The roots of Chinese herbology reach back thousands of years to when people first observed the effect of different foods on the body. Through the ages, Chinese scholars have carefully studied and recorded results from experiments with ingestion and external application of plant, animal and mineral substances. Each herb is recognized as having a distinctive property, such as warming or cooling; flavor, such as salty or bitter; entering specific areas of the body; benefiting certain organs; having specific therapeutic effects, such as cooling the blood, increasing qi, or regenerating flesh among many others; as well as specific actions within a formula. As effective herbs from other cultures were introduced, the Chinese pharmacopia continued to expand. To this day, Chinese doctors continue to develop formulae to meet current needs as humans are faced with ever changing pathogens and new patterns of disease that result from modern lifestyles and living conditions.
Studies in Chinese herbology encompass identification, cultivation, preparation, formulation and prescription of over 400 individual herbs. Using classical Chinese medical theory and diagnostic methods, an herbologist designs a balanced formula to meet the needs of each individual patient. These formulae may then be administered in a variety of ways. Herbs can be taken orally in pill form, decoction, tincture, or as a powder. Used externally, herbs can be crafted into a poultice, liniment, or wash. Chinese herbs are used to treat many disorders. Physical traumas (bruises, bone breaks, bleeding or sprains), invasions from the external environment (common cold, febrile disease, sunstroke) and problems caused by internal organ imbalance (prolapse, insomnia, indigestion, etc.) are all treated with the appropriate application of Chinese herbal medicine. The administration of herbs internally requires specialized training. Herbal doctors may also specialize in a particular area of expertise such as gynecology or oncology.
The North American Tang Shou Tao makes use of traditional formulae that have been passed down by masters from our martial arts lineage. Chinese doctors, who were also expert martial artists, designed custom formulae, both to be taken internally and in the form of poultices, liniments and plasters to treat injuries common to martial arts practice. This knowledge has been preserved for many generations and for the most part is not available except through extended study with an accomplished herbalist.
The North American Tang Shou Tao program focuses on the use of topically applied herbal formulas that are part of the techniques of Di Da or trauma medicine. These are liniments and poultices, which are used to reduce swelling, disperse bruises, improve circulation, soften tight tendons and ligaments or stop bleeding. They are part of the necessary adjunctive therapies that compliment tuina in treating the common injuries that occur during martial arts training.
Additionally, the Tang Shou Tao program covers Chinese dietary advice and the use of patent remedies. Dietary advice that follows the tenants of Chinese medicine allows people to understand the effects of their diet based their own perceptions rather than on abstract nutritional information. For a simple example, it is unwise to eat too much cold raw foods in the midst of winter when the body is struggling to maintain its heat or Yang energy in the face of a cold environment. Common patent remedies that are available over the counter at any Chinese pharmacy are simple safe and effective remedies for such things as indigestion, common cold, headache, menstrual cramps, or depression.