It is estimated that 25% of all pharmaceutical drugs originate from natural sources such as herbs. In both East and West, herbs were the first medicines available.
In this article a summary of how Chinese herbs and Western drugsdiffer will be presented. The Chinese herbal medicines differ from Western pharmaceuticals in two areas. The first is that many Western drugs are used mainly to treat particular symptoms. A single biologically active compound is used to treat symptoms, such as pain relievers for body aches and decongestants and cough suppressants for a cold. A few drugs that are designed to address underlying problems most often do not restore the body into its optimal functioning state. For example, cholesterol-lowering medications may keep arteries clear, but they do not teach the body to eliminate excess cholesterol on its own. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the focus is on diagnosis and treatment of the underlying imbalances that keep the body in its optimum health. Chinese herbs are used to treat the root causes of the ailments not just the symptoms.The second difference is the medications themselves. When Western medications are used, chemical substances are applied in the natural environment of the body. This may lead to side effects produced due to thepotency of chemicals. For example the estrogen supplements used to treat menopausal symptoms do not provide the same kind of protection from heart disease as the body's own natural estrogen does. The synthetic supplemental form of estrogen has shown to increase the frequency of breast and uterus cancer. Herbs contain natural energetic substances whose essence gently correct underlying deficiencies or removes obstructions. The synergy of these substances produces their potent effects. The active ingredients are buffered by the whole plant and blended with other herbs, reducing their side effects.
Traditionally, Chinese herbs are dispensed as herbal teas, with specific doses drunk daily. Today, herbs are formulated in pill, granulated and tincture forms. It is important to note that any substance capable of producing positive physiological effects is equally capable of creating negative ones. With that being said vitamins, drugs, herbs all need to be taken accordingly as improper usage can lead to unwanted results.The following are two formulas used commonly in TCM. One is used for headaches and the other for Pediatric Otitis Media (ear infection). The TCM approach and Western approach are briefly stated. Corydalin –This is an empirical formula designed to relieve a variety of headaches.Traditional Chinese Medicine approach: Activate Qi (body's energy) andblood circulation, remove Qi and blood stagnation, and relieve pain. Cautions: for acute conditions only; if on anticoagulant or anti-platelet therapies, such as Coumadin (Warfarin), one should use this formula with caution, as there may be a slightly higher risk of bleeding and bruising. Contra indicated: during pregnancy or nursing. Western approach: Use of formulas such as Excedrin and Tylenol which have Acetaminophen as the main active ingredient. Acetaminophen belongs to a class of drugs called analgesics (pain relievers) and antipyretics (fever reducers). The exact mechanism of action of acetaminophen is not known. Acetaminophen relieves pain by elevating the pain threshold, that is, by requiring a greater amount of pain to develop before a person feels it. It reduces fever through its action on the heat-regulating center of the brain. Specifically, it tells the center to lower the body's temperature when the temperature is elevated. Possible side-effects if it's used long term and unmonitored: Liver damage; if mixed with alcohol and on long term may lead to stomach bleeding. Cautions: No to be used long term, particularly if one is on anticoagulant or anti- platelet therapies. Bupleurum and Angelica (liquid formula) by Blue Poppy Herbs. Used for Otitis Media or ear infections. TCM approach: Pediatric ear infections are caused by food stagnation which transforms into heat which then ascends through internal branches of the large intestine channel to steam and fume in region of the ear. Children with this pattern may exhibit the complication of spleen vacuity. Signs/symptoms: pain, fever, restlessness, ear-tugging, but no purulent discharge. Western approach: Otitis media is inflammation of the middle ear. This inflammation often begins with infections that cause sore throats, colds or other respiratory problems, and spreads to the middle ear. These can be caused by viruses or bacteria, and can be acute or chronic. Antibiotics are used as initial means of treatment. Often several courses of antibiotic are used and if positive results are not achieved then other invasive methods will be applied. Note: In TCM antibiotics are known to be cold in character. In children prolonged use of antibiotics often leads to deficiency of Spleen's energy which can lead to other issues such as food allergies or abdominal pain.