The Traditional Chinese Pharmacy is by far the oldest, largest and most complex medical pharmacy in the world containing literally millions of different medicinals. No other culture knows more about herbology than the East. This culture mastered herbology thousands of years before this country was even formed and we are very fortunate here in the United Stated to have access to this medical knowledge. Although it is not known exactly when the first medicinals were created, through artifacts and ancient texts the scholars of the East believe this medical science began approximately 5,000 years ago.
For the first 3,000 years in its history there was an astonishing amount of experimentation performed by many different physicians in many different regions throughout the East. The physicians of this period experimented with just about everything they could get their hands on. Substances ranging from parts of plants to parts of animals and everything in between. By the end of this period, the traditional Chinese pharmacy was for the most part perfected. As far as the last 2,000 years are concerned Traditional Chinese Medicine has virtually remained unchanged.
The Traditional Chinese pharmacy consists of basically 2 components. A single medicinal which means exactly that, one individual substance and a formula which means two or more substances are combined together to create a new medicinal.
There are many different ways a Doctor of Oriental Medicine administers traditional Chinese medicine. Listed below are a few basic examples.
Administering Traditional Chinese medicine externally
- Plasters – Plasters are made by blending different medicinals together to form a salve or paste like material. This is then spread on a cloth or large bandage and placed on the skin.
- Soak compresses – A soak compress is made by blending different medicinals together. They are put into a cloth bag, simmered in a pot of hot water, removed and the hot compress is then placed on the skin.
- Liniments – A liniment is a medical liquid that is rubbed into or spread on the skin.
Administering Traditional Chinese Medicine internally
- Pills, capsules, powers – are the most common way of taking Traditional Chinese Medicine in the United States. There are two types Pre-made Medicinals (they are medicinals that are ordered directly from a pharmacy already made) and Custom Made Medicinals (they are medicinals that a physician will personally make in their own pharmacy.)
- Decoctions – are the most common way of taking Traditional Chinese Medicine in the East. The physician will weigh each medicinal according to the prescription, place in a pot of water and cook for a specific amount of time, strain and the liquid is then taken as prescribed.
- Injections – are one of the few new additions to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Since the invention of the hypodermic needle, Doctors of Oriental Medicine now inject many different Traditional Chinese Medicines. I personally have the rare privilege of being one of the first physicians in the United States to have earned this degree.
Taking an herbal formula just because you went into a store that sells herbs and the person behind the counter said you should take this herb for your medical condition or because the product is (all natural) does not mean in any way it is going to be safe or effective for you. On the contrary this is very dangerous behavior. Herbs are just as potent as Western pharmaceutical drugs and under certain conditions can be just as dangerous if given to a person with the wrong constitution. I see examples of this every week. A new patient will come into my office and say this herb was recommended to me by so and so or I did research on the internet and they said I should take this herb for my medical condition. The problem with this thought process from an Eastern perspective of medicine is that everyone has a different constitution. Maybe a patient has a medical condition that would prevent them from taking a specific herb or maybe a patient is taking a Western pharmaceutical drug that would interact with an herb in a negative way. Here in the State of Florida, Doctors of Oriental Medicine are primary health care physicians who specialize in traditional Chinese pharmacology. They are also required to study Western pharmaceutical drug interactions and thoroughly understand how to combine these two medical sciences in a safe and effective manner. Although Western trained physicians do not study herbal medicine many of my Western trained colleagues here in central Florida refer their patients to me if that patient wants to incorporate herbal medicine into their health care. I also refer patients to my Western trained colleagues when a condition requires Western medical intervention. As a physician, I believe good communication between both Eastern and Western medical practitioners is an essential factor in creating a great heath care plan for each patient.