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Issue 4: Chinese Pharmacology

Welcome back to our series on the fundamentals of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In this issue, we will delve into Chinese pharmacology, a discipline that studies the origins, classifications, preparation methods, and therapeutic applications of Chinese herbal medicine. Chinese pharmacology is a crucial component of TCM, aimed at regulating the body's balance to prevent and treat diseases.

1. Classifications and Characteristics of Chinese Herbs Chinese herbs are derived from a wide range of sources, including plants, animals, and minerals. Based on their properties and effects, Chinese herbs can be classified into the following categories:

  • Plant-Based Herbs: Examples include ginseng, astragalus, and angelica. These herbs are primarily sourced from various parts of plants such as roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits.

  • Animal-Based Herbs: Examples include deer antler, gecko, and seahorse. These herbs are mainly derived from animal organs, skin, bones, and blood.

  • Mineral-Based Herbs: Examples include sulfur, cinnabar, and magnetite. These herbs are sourced from natural minerals.

The properties of Chinese herbs include four natures (cold, hot, warm, cool), five flavors (sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, salty), and meridian tropism (the specific meridians the herbs act upon). These characteristics determine the therapeutic effects and applications of the herbs.

2. Preparation Methods and Formulation Principles The preparation of Chinese herbs involves various methods, including:

  • Processing: Techniques such as frying, roasting, steaming, and boiling are used to enhance the therapeutic effects of the herbs or reduce their toxicity.

  • Decoction: Herbs are boiled in water to extract their active ingredients into a decoction, making it easier to consume.

  • Soaking: Herbs are soaked in liquids like alcohol or vinegar to extract their active components, resulting in medicinal wines or vinegars.

Formulas, known as prescriptions, combine multiple herbs in specific proportions. Common forms include decoctions, powders, and pills. The formulation principles follow the concept of Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi, where the main herb (Jun) is complemented by supporting herbs (Chen, Zuo, Shi) to achieve the best therapeutic effect.

3. Modern Applications and Research in Chinese Pharmacology With the advancement of science and technology, the application and research of Chinese herbs in modern medicine have made significant progress:

  • Modern Applications: Chinese herbs are widely used to treat various diseases such as colds, digestive disorders, and cardiovascular diseases. In TCM treatments, Chinese herbs are often combined with acupuncture, massage, and other therapies.

  • Scientific Research: Modern scientific research has uncovered many active ingredients and mechanisms of Chinese herbs, providing a scientific basis for their applications. For instance, ginseng has been proven to enhance immunity and combat fatigue.

Conclusion By understanding the basic knowledge and modern applications of Chinese herbs, we can better comprehend how TCM uses herbs to regulate the body's balance and achieve disease prevention and treatment. In the next issue, we will explore case studies and daily applications of TCM, showcasing the practical applications of TCM theories in everyday life.

We look forward to your continued interest and feedback as we delve deeper into the wisdom of TCM.

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