A Simple Overview of the TCM Materica Medica
One of the major modalities of TCM is the employment of the Chinese Materica Medical for the treatment of disorders. The idea that only plants (herbs) are used is incorrect. Not only the various parts of plants are used, but virtually anything that one can find in the our environment is used in the treatment of patient disorders, be it vegetable, mineral, or animal. For the sake of this discussion, all categories will be referred to as an herb.
Initially the methods of application were medicinal teas, poultices, and liniments; with the eventual addition of tablets or tea pills. In modern TCM practice we use of all of the above.
Herbs are either used singularly, or in formulas. The use of the herbs depends upon their properties of the herbs as viewed by TCM and the individual patient needs. Examples of herbal usage are as follows: what organ or meridian do they enter, the medicinal temperature of the herb (e.g. hot, warm, neutral, cool, cold), the taste of the herb (e.g. sweet, sour, etc), the action of the herb, how does it interact with other herbs.
Modern formulas may be either raw, appearing as bag of leaves, twigs, bark, and possibly insects to be made into a tea, or are mass manufactured in modern factories, and can be tea pills, tablets, decoctions, liniments, or poultices.
The Traditional Chinese Materica Medica initially included indigenous Chinese herbs, eventually items from other areas of the world were introduced as trade flourished. It is interesting to note that a plant grown in one part of the world will differ in medicinal properties from that same plant grown in another part of the world. This is due to soil and climate conditions. A modern example of this principle is that American ginseng has different medicinal properties than Korean ginseng or Chinese ginseng, and Korean ginseng again differs from Chinese ginseng.
In America, the items in the Chinese Materica Medica are considered to be herbal in nature and as such regulated as a food supplement. The regulation of TCM herbs varies from state to state as to what types of activities are within the scope and range of practice the practitioners of TCM.
Any discussion of herbs should include the concept that the original sources of modern pharmaceutical medicines were basically herbal in nature, and in many instances still are herbal in nature. As such when taking "food supplements" or herbs, one should always consider the medicinal properties of the herbs, and how they will interact with modern pharmaceutical medicines or with each other.
At this clinic, we mainly employ the use of commercially prepared formulas or single herbs as they are both medically effective and more economically efficient for both the patient and the practice.
Anyone interest in the Chinese Materica Medica can find a large number of texts on the subject by performing a search at Amazon. It is an extremely interesting subject for study, and one that is almost boundless in depth and breadth.