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Yuqiu Guo, .                               Clinic (613) 233-1098

Introduction to

Chinese Herbal




886 Somerset St. West
Ottawa, Ont. K1R 6R7



Introduction. Medicine is the one science most closely linked to the whole of culture. Take an important example. In the last forty years, Western man has lost half his average sperm count while women's incidence of breast cancer skyrocketed. Both problems come partly from plastics leaching estrogen-like sub­stances into water supplies and food (CBC 1994). What you eat on and put your drinks in can kill you, so please stop using plastic. Once wellness just meant having organs that worked painlessly; it now seems far more complicated (Foucault 1989). Chinese medicine holds much promise to help Canadians sur­vive our chemical soup, and to strive for health, well-being and longevity. Few Canadians are well in the Chinese sense of being in balance and harmony, inside and with nature.

China has been refining its medical arts for more than 5,000 years. About 500 years before Christ's birth, arts of applying herbal medical materials (ben cao) gelled into a science. This inspired a new religion and philosophy of life based on striving to maintain one's yin/yang balance amid the ceaseless fluctuation of internal and environmental forces. Since then, our medicine advanced unevenly but continually. We are now experiencing a renaissance of progress, and in the process are gradually convincing skeptical Western scientists.

In 1983, scientific testing proved a 400-year old prescription for hemorrhoids 96% effective. Of some 700 herbal medicines we use, Western health and pharmaceutical scientists have confirmed the curative properties of more than 100 (Reid 1986: 15). Today we are achieving advances, both in and beyond herbology. Having used herbal anesthetics for 1,000 years, in 1958 we discovered how to use acupuncture to replace or re­duce anesthetics in surgery. This greatly speeds up recovery. Similarly, having treated diabetes with herbs for hundreds of years, the Chinese recently developed an electronic instrument that is now revolutionizing diabetes treatment. Results have been stunning. In China, some patients stopped taking insulin shots, and others had significant reversal of previous damage due to poor blood circulation. I just became Canada's first medical practitioner to acquire this device, and will now subject it to an extended scientific medical trial.*

A note on prudence. Good health must be humanity's fore­most value. Only an informed life of moderation permits sus­tained good health. Life is balance during change. The mind and body are one, and form part of the cosmic order, which subjects us to severe haphazard and cyclical stresses such as

the seasons. Nature contains products that can significantly bolster the life experience. Herbs can amplify thinking ability and help clear the inner vision, strengthen the body, reinforce virility and fertility, and extend life itself (Teeguarden 1994:5). Chinese herbs are wholly natural, without any chemical treat­ment. Herbs are safe in that they produce natural effects norm­ally without adverse side-effects. They do produce sometimes dramatic intended effects (see Fu 1992). Lay people often make their ailments worse by using the wrong herbs. Using herbal medicine requires guidance. Some Chinese medical doctors are also herbal pharmacists. Consult a qualified Chinese doctor before using Chinese herbs.

Herbs come as pre-packaged 'patent' medicines, and as individual prescriptions made from bulk herbs — specifically designed to treat your diagnosed illness. The latter are often stronger. Buy no herbs on the basis of price. Expensive does not mean best. Avoid experimenting. Use any medicine only for a good reason. Don't use herbs unless you know what you are doing or have a doctor to prepare your prescription.

Only a Chinese doctor can diagnose your ailment, and then prescribe and prepare Chinese herbal medicines for you as part of your complete therapy.

Buy your Chinese herbal medicines only at clinic phar­macies — from Chinese medical doctors. Make an appointment and get an examination. Discussing your problem with a real doctor helps assure you won't get the wrong medicine. Don't be satisfied merely to see a white lab coat. Ask about the doctor's qualifications. Find a Chinese M.D. with good training and experience in herbal medicine, not surgery or pediatrics. Your ability to buy hvrl-al medicine directly from a genuine Chinese doctor is today Canada's best medical, bargain.

