The Rational Basis and Advantages for Using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Herbal Formulations
The herbal formulations developed by many cultures throughout the world demonstrate powerful properties in restoring human health, safely and effectively. Every culture knows how to utilize the natural botanical resources for food, building and medicines. With the advance of science, research has proven that medicines derived from nature are valuable resources in promoting the body’s innate ability to overcome illness and to regain health. Herbal medicinal traditions, by influencing the multiple systems in the body, address the issues of imbalances and disharmonies. Imbalances and disharmonies may cause the body to depart from a state of wellness and equilibrium.
Recent research has also validated that the phytocompounds in herbs, when correctly administered, will have remarkable abilities to interact with the enzyme systems, biochemical pathways, DNA, and numerous organ systems. Working in a synchronized manner, TCM can restore health and foster wellness. When multiple plants are used medicinally, the effectiveness of physiological actions is often enhanced, with improved safety and reduced toxicity.
Revolutionary changes are taking place in western civilization, with growing acceptance of herbal formulas by the scientific society. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a favorable research study on the highly effective results of a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) formula for irritable bowel syndrome (TBS), a disorder often unresponsive to standard treatment protocols. A British study also showed exemplary results with a TCM formula for eczema, another obstinate condition. The cold and influenza formula, Yin Qiao, long since the Chinese mainstay for cold and flu treatment, is rapidly being recognized for its effectiveness.
China, India and Japan are old civilizations. Their healing practitioners were able to develop medicinal formulas for virtually every conceivable illness or lack of wellness. Through its long history, the undeterred practice of TCM makes possible the perfection of many herbal healing formulas through extensive clinical studies. Valuable information was also passed on from one generation to another. Gradually, a comprehensive compendium of knowledge in the form of formularies and materia medicas emerged that allowed herbal medicinal formulas to be compounded and utilized with a high degree of precision.
The use of more than one herb is based on the premise that health is determined by the optimum functioning of many organ systems and their cell physiology. One herb in a menopause formula, may help to alleviate hot flashes by modulating eicosand synthesis; yet a second herb may help to ease headaches and fatigue; a third herb may help to strengthen the bone mass; a fourth herb may help to modify the endocrine system by stimulating an increased output of hormones that are declining; while the fifth herb may help to supply phytoestrogens that have weak estrogen activity.
The preparation of traditional medicines usually involves brewing the herb plant materials in hot water for a specified amount of time. This preliminary form of extraction works very well to leach most of the therapeutic constituents into the water. Occasionally, certain plant material(s) require “processing” before use such as: being soaked in vinegar, wine, or honey. Frying in tallow, baking, and drying in the sun are, at times, also required. In combining herbs that contain numerous phytocompounds of varying degrees of polar and non-polar solubilities, a process of co-solubilization occurs. The more soluble compounds, which possess some degree of non-polar characteristics, help to dissolve the more difficult liposoluble compounds. Lecithin, a ubiquitous phospholipid in plants, is a good example of an emulsifying compound that helps bring liposoluble (fat soluble) constituents into solution.
The problem with many modern extraction methods is that they tend to follow too closely the pharmaceutical industry model of zeroing in on one specific compound or fraction. As such some of the other constituents may not be extracted. In recent years it has become evident that much of the therapeutic activity of plants is related to the polysaccharide constituents, which have a myriad of molecular combinations. These molecular combinations influence such diverse biological functions like the immune system, oxidative phophorylation (cellular energy production), antioxidant cell protection and possibly many other functions. Ethanolic or other solvents commonly used, cannot extract or dissolve polysaccharides.
ANC has focused on using these critical aspects of botanical medicine and extraction technology to create therapeutically active wellness products from traditional herbal formulas that have been formulated by scientists with pharmacognosy expertise in both traditional Chinese medicine and modern phytotherapy. ANC has a strong support team, comprising prestigious medical doctors, biochemists and research scientists who guide the formulation process. These scientists have immaculate backgrounds on herbal safety. They are fully aware of the importance of not using the wrong herb, which may contain toxins such as aristolochic acid.
In addition, ANC’s formulas are produced by the traditional hot water decoction method in a closed system. This will ensure capturing most of the vital herbal constituents, thus yielding a full spectrum of phytocompounds and biological activity. With technological advancements, herbal formula products are becoming more dispensable. The emerging trend for using herbal formulas has a tremendous market growth internationally. It requires continuous education of the public for its applications and benefits, and continuous scientific research for its efficacy.
Just how does formulation in Traditional Chinese Medicine work?
TCM works under the doctrine that its formulation is represented by the “Four Responsible Roles”. Herbs, working in combination, all play a role to ensure the formulation will meet the patient’s needs in a precise manner.
The principal herb in the formula, known as the “King” or “Emperor” herb, is aimed at the root cause of the ailment or symptom and is usually the most potent herb in the formula. A “Minister” herb is added, whose role is to assist, complement, and potentiate the “King” herb, bringing about a broader efficacy. ”Assistant” herbs are also added, specifically with the purpose to counteract any toxins or potentially negative side effects of either the “King” or “Minister” herb. Finally, “Servant” herbs are also added to harmonize and balance the formulation, to promote absorption, and to prolong the effectiveness of the formula.
Each herb in a formula must be added in specific proportions to ensure that the formula is properly balanced, with optimal benefits and the least side effects.