(As seen in the FEBRUARY 2009 ISSUE OF YHC MAGAZINE)

Herbs and the Cosmos:
An Introduction
to Chinese Herbs

By Dustin Siena, LAc

TO UNDERSTAND THE ENERGETICS OF CHINESE HERBOLOGY, A FAMILIARITY WITH THE CONCEPTS OF YIN AND YANG IS NECESSARY. THE GREAT PRINCIPLE OF YIN AND YANG IS A LAW OF THE UNIVERSE, WHICH DEFINES THE POLAR OPPOSITE ENERGIES WHICH LIE AT THE ROOT OF ALL DYNAMIC ACTIVITY IN THE UNIVERSE. THESE TWO FORCES (YIN AND YANG), MUTUALLY GOVERN AND RULE EVERY SINGLE PROCESS ON BOTH A MICROCOSMIC AND MACROCOSMIC LEVEL.

MICROCOSMIC ACTIVITY MAY BE related to the forces which exist within a being, whether a human or animal. Macrocosmic activity may be related to the events which occur in nature outside of our bodies.

All phenomena within the universe are an expression of the harmonious (and sometimes disharmonious) interplay of yin and yang. Yin and yang do not usually exist separately from each other. It is very difficult to define one event, or thing, as being yin or yang. All things have both yin and yang within them. And this certainly is the case with herbs.

When applied to a human being, the substantial or physical aspects such as bones, blood, hair, skin, vessels and tendons are related to yin. In contrast, all functional activities in the body such as digestion, absorption, metabolism, circulation, growth and protection (the immune system), are related to yang.

Yin energies tend to be more descending and cooling (feminine), whereas yang energies tend to be more ascending and warming (masculine).

A unique combination of temperature, taste and organ forms a profile of one single herb. This perspective is comparable to the profile of a strain of DNA. An herb’s energetic identity is special and unique only to that herb. To evaluate the herb’s physiological, emotional and spiritual effect upon the person consuming it, all of its characteristics must be considered.

One of five different temperatures is usually assigned to a single herb: hot, cold, warm, cool or neutral. There are also varying degrees of cool and warm. Hot- and warm-“tasting” herbs have a yang function, while cold or cooling herbs are more yin in nature. Neutral herbs can be very useful since they are not limited by taste and can be used to treat many patterns of disharmony, regardless of yin and yang.

The taste of the medicinal ingredient or herb dictates its energetic and physiological effect and movement throughout the body. The five tastes are acrid, bitter, sweet, sour and salty. Bland is a taste which tends to be classified as mildly sweet. Most herbs have a combination of tastes, creating a very specific dynamic in their action throughout the meridians in the body.

EACH HERB IS ALSO THOUGHT TO BE CONNECTED TO SPECIFIC MERIDIANS AND ORGANS THROUGHOUT THE BODY IN THAT EACH HERB ENTERS SPECIFIC ORGANS AND CARRIES ITS TEMPERATURE AND TASTES DIRECTLY TO THOSE ENERGETIC SYSTEMS.

All herbs have an energetic function, very much like people, food, colors, art and music. A spirit is deeply rooted within the herb which dictates its characteristics. This is important, as even after a deep understanding of the theories of Chinese herbology, one must be in tune with the subtle energies of the herb and the way it will resonate with the patient.

A skilled Chinese herbalist gathers all the information from the patient, takes the patient’s pulse with great focus and meditation, and based upon the energetic dynamics within all the organ systems, writes a formula for a combination of herbs tailored to the patient’s needs.

There is beauty in that one herb may be compared to one musical note in an opera. The herb is simply a fragment of the full experience. The combination of herbs in an herbal formula creates the full-scale composition, with crescendos, beats and transitions which go through a metamorphosis of movement. This is the same with a balanced herbal formula.

Very often the formula is fine-tuned with subtle changes in its ingredients and percentages, to maintain a harmony and polarity with the patient’s energetic patterns, as they are constantly shifting.

Consumption of a well-crafted and elegant herbal formula requires dedication by both the practitioner and patient. Within this experience is the potential for an extraordinary cycle of empowerment and healing. The process tends to change our perception of both ourselves and the expanding universe in which we dwell. Perhaps in the observation, one can begin to blend the microcosmic and macrocosmic forces together and feel whole.

 

By Dustin Siena, L.Ac.

Copyright 2009 Dustin Siena

 

To learn more about Chinese herbalism, please read "Sheng Nong Ben Cao Jing: Reawakening the True Romance of Chinese Herbalism"” in the article section of my website, http://www.acupuncturewizard.com

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