On yin/yang theory. Disharmony, imbalances blockages, we think, are implicated in most disease. When yin and yang become imbalanced, adequate diet is the first need, not herbal medicine. Some Chinese doctors deeply understand nutrition's relationship with medicine (e.g., Lu 1986). Herbs' alone have little nutritional value. Ill patients may take their herbs religiously but ignore nutrition. Proper diet together with herbs can speed recovery. Most foods have medicinal proper­ties. Some may even provide symptomatic relief. For example, grapes aid digestion, but they also sooth breathing and relieve coughs. For bronchitis patients they are excellent medicine.

How do imbalances affect health? The interplay between the complementary but opposing, sometimes polarized, quali­ties of yin and yang produces ceaseless movement and change. Negative and passive, yin is nature's colder, darker, lower, more inner, descending, contracting female force, passive like water. Yang is hotter, lighter, higher, more outer, rising, expanding male force, active like fire. Neither can exist with­out the other. When moving toward excess, each forces the other to recede. Each then changes into its own opposite after reaching some critical level of excess.



The classical symbol shows perfect yin/yang balance. One is strongest where the other tapers off. As small circles show, each contains the other's seed. Restoring the relative balance is a continuing task in your and your Chinese doctor's hands.

Weak patients need to build health with tonic medicine. Where too much ex­ternally caused heat or internal 'fire' (organ system hyperactivity) exists, one must dissipate and expel it. Examples include constipation and conjunctivitis (yin), and inflammation of nose and throat Vang). Herbs can treat weaknesses of yin, yang, qi (vital essence) and blood — alone or in combination. We must suit the remedy to the patient's specific body and personality type, ailments, affected organ systems and disease stage, all within the changing context of environmental im­pacts. A good relative balance in summer would be inappro­priate in winter, when cold yin rules.

Some typical late winter examples. Our bodies normally ad­just automatically to environmental changes. Winter invades our shivering bodies with freezing wind, chilling our hands and feet. Our bodies need extra warm yang energy. Most foods and herbs have relative yin or yang characteristics. In winter we need more warm yang nutrients. Yin reaches its cyclical peak after December 12th. Because yang becomes defi­cient, the body now absorbs warm nutrients at its highest rate. Eat fewer cooling yin foods such as bananas, clams, crabs, cucumbers, grapefruit, lettuce, mung beans, tomatoes and wa­termelons. Enjoy more warm yang foods such as carp, trout, bream and snapper fish, cherries, chestnuts, dates, leeks, onions, peaches, raspberries, rice, shrimp, squash, sunflowers, walnuts and wine. Sprinkle on generous hot sauces of chives, garlic, ginger, mustard and pepper (Lu 1984:18,19,29). These accelerate metabolism up to 25%, and so help keep us warm

Toward winter's end, when our immune systems sag, warm foods may not be enough. Herbs can produce extra heat and strengthen immune systems. The doctor assesses the pati­ent's emotional state and body type, weakness toward heat, damp, cold, dryness, wind, etc. We diagnose how energy im­balances are affecting which organ systems. We weigh such factors as weather and season along with factors unique to the patient's condition and illness stage. We prepare a combination of herbs (seldom just one herb alone) designed to restore the patient's yin/yang balance.



Bodies may overcompensate and become hot. Overworked internal organs may make patients feel heat averse and be­come excessively angry. Their tongue tips may form small splits. Yin strengthening herbs include Bing dong, Solomon's seal (yu zhu), American ginseng (xi yang shen), figwort (yuan sheng), asparagus root (tian dong), etc. More likely one's body will lack yang warmth. Symptoms might include thirst and lack of hunger, dry eyes, blurry vision, dizziness, headaches, or nocturnal sweating. Such patients dislike cold and in winter suffer from chronically cold hands and feet. The immediate problem may be a cold or flu, persistent cough or sore throat, stomach ache or vague chest pain, impotence, lumbago or painful menstruation, etc.

