A Shifting Inventory of Herbal Formulas

Every few years I tweak my herbal pharmacy, adding and subtracting formulas as my practice and patient base shift and change. I just completed my latest re-evaluation this morning and thought you might find it interesting to know what categories of herbal formulas are more popular. There are four different categories, in particular, that stick out.

The largest category of formulas that I carry by far is the tonics, formulas that do things like replenish, nourish, support, and strengthen. This comes as no surprise for three reasons. First, tonics reflect one of the most unique and important ideas that Chinese medicine has to offer: that vital substances, tissues, organs, or systems that are depleted or under-functioning can heal, that these deep imbalances can be corrected. Second, many individuals specifically seek out Chinese medicine for more chronic conditions, which tend to be marked by depletion or functional issues, just the type of imbalances that tonic formulas are designed to treat. Tonics are excellent at slowing or even reversing these conditions, healing them at the root instead of indefinitely managing their superficial symptoms. Third, tonics are very effective when used preventively, helping your body function optimally, slowing the aging process, and making you more resilient to stress and disease. These are the true longevity formulas of ancient Chinese medicine.

Chinese Herbal Formulas

Another popular category is formulas that release the exterior. These formulas help us eliminate what is referred to in Chinese medicine as “exterior pathogens,” i.e. air-born disease-causing agents, like pollen and viruses. The chief action of these formulas is to induce a sweat, helping your body release the pathogens out to the exterior. These formulas have many other beneficial actions, like clearing heat to reduce fevers and inflamed throats, and transforming phlegm to help your body process out congestion. If taken at the first sign of an infection, before a virus has had time to burrow deeper into tissues and organs, these formulas can even be effective at reducing the length and severity of colds. Additionally, there are formulas in this category that you can take when you are exposed to someone who is sick that will help prevent you from catching what they have. I always take some of these when I treat a contagious patient and I rarely get sick.

There are two other categories of note: harmonizing formulas and those that calm the shen. Harmonizing formulas often treat the liver. In Chinese medicine, since the liver is responsible for the smooth flow of chi all over the body, when it is out of balance it can easily throw other systems off. For example, because the liver plays such an important role in digestion, when it is out of balance it can cause symptoms like bloating and indigestion. Calm shen formulas, on the other hand, help calm the mind and the emotions. They are especially effective for anxiety but can help with other emotional states like stress and worry. Because they are so calming, these formulas are even useful for treating certain types of insomnia, helping people settle down better so they can fall asleep more easily and sleep deeply through the night.

"Nancy is so personable, attentive and truly tuned in and cares about the individual. She creates an environment that is patient centered, healing and wholistic. She is a breath of fresh air in that she takes the time to listen to your needs and not make you feel rushed. I can’t say enough about how much I would recommend her to anyone. The best!" ~Casey First
West Asheville Acupuncture
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