medicine and Proven Herbal Supplements

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Chinese medicine and herbal supplements have been studied and practiced for at least 23 centuries.

China actually has one of the oldest medical systems in existence, with a rich oral and written tradition.

There's a lot to be learned from understanding how systems of traditional medicine were able to discover effective natural medicines thousands of years ago without modern science or technology.

Chinese medicine is heavily influenced by traditional Chinese philosophy

The concept of qi or life energy, as well as yin and yang, are important aspects of Chinese medicine. 

Esoteric understandings of spiritual energy and the human body are intertwined with more grounded and physiological concepts in Chinese medicine. 

For example, in Chinese medicine, the body’s qi is part of a myriad network of organs, nerves, veins, tissue, and even the mind itself. 

How these invisible networks in the body react to certain stimuli or events is a part of the system. 

This is seen directly in acupuncture, where the 12 major meridians or energy points are each connected with a major organ, and stimulating them can create a specific effect or outcome.

In Chinese herbal therapy, it’s not only the chemical or physical properties of an herb that are taken into consideration but energetic signatures and vibrations, that can be used to correspond with or trigger the body’s own energetic vibration. 

Chinese medicine is a living practice that has evolved over time and has absorbed concepts and influences from Chinese shamanism, to Taoism, to Confucianism over the years.

The traditions span from a time before written language even began in China (13th century BCE) all the way to modern-day.

The basis of Chinese herbal medicine is reflective of traditional Chinese philosophy and how energy and balance are perceived.

The fathers of Chinese medicine


The original father of Chinese medicine is said to be the mythological Chinese king Shennong from the 28th century BCE. Legend has it his mother was a princess and his father was a dragon from the heavens.

However one of Chinese medicine’s other mythical forefathers and pioneers is the Yellow Emperor, who the Huangdi neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic) is ascribed to.

The Huangdi neijing, also known as the Nei Ching, is the earliest written record on Chinese medicine and one of the primary sources of traditional Chinese medicine knowledge. 

It’s said that the Yellow Emperor created acupuncture and the works of the Nei Ching describe practices for using acupuncture to balance yin and yang energy in the body. 

Many of these acupuncture practices are still in use to this very day.

And lastly, another one of the most famous literary works on Chinese medicine, the Bencao Gangmu (Compendium of Materia Medica) was published by Li Shizhen in 1578.

Li Shizhen was an esteemed acupuncturist, herbalist, pharmacologist, and medical scholar who compiled his life work into the Bencao Gangmu, which listed over 1800 drugs and over 11,000 prescriptions for specific sicknesses. 

His text is a world-famous, comprehensive and highly detailed encyclopedia of natural medicine.

How Chinese medicine differs from western medicine

Chinese medicine takes a more holistic health approach than western medicine. 

From diagnosing sickness to prescribing cures, Chinese medicine looks at the comprehensive picture while western medicine tends to look at specific symptoms and cures.

For example, in Chinese medicine, there’s significant thought given to physical ailments, mental distress, and even spiritual ailments.

Herbs in Chinese medicine are considered for their overall effects and it’s understood that they work synergistically.

Western medicine is more concerned with isolating specific illnesses and prescribing the correct medicine to counteract it.

Chinese medicine certainly has a less concrete aspect to it and its detractors might say too much of it isn’t scientifically proven or relies on pseudo-science.

Chinese Medicine Herbal Categories


Superior herbs: Superior, or kingly, herbs are believed to be nontoxic and able to be taken in significant amounts for extended time periods.

Ministerial herbs: Ministerial, or common, herbs are stronger-acting and can produce adverse effects in overly high dosages.

Assistant herbs: Assistant, or inferior, herbs can be toxic and should be taken in small amounts for short periods of time.

Superior herbs like ashwagandha support 1 or more of the 3 Treasures:

  • Qi (Kinetic Energy)
  • Jing (Essence/Vital Force)
  • Shen (Spirit/Consciousness)

You have to remember that Chinese medicine is interested in health from a holistic perspective and is concerned with harmony and balance.

This includes harmony between physical, energetic, and spiritual states.

Traditional medicine looks at the internal state as being just as important, if not more important than outer signs of health. 

It’s understood that symptoms that can be observed outwardly can have inward causes.

5 Categories of Superior Herbs

1. Qi tonics: Herbs that increase the body’s energy production and are used to treat a loss or reduction of qi. (Examples include Asian ginseng, dang shen, eleuthero, ginseng, licorice, and prince seng.)

2. Blood tonics: Herbs that nourish the blood and are considered especially useful for women. (Examples include Asian ginseng, cordyceps, reishi, and schisandra.)

3. Jing tonics: Herbs that help to strengthen or conserve the vital force. (Examples include Asian ginseng, cordyceps, reishi, and schisandra.)

4. Yin tonics: Herbs that nourish the fluids of the body, relieve dryness, and strengthen the lungs, skin, stomach, and bowel. (Examples include American ginseng, prince seng, lycium, and shatavari.)

5. Yang tonics: Herbs that strengthen yang. They are specially used for deficient kidney conditions and influence reproductive and adrenal function. (Examples include ashwagandha, cordyceps, epimedium, and morinda root.)


So were Chinese herbalists actually onto something?

It’s been confirmed by modern research that many of the ancient Chinese superior herbs are what we now call adaptogens.

Adaptogenic herbs help the body to adapt to stress, support normal metabolic functions, and help restore balance. 

Adaptogens by definition are:

  • Nontoxic
  • Produce a nonspecific defensive response to stress
  • Have a normalizing influence on the body

To put it simply, adaptogens bolster the body’s ability to deal with stress, and they do it in multiple ways.

This is why herbs like our Zen Medicinal ashwagandha are so popular even in modern times, because of their ability to help improve stress response, reduce anxiety, lower cortisol levels, and improve overall mood. 

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1 comment

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