For flagging love-making, we have potent sexual tonics. Since these are yang in nature, they not for everyone. They help one to overcome libido depleting ailments caused by yang deficiency. If used by people with yang excess and/or yin deficiency,. they would further aggravate the yin/yang imbalance. If however you suffer from fear of cold, cold hands and feet, impotence, spermatorrhoea, nocturnal emissions, premature ejaculation, urinal incontinence, lumbago, anemia, rheumatism, constipation or simply sagging labido, they can help enormously. Examples are white-spotted deer antler (lu rong), horny goat weed (yin yang huo) and broomrape (mu cong rong). Other herbs we use to remedy yang deficiency include ginseng, cortex cinnamomi (rou gui), zi he che, and typhonii (bail fuzi).

Some patients have weak yin and yang. They may have achieved a balance, but at too low a level. They can display either yin or yang deficiency symptoms, or both at once. Such people shrink from cold yet have much internal heat. Treat­ment may include turtle shell (gui ban), which is a yin tonic, and deer antler (lu rong), a yang tonic, boiled into a tea.

We may need to strengthen qi or blood or both. Weak qi symptoms may include loose stools and poor appetite. Patients feel tired, weak, listless, reluctant to move. To strengthen qi and increase energy we use si,tch tonics as ginseng, codonopsis (dang sheng), and astragalus (huang qi). Some blood deficien­cy symptoms are dizziness, ringing in the ears, heart palpita­tions, absent-mindedness, in omnia, and in women painful periods. Our blood nourisher include Chinese angelica (dang gui) or rehmannia (shu di huang), etc. Longan fruit (long yan rou) and cuttlefish are blood tonic foods.

Sometimes we recommend cooking the tastier herbs with food. Angelica and asparagus -clots go well with chicken soup. Dried jujube fruit is delicious with duck soup. Needed amounts vary with one's own 'physical state and age. We have very effective patent medicine instant powders such as gan­mao tuire chongji to add to ginger tea for colds and flu. They enlist the sweat glands to help dissipate the infection. Women should normally avoid taking herbs during their periods.

*Since the medical trial requires many diabetic patients, I am offering treatments for a nominal $10 per session.


CBC-TV. 1994. "Sex under Siege" (documentary). Ottawa: CBC Bldg. Box 8478 K1G 3J5.

Foucault, Michel. 1989. "Introduction." Georges Canguilhem. The Normal and the Pathological. New York: Zone Books, 838-611 Broadway, NYC 10012.

Fu, Yang. 1992. Chinese-English Manual of Commonly-used Traditional Chinese Medicines. Beijing: Government of China.

Lu, Henry C. 1984. 'Chinese System of Food Cures: Prevention & Remedies. Toronto: Manda Group, Box 920, Stn. 'U' M8Z 5P9.

Reid, Daniel P. 1986. Chinese Herbal Medicine. Boston: Sham­bhala Pubs., 314 Dartmouth St. 02116.

Teeguarden, Ron. 1994, c. 1984. Chinese Tonic Herbs. Mark-
ham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 195 Allstate Parkway.

Dr. Yuqiu Guo studied advanced Western medicine at Japan's Osaka University. She was forrnerly Chief Doctor at China's famous Harbin Medical University Hospital. Her clinic pro­vides a general family practice, including acupuncture and massage. Her pharmacy offers the region's best selection of Chinese patent medicines and bulk herbs. Clinic (613) 233­1098;

Chinese Medical

Treatment Explained

the Case of Lumbago


In Tone's March issue I presented "A Primer on Chinese Medicine." This is a follow-up, a more 'hands-on' description using the illustrative case of lumbago, a condition that eventually afflicts most people. The Murphy's law of physics says the heavier an object is, the more often you will have to move it. This law's corollary is that things will look just right at the farthest spot from where you first put them. Lumbago results from several causes. Strains are especially common when overworked or underexercised back muscles perform beyond their normal capacity. The muscles contract, go into spasm and become a tight mass of tissue.

