The Nature of Herbs in Ayurvedic and Chinese Systems
Today, more than three-quarters of the world’s population still rely on the use of the medical herbs for the primary health care. The food-like qualities of herbs make it easier for the body to organically process and eliminate herbs; while synthetic drugs may have a much longer and often devastating effect on the body. You can read more about synthetic drugs in Are man made supplements really get absorbed?
Despite local differences in terminology the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems base their diagnosis and treatment upon the same approach, which is a holistic, energetic model.
Let’s look closer at the both systems.
The Chinese system:
Herbs are classified upon four categories:
1. Four natures
2. Five flavors
3. Four directions
4. Organs and meridians affected
Herbs are classified as cold, cool, warm and hot. Cold or cool herbs are used for diseases of a hyper-metabolic, hot or yang nature and, conversely, hot or warm herbs for diseases of a hypo-metabolic, cold or yin nature. Many herbs are classified as mild or neutral which means that they may be used either for hot or cold diseases.
The five flavors are sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty. In addition there is a bland taste which usually is classified as mildly sweet. Each of the flavors relates to a general physiological effect.
Four directions are: floating, descending, rising, or sinking. They relate closely to the five flavors and agree with the four seasons: summer is floating, fall is descending, spring is rising, and winter is sinking. Lighter herbs, like leaves and flowers, tend to float and ascend, making them useful for more acute and surface diseases such as cold, flu, and inflammation. Heavier herbs such as barks, seeds and roots descend and sink, and are more effective in treating deeper, more chronic diseases.
Chinese medical system connects herbs and foods with specific organs and meridians by defining their predominant properties.
The Ayurvedic system:
Ayurvedic system is based upon the three doshas and the seven vital tissues of the body (dhatus).
The therapeutics of the Ayurvedic, like the Chinese system, is based upon energy (virya), and taste (rasa). Ayurveda, however, adds two other categories: post digestive effect (vipaka), and special potency (prabhava).
See also: What is A-da; Sweet or bitter; Prakruti-your Ayurvedic constitution; We are what we eat.
There are many herbs used in common by Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. The yin-yang theory of Chinese herbalism and the dosha theory of Ayurveda provide a similarly balanced approach to the understanding of health, disease and treatment. They agree closely, too, in their understanding of herbs and other natural substances like minerals and animal products.
TODAY’S TIP: When an individual constitution, life style and diet is taken into account, cures for most diseases can be effected much more gently simply through the use of mild herbs and foods. A medicine with a mechanical approach has to use stronger methods of treatment, such as drugs, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.