Among the many alternative forms of medicine gaining popularity in the Western world, Chinese medicine is by far the fastest growing one. The theory behind this century old practice rests on the utter interconnectivity of mind and body.
Opposing the New Age view that illness begins in the mind, to the practitioner of Chinese medicine there is little sense in separating mind from body, and as a matter of fact, according to the Chinese understanding of the perfect harmony that exists between the two, it is impossible to divide them!
Thus, when practitioners seek to address a symptom, the focus is directed on the area of the body that is sought to be affected. This may be done by fire cupping, acupuncture, acupressure, massage, and other physical manipulations of the body.
Added to this approach is a revamping of the patients diet to supplement the physical manipulation. Meditation makes for another important aspect in this equation and it is the wise patient who will not neglect the latter while practicing the former two. Last but not least is the supplementation with herbs.
The proper preparation of herbs used in Chinese medicine is clearly defined and little room for interpretation is left. Since these herbs may be ingested or applied to the skin eternally, it is vital that only high quality specimens are used. Many commonly used herbs are currently being commercially cultivated, ensuring a harvest of healthy plants, but in some cases the use of herbicides and pesticides will diminish the medicinal quality of the herbs. It is wise to only purchase herbs which have been grown organically and also processed in a facility that employed organic methods.
Furthermore, it is vital that only the indicated portions of the plant are being used. Scrupulous manufacturers have taken to adding stems to preparations even if only the leaves were called for. Since this is the kind of business where reputation is everything, you will be wise to seek advice of a reputable therapist to find out whose herbs you can trust.
The herbs are being processed in a variety of ways, depending on the desired effect. Some are boiled while others are baked, several are dried while others are ground with mortar and pestle while fresh. There is no end to the variations of preparation and when following a specific recipe the processing directions must be followed meticulously. When you visit a trusted purveyor of herbal remedies, you will oftentimes find them for internal use in big, yellow pill form. These pills are squishy to the touch. This indicates that the herb has been mixed with honey.
For the herbs which are to be applied to the outside of the body, you will find that the mixes are prepared with an oil base; while Westerners are fond of olive oil, it is interesting to note that Chinese herbalists prefer sesame oil. If you mix your own, it is a good idea to follow the suggestion of the recipe. One word of warning: do not substitute mineral oil for an organic compound, such as sesame oil. The results will not be the same and you may actually seriously compromise the healing power of the herb.