Other causes include sticking out (displacement) of a spinal disc, growth of a spur on a vertebra, spinal inflammation, anxiety, stress or even rheumatism. We Chinese say disease may arise due to 'adverse climates.' These are internal or external pathogenic agents of wind, heat, cold, dryness and dampness. Lumbago might result from an invasion of chills and moisture, or of moisture and heat. It may also reflect a functionally weak kidney 'organ network.' Let's look at some of lumbago's common forms..

1. Lumbago caused by kidney weakness

Western lab tests would probably show normal kidney functioning. Chinese medicine though recognizes a sub-clinical functional weakness of the kidney network that causes lumbago. Western doctors would not associate cold extremities, back pain, hearing loss, and fatigue with each other or with the kidney. In Chinese medicine, a weak kidney may mean not only having these symptoms, but also being fearful, stingy, withdrawn and apathetic. The organ networks of Chinese medicine are not equivalent to the anatomical organs. We define organ networks functionally, not structurally. These networks condition emotional and mental functions as well as physiological performance.

Chinese doctors say there is a set of main channels running all through the body. These channels transport life's vital energy or Qi ('chee'). Attached to these main channels are smaller, more superficial collateral channels. They help distribute Qi. If a person has a weak kidney, diseases characterized by chills and damp will more easily invade the waist. Such diseases can block the channels, and thus cause imbalances. The patient's waist will feel weak and soft. The main symptoms other than back pain are a vague and indistinct anguish, a tired spirit, and a sense of lassitude.

Chinese medicine recognizes far more disease states than does Western medicine. Western doctors collapse many separate disease patterns into a single named symptom or disease. Patients with such

symptoms as lassitude and indistinct anguish get little sympathy from Western medicine, and even less actual help. You may come to feel the ailment is a burden you must bear, an idiosyncratic aspect of life making you unwell, but not sick enough for treatment. We think you deserve therapy to cure or greatly ameliorate your ailment.

Chinese medicine treats this problem by tonifying the kidney functioning, invigorating channels, strengthening and regulating the flow of Qi, and removing obstructions to its flow. These steps result in relief from pain and in the other vague symptoms' departure. Here are our main methods:

a. Acupuncture. We make an important distinction between Yin and yang. Yin means literally the shady side of the mountain and Yang the sunny side. Yin is the fundamental polar force that along with Yang organizes the universe. Yin is the constructive component. Yin is more substantial, darker, quieter, more weak, cold and passive, more receptive, more fixed in place, more interior. Yang is the active component. It manifests as form, is lighter, stronger, warmer but less receptive, more moveable, more exterior. Yang includes the body's functional activity and the generation of metabolic heat. In all of nature the ideal is a Yin-Yang balance.

Some people with kidney weakness have a Yin imbalance, too little Yin or too much Yang. Some main acupuncture points for correcting such an imbalance are Shenyu and Zhishi, etc. Other patients display a Yang imbalance. Their main points include Qihai and Weizong. Acupuncture directly inhibits pain and directly affects peripheral micro-circulation. It adjusts the organism's physical processes. This it does by activating and strengthening the nervous system's homeostatic or self-regulating function. Acupuncture boosts circulation by increasing the blood flow and widening the blood vessels.

b. Chinese Herbal Medicine. Herbal medicine is equally important. The main prescription here is for Lian soup. It contains Dioscorea Hypoglauca (Beixie), Chaenomeles Lagenaria (Chinese quince or Mugua), Achyranthes Bidentata (Niuxi), Eucommia (Duzhong), Dipsacus Asper (Teasel or Xuduan) and Puguzhi. This soup builds up one's kidney functioning and invigorates the collateral channels. As a supplementary treatment, the best tonic is North American ginseng, taken as tea.,

