Seven Treasures Healing Arts
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Chinese Herbs
Herbal Nomenclature, Classifications and Characteristics

Herbs are named according to their shape, color, smell, taste, geographic location, plant life cycle, specific parts (flower, root, stem etc.), type of material (plant, animal product, mineral), country of origin, and/or the person who discovered them.

These substances are organized according to specific classes based on their action, source, therapeutic function and the internal organs that they affect.

Characteristics include thermal property (hot, cold, neutral, etc.), direction (affinity of the herb for going upward, downward, inward or outward), channel affiliations and toxicity. It is important to note that out of over 7,000 species of medicinal plants in China, not more than 10 species are toxic. Very specific processing has been designed to eliminate or decrease toxicity of these substances.

Another important characteristic of herbs is the relationship of taste and function:
  • acrid: release the exterior, disperse outward, move qi and blood
  • sweet: tonify deficiencies, harmonize herbs
  • sour: stabilize and bind, reduce and prevent loss of body fluids
  • bitter: remove heat, purge fire, drain downward, dry dampness
  • salty: purge excess, soften hardness, facilitate entrance to the Kidneys
  • bland: promote urination
  • astringent: stabilize and bind, reduce and prevent the loss of body fluids
A Long History of Use

Chinese herbal medicine is a system of medicine based on a long history of empiracle observation and centuries of clinical trial and error. 

Some of the earliest written documents on Chinese herbal medicine, dated about 1066 BC, list botanical and animal medicine substances, give case studies and focus on various topics, such as toxicity.

One of the most famous herbal texts, The Shang Han Lun (Treatise on Cold Injury), a medical treatise by Zhang Zhongjing,  was published sometime before 220 A.D. It is the oldest complete clinical textbook in the world, and one of the four most important  medical classics that TCM students study.

The Shang Han Lun has 397 sections with 112 herbal prescriptions, organized into six divisions. Many of its formulas are still in use today.

Herbal Forms

Herbs are prescribed in four forms for internal use as well as topical ointments for external use.
  • raw formulas which must be soaked and decocted into a tea
  • powdered singles or formulas that have decocted and dehydrated, they are dissolved into warm water efore drinking
  • pills/tablets which are pre-made formulas
  • tinctures which are formulas decocted from fresh herbs and then preserved in alcohol; a few drops are added to water
  • ointments are applied to the skin

Golden Flower Chinese Herbs

Kan Herbal Tinctures, left
Great Wall Brand and Camelia Brand, center
Plum Flower Brand, right

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