Formula Design and Engineering
Chinese herbs are selected and combined in formulas based on principles that have no relation whatsoever to bio-chemistry. The vast majority of herbal treatments use formulas containing four or more herbs. Only a few herbs are used by themselves alone. There are several reasons for this.
To affect related secondary aspects of the illness.
To prevent the formula from causing side effects or illness by balancing it’s effects.
To strengthen the effect on the pathology.
One commonly used format or template for designing herbal formulas is based on the monarchical form of government. At the top is the king or emperor. Next are the ministers or deputies. Last are the assistants or adjutants. There is one special role assistant - that of guide or messenger herb. A memory trick to remember this template is to consider it as radio station KMAG.
Any herb can fill any of these roles. Which role depends on which herbal formula the herb is used in. They roles work together in these ways:
King Herb - The herb which is directed to and has the strongest effect on the most important imbalance/pathology
Minister Herb - This herb is directed to the main imbalance/pathology and to the secondary imbalance/pathology
Assistant Herb - there are three types:
1) Helpful Assistant - strengthens the effect of the King
2) Corrective Assistant - reduces or eliminates the harsh or toxic effects of the King and/or Minister herbs
3) Opposing Assistant - decreases the effect of the King. This role is mostly used for complex combinations of imbalances/pathologies.
Guide - Envoy - Messenger Herb - focuses actions of the other herbs on a particular organ, channel or region of the body.
The KMAG template is presently the dominant method of designing a formula but several others have been very important and are in common use today. Chinese herbs are selected for use in a formula by any single characteristic or combination of all characteristics.
HOT WARM NEUTRAL COOL COLD
5 ELEMENT TASTE OF THE HERB
WATER WOOD FIRE EARTH METAL
SALTY SOUR BITTER SWEET SPICY
DIRECTION OF THE HERB
UP DOWN OUTWARD INWARD
CHANNELS WHICH THE HERB ENTERS
When taken internally the herb's properties enter channels affecting the connected organs and regions of the body.
HERB ENERGETICS by Category of Effect on Qi
WESTERN MEDICINE TCM
DIAPHORETICS RELEASE THE EXTERIOR
ANTI-PYRETICS CLEAR HEAT
PURGATIVES DRAIN DOWNWARD
No Translation HARMONIZING
MOSTURIZING MOISTEN DRYNESS
No Translation WARM THE INTERIOR
STRENGTHEN TONIFYING, NOURISHING
DIGESTIVE REGULATE QI of MIDDLE
BLOOD REGULATING MOVE COAGULATED BLOOD
BLOOD REGULATING STOP BLEEDING
ASTRINGENT STABILIZE & CONTAIN
SEDATIVE CALM the SHEN
ANTI-CONVULSANT ELIMINATE WIND
No Translation ELIMINATE PHLEGM
RESUCITATING OPEN the SENSES
There are two objectives of this section. The first is to introduce the lay person to Chinese Herbology. The second is to demonstrate the complexity of the formulas. After even this cursory study it will be apparent that a lay person should consult a professional before using Chinese medicinal herbs.