2. Lumbago caused by chills and damp

When patients have lower back pains and stiffness that become more serious on cloudy, humid days, they need treatment to drive out chills and damp. 'Chills' means aversion to cold, desire for heat, lassitude and lethargy, lack of thirst, paleness, dullness and weakness. 'Dampness' means heaviness and stupor, swelling, distension of chest and abdomen, fluid accumulation, nodular masses, and sore joints. Therapy involves unblocking the channels. The treatment methods are:

a. Acupuncture and acupressure. Some main acupuncture points are Shenyu and Yanglingqian. Acupressure is sharp finger pressure rather than needles. We may also use moxibustion or suction cupping jars. Moxibustion is skin warming caused by holding burning 'moxi' near specific acupuncture points. Moxi is compressed, dried leaves of Chinese Mugwort. Healing effects radiate directly through the skin to influence the channel below. This treatment has a strong invigorating effect on the body and is especially suitable for conditions of extreme deficiency or cold. Moxibustion augments Qi. Similarly, we may use herbal poultices applied to the skin.

Cupping means applying suction to the skin with glass cups. We dip a piece of cotton into alcohol, light it and briefly warm the cup's inside. We immediately apply the cup to the skin. As the air inside the cup cools, this produce a partial vacuum. It draws the skin partly into the cup. This draws extra blood to a particular area, promotes circulation and thus helps nourish and unblock the area. Cupping quickens blood and disperses wind, heat and dampness. This is a pleasant, invigorating experience. It is good for muscle injury, acute congestion, joint pain and headache. If your collateral channels are too rigid, we also use the Renzhong acupuncture point. This yields good results

When Qi and blood stagnate, the elimination and regeneration processes deteriorate. This is the basic condition underlying many forms of illness. Acupuncture combats this stagnation by bolstering the rhythm and stroke volume of the heart, blood secretion of hydrochloric acid, and the production of red and white blood cells. It also eliminates pain directly by stimulating the body's own production of endorphins, or indigenous pain killers. By eliminating congestion and activating Qi circulation, acupuncture interrupts and disorganizes the illness pattern. It has anti-inflammatory effects that help ease lower back pain.

b. Chinese Herbal Medicine. We normally pre­scribe Duhuo soup. It contains a boiled mixture of angelica pubescens (Duhuo), angelica sinensis (Dang­gui), loranthus parasiticus (Sangjisheng), Ledebourella sesloides (Fangfeng), achyranthes bidentata (Niuxi), Paeonia lactiflora (Chinese white peony or Shaoyao), Eucommia (Duzhong), ginseng, Chinese licorice (Gan­cao), asarum seboldii (Xixin), rehmannia glutinosa (Shu di huang), ligusticum wallichii (Chuan xiong), Chinese cinnamon (Rougui), gentiana macrophylla (Qinjiao), and poira cocos (Filling).

3. Lumbago caused by thrombus

Yin problems lead to a frail and weak pulse, while Yang problems display a strong and full pulse. Accurate pulse diagnosis is a key to Chinese medicine. Our classical medical texts describe thirty-two pulse qualities, each indicating a particular type of disturbance. The pulse's strength, rate, rhythm and size signify the integrity of the Qi and blood and the functional activity of the organ networks. A thrombus is a clot that forms in and obstructs a blood vessel. A patient with thrombus will feel sharp pains in the waist. The pain site does not move. The pulse is heavy, full and strong. To treat this kind of lumbago, we must invigorate the blood's circulation.

  • Acupuncture. We may prick the Weizhong acupuncture point with a small triangular needle to release a small amount of blood. That will invigorate blood circulation. It is a virtually painless procedure. We use the Dazhui point to regulate the flow of Qi. If the pain represents a long-standing condition, we may gently tap a small seven-point acupuncture 'hammer' at the painful site. Finally, cupping works well to combat thrombus at this site. In this way it is often possible to avoid back surgery.

  • Chinese herbal medicine. For combatting thrombus, we prescribe Panax notoginseng (Sanqi) powder and Lian soup.

