There are two main categories of illnesses in Chinese medicine: internal and external. External illnesses are like colds or flus: getting sick from a pathogen attacking the body. Either the pathogen is very strong and can defeat the body’s defenses or the body is weak and run down so the pathogen easily slips through. Internal illnesses come from a variety of sources; they can come from diet, emotions or taxation from overwork.
Every internal illness has a root and a branch. The root of an illness is what the real cause of the illness is. The branch is how the person experiences the illness. In Chinese medicine identifies the branch but also diagnoses the root. Once the root is treated then the branch’s problems begin to fade. For instance, if a person comes in with a foggy head, feels tired, maybe palpitations and agitation they can’t put their finger on, I can use these symptoms with other signs to find their root trouble. By addressing that then I can clear their head, stop their palpitations and return their energy without having to try and treat each end every symptom they have.
It’s a little-known fact that Chinese herbal medicine can help with bacteria and viruses. There are two reasons for this. The first being that when an herb is prescribed to fight a virus or bacteria it works by using a wide range of compounds to attack the pathogen, the herb doesn’t rely upon just one chemical. In order to compound this effect I’ll often use several herbs, each with their own set of compounds that can attack the virus or bacteria from various chemical fronts. Modern antibiotics rely upon a single chemical to attack the bacteria. This is like having to fix a problem in your home and all you have is a hammer. When using herbal medicine to combat bacteria you are going to war with several kinds of tools each able to address the pathogen from a different angle. Pathogens find it hard if not impossible to adapt to this strategy. Secondly, I don’t just look a the pathogen, I look at the patient. If a patient is weak and cold or hot and agitated, I take this into account, which allows each formula to not just be tailored to fight the specific pathogen, but also to support the patient’s health.