Here’s a surprise: there’s actually no such thing as Chinese herbs.
There are herbs that grow in China, and we use them, but those herbs were there long before that land became China and will be there long after China is no more.
Beyond that, many of the herbs that we use in traditional Chinese medicine come from or originally came from places outside of China.
Chinese herbs are the product of a methodology that is born from a very sophisticated and highly technical worldview. It’s a way of looking at all substances as medicine or potential medicine. Chinese herbology is not dependent on any particular herbs, although many of the herbs we use frequently are considered to be Chinese and are excellent tools.
These herbs become Chinese herbs by the way we use them. This means making sustained physical and energetic contact with a group of knowledgeable and skilled people who form a coherent culture between the herbs, the people they serve and the environments they live in.
Some people imagine that we can grow Chinese herbs just anywhere. That is not true. Each of the herbs that we use in Chinese medicine has an ideal territory, a perfect environment which gives it many of its desirable characteristics. Without these exemplary growing conditions, an herb with have different functions and effects.
On top of that, Chinese herbs aren’t automatically Chinese herbs even if they do grow in their best locations because they need to be grown, harvested and processed in very specific ways to impart all of the beneficial qualities that we are familiar with in our Chinese pharmacopoeia. These traditional processing methods can be exceptionally intricate and specific and must be followed to the letter. Many of the classical processing techniques are now only known by a few people. These methods must be preserved carefully and handed down through the generations, or the practice and power of Chinese medicine will be forever lost.
They say that it takes an entire village to raise a child. Well, it takes an entire civilization to make Chinese herbs. The amount of labor, culture, tradition and organic technology that goes into each Chinese medicine formula is truly staggering and may never be able to be reduplicated in any form if these traditions and the people who keep them alive disappear.
When you use Chinese medicine to heal, you are supporting an incredibly rich fabric of many layers of culture and customs as well as thousands and thousands of people across a vast supply chain that connects multiple ecosystems, societies and traditions. There are very few things that you can do today that are more supportive and regenerative of all the things our world most needs right now than when you use Chinese medicine...