4. Chronic strain of lumbar muscles

For some, lower back pain is an everyday fact of life. The pain may go on and on for what seems like an eternity. Or it may recur periodically, with any little movement setting tt off. Muscular strain can result from either 6verwork or underwork. The muscle can suffer an acute strain, or it can through lack of exercise become flabby and prone to chronic strain. An acute strain can change to chronic lumbago if not treated thoroughly. Here the muscle may be strong but subject to spasms. Such a patient will often feel a dull ache, especially in the middle of the night and in the morning. Again, we must invigorate the blood circulation to relieve the pain.

a. Acupuncture. Acupuncture points include shenyu and zhishi, etc. b. Supplementary treatment involves moxibustion, cupping and massage. Chinese medical massage, tui na ('twee nah') techniques are and effective. Tui na clears the channels of blockages, stimulates circulation of blood and energy, loosens stiff joints and muscles, and raises vitality and resistance to disease. The

masseuse uses her fingers like an x-ray machine to find the little telltale lumps that represent blockage points. Such massage is very effective in eliminating blockages of Qi and blood, relieving muscular spasms and reducing or eliminating pain. Sometimes we also use a non-invasive technique of electrically stimulating the involved muscles. This is especially effective if the muscles are in spasm.

  1. Protrusion of the intervertebral disc.

The discs are the spine's shock absorbers. Protrusion may result if the disc's muscle fibre has degenerated, become thinner, or split. This makes the disc stick out, press on nearby nerves, and produce pain on one or both sides of the spine. This condition results from either an internal or an external cause. For older people the condition may come due to atrophy of the disc, a thinning of the muscle fibre, and an increase in the disc's brittleness. External causes usually result from people trying to carry heavy objects incorrectly. Any violent motion can create problems by producing too much pressure. Chinese medicine considers this disease to be caused by chills and damp. We treat this ailment mainly with acupuncture, medical massage and moxibustion to restore the slipped disc to its rightful place.

  1. Acute sprain at the waist

This disease is often caused by soft tissue damage. Damage may be due to trying to bear too much weight, a violent movement, or being struck by some object. If the muscles were hurt, the lumbago would typically develop on the injured side only, though both sides can come to be involved. The patient becomes unable to move freely and finds movement painful. Coughing may be extremely painful. When the patient is motionless the pain may lessen or disappear.


May 1994                                                                                                                                                 21

Again the main and collateral channels are blocked. The blood and Qi cannot flow freely. The muscles feel 'nervous,' warm and tender to the touch, but there is no pathological accumulation of fluid in the tissue. If there is contusion we may find some hae­morrhaging of blood, fluid accumulation, edema and abdominal distension. The methods of treatment are:< >Acupuncture. Some main acupuncture points are Zhigou, Yanglingquan and Shenyu. After the pain has improved, the points should be changed to Yaoyan, Yaoyu, etc. We use a cupping jar over the Mingmen point.Chinese herbal medicine. We prescribe a boiled soup consisting of achyranthes bidentata (Niuxi), carthamus tinctorius (safflower or Honghua), peach (Taoren), paeonia moutan (tree peony or Mudanpi), paeonia lactiflora (Chishaoyao) dipsacus asper (teasel or Xuduan), angelica sinensis (Dang gui), lycopus lucidus (Zelan), Yuanhu and Wuyao. For this ailment notoginseng powder is effective, as is Diedajiou wine.massage therapy. We daub white spirit with Chanjiao (black pepper) on the Kunlun, Fulin, Chenshan, Weizhong, Yaoyu, Minginen, and Shenyu points. We massage these points from the upper part to the lower part. Then we reverse the massage process, going from the lower part to the upper part.

People with lumbago should engage in exercises to give the waist a good workout without engaging in violent movement. We recommend Chinese herbs to enrich the kidney. One should keep warm in chilly weather. One must not move violently when working, and should engage in sexual intercourse with all due prudence and restraint.

Dr. Yugiu Guo, a Chinese M.D., did advanced (Ph.D.) study of Western medicine at Japan's Osaka University. She was chief doctor at China's Harbin University Medical Hospital. Her pharmacy offers a large selection of Chinese medicine and bulk herbs. If you have any questions, please call her at 233-1098. 12

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