Chinese Herbal Medicine and Functional Medicine Edmonton

Woman laying facedown on massage table with 4 cupping cups across the top of her back

For many people, the term “Chinese medicine” brings to mind either a mild cup of ginseng tea or an array of costly exotic concoctions that have little or no relevance in modern medicine. In actual fact, the concepts of Western medicine and functional medicine often go hand-in-hand, complementing one another in both diagnosis and treatment. Likewise, Chinese herbal medicine, when allied with both Western and Chinese concepts, can play a key role in maintaining health and wellness.

History of Chinese Herbal Medicine

Chinese herbal medicine dates back to approximately 3,000 years ago when Zhou Dynasty physicians listed dozens of herbs as beneficial to diet and healing. Centuries before the practice of chemical synthesis, Chinese practitioners were compounding herbs to treat everything from bowel trouble to chronic disease. Thanks to these ancient Chinese pharmacologists, more than 100,000 herbal medicinal preparations were recorded by the beginning of the 20th century.

How Does Chinese Herbal Medicine Work?

Today, Chinese herbal treatments typically come in easy-to-digest powders, capsules, liquid extracts, or tea preparations. These are blended into a custom formula for each patient. The approach is simple: to first identify the patterns of illness in each person, and then to synch, balance, and, when necessary, correct those patterns. For example, someone who needs stress relief might be prescribed an herb that’s known for regulating moods. Likewise, someone suffering from hot flashes might be given a cooling herb, like peppermint.

Experienced herbalists dispense Chinese herbs for a variety of conditions — including autoimmune disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, digestion problems, cardiovascular health, chronic fatigue, menstrual problems, endometriosis pain, menopause, infertility, digestion problems, allergies, neurological problems, emotional and psychological problems, men’s health issues, skin conditions, pain, PTSD, and side effects caused by chemotherapy.

Benefits and Effectiveness of Chinese Herbal Treatments

During the last 25 years, an impressive number of international studies have established that Chinese herbal treatments are proving to be beneficial for their patients. As a result, the Western medical community is increasingly utilizing Chinese herbal treatments in standard medical practice.

Is Chinese Herbal Medicine Safe?

Experts agree that Chinese herbal medicine is safe, as long as you’re getting your herbs — and your treatment — from an experienced practitioner.

As with any drug therapy, some people may be allergic to certain components in these preparations. Also, some elements may interact with certain drugs that patients are already taking. And as with any drug therapy, it’s crucial to only use herbal products from reputable manufacturers with high safety standards.

It’s also imperative to use a licensed, expert practitioner who is knowledgeable about Chinese herbs, their benefits, and their potential side effects. A qualified herbalist will not only discuss these issues but will also insist on seeing and monitoring patients regularly. In addition, it’s important to discuss these treatment options with your regular health care provider, who can help you decide if they’re right for you.

What to Expect From Chinese Herbal Medicine

As with any treatment, the success of your treatment will depend upon a number of variables, including your condition and your overall health. Your practitioner will explain how much you can expect to benefit from your prescribed treatment regimen.

What Is Functional Medicine?

As with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), functional medicine emphasizes the importance of discovering the root of disease, rather than just treating symptoms. However, unlike TCM, functional medicine utilizes more of the knowledge learned from scientific research and Western medicine.

Functional medicine uses several of the same treatments found in TCM — treatments such as acupuncture, tai chi, cupping, and herbal medicine. However, functional medicine also uses Western-influenced treatments such as hormone replacement therapy. Other treatments include muscle and soft tissue massage, exercise, nutritional regimens, and nutraceuticals, which are food-derived therapies with specific health benefits.

How Does Functional Medicine Relate to Chinese Herbal Medicine?

In functional medicine, Chinese herbal medicine can be used as a valuable tool in maintaining health and wellness. For example, after using both Western and Chinese diagnostic procedures, a functional medicine practitioner might prescribe a regimen of traditional therapies and supplements, along with a combination of Chinese herbal remedies.

Who Can Benefit From Functional Medicine?

Because it’s based on modern scientific research as well as thousands of years of practice, anyone can benefit from an integrated functional medicine approach in their overall wellness program. For specific conditions, however, it’s important to consult a licensed functional medicine practitioner in addition to your regular doctor.

What Can You Expect From Functional Medicine?

As with any type of treatment, there are never any guarantees, but functional medicine has an advantage in that it combines the best, most scientific elements of both Western and traditional Chinese practices. While it’s rooted in the wisdom of Chinese medicine and pharmacology, it’s also rooted just as firmly in modern scientific research.

In recent years, thanks to extensive clinical research and studies, the global medical community has recognized the benefits of implementing functional medicine, as well as Chinese herbal treatments, into standard Western medical practice. Toward that end, in 2018 the World Health Organization (WHO) included Chinese traditional medicine in the 11th issue of its prestigious global medical compendium, which documents thousands of diseases and their treatments.

If you’re interested in following an integrative health program, both functional medicine and Chinese herbal medicine can be a pivotal part of your wellness regimen. Be sure to contact us to find out more about how you can benefit from an integrative program of functional medicine and Chinese herbal treatments.