Traditional Chinese Herbalism has a rich history of trial and error. The reason it has existed for thousands of years is because it is effective. The medicinal properties of herbal prescriptions have traditionally been found in phytonutrients in their unadulterated organic form. Some schools of thought believe that the purer the elements of a medicine are the better. By tampering with the chemical structure of the plants we may be destroying elements that are necessary for the plants medicinal effect. There is so much about the actions of phytonutrients and their effects on human biology that we as practitioners, Eastern and Western, are not aware of, do not understand, and have yet to discover. We cannot reasonably expect to deconstruct and extract elements from plants and expect the effects of those extracts to have the same effect on the body as the whole herb or substance would. Chinese medicine focuses on the patient as a whole interconnected being, and treats the root of an issue not the symptoms. Traditional administrations of substances must be respected and preserved for the wisdom that gave birth to them is rare and valuable. The western way of practice and thought has been to deconstruct the nature of the world and the processes of our bodies. In our efforts to understand and cure disease we search for answers at the molecular scale and use drugs to mimic functions our bodies conduct naturally. We have been focusing on little things so hard that we are missing the big picture. The elimination of symptoms of a disease does not necessarily produce health.
Nevertheless, life and discovery never stops moving forward. Although there is great value in the traditional aspects of herbal medicine, the process of medicine is and always has been creative, innovative and ever changing. There are thousands of medicinals that are effective for treating diseases and exponential combinations of them can be applied and have varying effects which have yet to be documented. There is always room for more knowledge and discovery. Interestingly, extracts can have unique effects that cannot be matched by any unadulterated substance. There is no need to limit ourselves only to what has beed done before and remain stagnant in outdated practices. It is a fact that most modern pharmaceuticals have been and continue to be extracted from the natural world. The process of adulteration and tampering with substances may yield new medicines and supplements that can be added to the practitioners’ arsenal of medicines. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by extracting and combining natural phytochemicals. The more options we have as health care practitioners the more effective we can be at achieving our end goal, the health of our patients.