Modern Herbology Part 2 of 4

The Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) Theory


With a history of 2000 to 3000 years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has formed a unique system to diagnose and cure illness. The TCM approach is fundamentally different from that of Western medicine. In TCM, the understanding of the human body is based on the holistic understanding of the universe as described in Daoism, and the treatment of illness is based primarily on the diagnosis and differentiation of syndromes. (1)  TCM is still one of the most prominent medical systems on the earth.  This theory has survived serious scientific scrutiny.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory aka TCM, is the basis of chinese medicine which involves the flow of energy called “Qi” that is pronounced as “Chee”.  It is believed that this nutrient energy is the basic substance of the universe.  We are born with a certain amount of Qi ( prenatal Qi) and we acquire more Qi (postnatal) from food, medicines and air.  The qi flows in the body via streams and rivers known as acupuncture meridians.  Disease is a direct result of blockages, imbalances along with excesses that influence these meridians. Qi is divided into both ying and yang, such as: day/night, & cold/hot.

The body is symbolized by five elements in classical Chinese medicine which are : wood, fire, earth, metal and water.

The job of the practitioner is to match the positive Qi patterns with the problem Qi of the person and to always maintain balance.

Treating disease


The use of acupuncture is utilized by stimulating certain points of the body surface reached by meridians through needling or moxibustion, the flow of qi and blood can be regulated and diseases are thus treated. These stimulation points are called acupuncture points, or acupoints. (1)

Herbal Therapy

 The Chinese pharmacopoeia lists over 6,000 different medicinal substances in terms of their properties and the disharmonies that they were helpful with. There are about 600 different herbs in common use today. (1)

In other forms of herbal medicine, especially western herbal medicine, herbs are often delivered singly or combined into very small formulas of herbs with the same function. In contrast, Chinese herbalists rarely prescribe a single herb to treat a condition. They create specific formulas that contain as little as four herbs, up to twenty herbs or more.

Decoction is the traditional method of preparing herbal medicine. A decoction is a concentrated form of tea. The practitioner weighs out a day’s dosage of each herb and combines them in a bag. A patient is given a bag for each day the herbal formula will be taken. The herbs are then boiled in water by the patient at home. The boiling process takes from 30-60 minutes and the resulting decoction will be consumed several times during the day. (1)


The Unani Theory

  Unani medicine as the name suggests, originated in greece or unan. It was the greek philosopher-physician Hippocrates (460-377BC) who freed medicine from the realm of superstition and magic and gave the status of science. The theorectical frame work of unani medicine is based on the teachings of Hippocrates. He believed that whenever and where ever possible medicine should be gentle and safe. This is the main objective of unani medicine. After Hippocrates, a number of Greek scholars enriched the system and it imbibed the best from contemporary system of medicine in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Persia, India, china and other Middle east and far East countries. Thats why the system is known in different parts of the world by different names, like Greco-Arab medicine, Ionian medicine, Arab or Islamic medicine, Oriental medicine and so on. (2)

Unani is used by the Arabic, Persian and Muslim cultures.  Treatment includes evaluation of symptom groups to determine temperaments ( mizaj).  Imbalances in these temperaments are caused by work stresses, interpersonal relationships, along with rest and activity patterns.

The practitioner (Hakim) a “wise man” or “physician”, or in general, a practitioner of herbal medicine especially of unani medicine. The Hakim matches the person’s imbalances to certain herbs which in turn aids the temperament back to a more centred state.

Each of the four elements has its own special qualities: earth is cold and dry; water is cold and moist; fire is hot and dry; air is hot and moist. The
resultant quality of the uniform body is called its mizaj. The temperament of a substance may be a mizaj-e-mutadil (balanced one) or a mizaj-e-ghair-mutadil (imbalanced one). (2)

The regimental therapy includes procedures that include: cupping, Turkish bath, massage, and exercise. These therapies involves working on specific body reflexes, most commonly by massage. In situations where arthrities and back pain are present, the application of cold, heat or suction cups is also done.  Dietotherapy involves administration of specific diets or regulation of quantity and quality of food. The  Unani system, single drugs or their combinations in raw form are preferred over compound formulations.

Generally, the Hakim will not prescribe the strongest drug at the beginning of the treatment.  A drug is selected according to the degree of variation from the normal healthy condition and observes the effect produced by the treatment.