'This section provides suggestions to assist you in getting started with a Chinese Tonic Herbal Program. Several simple, yet comprehensive, programs are described, with specific formulas recommended for you to build your own program.'
Chinese herbalismhas traditionally been divided into three fundamental levels. These threelevels were first described in the original classic of Chinese herbalism, attributed to the emperor Shen Nong approximately three thousand years ago. The following section of that classic explains the three levels of herbalism practiced in the Orient since that time:
The SuperiorClass of herbs are the rulers. They control the maintenance of life and correspondto Heaven. These herb foods are not medicines so the taking of these herbfoods in larger amounts or over a long period of time is not harmful. If you wish to take the material weight from the body, to supplement the energiesand nutrients circulating in the body, and to prolong the years of life withoutaging, you should base your efforts on the herb foods of the Superior Class.
The GeneralClass of herbs are the ministers. They control the preservation of the humannature and correspond to Man. One part of them possesses medicinal effectiveness,another part possesses preventive effectiveness. For every application, thechoice of the suitable herbs should be considered carefully. If you wish to prevent illnesses and to balance depletions and consumption, you should base your efforts on herbs in the General Class.
The InferiorClass of herbs are the assistants. They control the curing of illnesses andcorrespond to Earth. They possess a markedly medicinal effectiveness and must not be taken over a long period of time since side effects will likely result. If you wish to remove cold, heat, and other evil influences from the body, to break stagnations of any sort and to cure illnesses, you should base your efforts on the herbs in the Inferior Class.
Of the severalthousand herbs used in the Chinese herbal system, there is thus an elite group of less than a hundred herbs known as the 'Superior Herbs,' also known as the 'tonics.' The most famous and important herbs associated with Asian herbalism all fall into this 'superior herb, or 'tonic' category.'
These SuperiorHerbs are not considered to be 'medicinal' in the usual sense of the word.They are not used to treat specific diseases or disorders. Herbs that arestrictly medicinal fall into the Inferior Herb class because they often causeside effects and because they do not develop the Three Treasures. The tonicsare used to promote over-all well being, to enhance the body's energy, andto regulate the bodily and psychic functioning, to protect the body and mindso as to create what the Chinese call 'radiant health.' The Superior Herbsprovide this adaptive energy in abundance and are thus a primary source oftrue human empowerment.
Only herbsthat meet specific qualifications are ranked as a superior herb in the Chineseherbal system. For an herb to be recognized as a tonic herb (another namefor a superior herb), that herb must have been found over many centuries to meet six specific qualifications:
A tonic herb must contain at least one of the Three Treasures in such abundance that it can contribute to the building and maintenance of that Treasure in one who consumes it. Some of the tonic herbs contain just one of the Treasures, some contain two and some contain all three.
A tonic herb must aid in the attainment of a long life.
A tonic herb must have broad and profound health-promoting actions that result in a radiantly healthy life.
A tonic herb must have no negative side-effects when used reasonably, and therefore may be taken continuously over a long period of time if desired, yielding cumulative, long-term benefits. This emphasis on safety is in accordance with the first law of Chinese herbalism---'Do no harm.'
A tonic herb must help balance our emotional and psychic energy so as to help improve one's state of spiritual and emotional well being and happiness.
A tonic herb must taste good enough to be consumed easily and must be easily digestibleand assimilable when prepared correctly. Most of the herbs in the tonic categorydo taste good and in fact, any of the tonic herbs may be used in healthy cooking. Many are used commonly in a healthy Chinese diet. The tonic herbs are considered to be a major food group in the Chinese diet.
Of the thousandsof herbs and foods tested by the people of Asia over many centuries, onlya very small proportion have been determined to meet all these criteria. The tonic herbs are the most prized of all herbs, for it has become clear over many centuries that the great Chinese Tonic herbs can make a very major contribution toward ultimate well being. They can be consumed on a daily basis to fortify us for the adventure of life and to help us take full advantage of life? richness. Of course, in order to achieve Radiant Health, one must work on all aspects of one's life, but the tonics are considered to be an essential tool on the path of Radiant Health.
The tonicherbs are defined as herbs which promote a long, healthy, vibrant, happy life, without any unwanted side effects even when taken over a long period of time. Essentially, the tonic, or Superior Herbs, are wonderful, healthful 'super-foods' which benefit our well being in ways that more common foods cannot. And they have a protective, balancing, vitalizing quality beyond that of any other herbs. They are generally consumed as a supplement to a well balanced healthy diet for the purpose of completing our nutritional needs.
These greattonic herbs are super-foods which have the capacity to promote health andwell being beyond that of other nutritional supplements. Thousands of yearsof experience has taught that regular consumption of the tonics can and willprovide a type of nutrition that is truly empowering.
The Three Treasures and the Five Categories of Tonics
The SuperiorHerbs can be categorized as Jing tonics, Qi tonics and Spirit tonics by virtueof which Treasure(s) they tend to nourish and develop. As a result of theprinciple of Yin and Yang, the superior herbs can be further divided intofive main categories:
Jing tonics are subdivided into Yin (Sweet, Potassium) tonics and Yang (Salt, Sodium) tonics.
Qi tonicsare subdivided into Energy (God's Breath of Life) tonics and Blood tonics.
Shen (Spirit) tonics
Applyingthe principle of the Three Treasures is the highest form of herbalism. Inthe Orient it is called 'the Superior Herbalism.'
Jing tonicsare used to replace the spent energy and to build up large reserves for future use. They can also provide primal power and the fire of life. Jing Treasure is closely associated with our genetic material and is considered to be responsible for cellular replication. Thus Jing is associated with regeneration, rejuvenation and the preservation of life. There are special tonic herbs that fortify Jing, and these are found among the Yin and Yang tonic herbs. Yin and Yang are the opposing forces within all systems.
Yin tonicsprovide the 'deep substance of life,' and nourish the fluids of the body.Yin is defined as the accumulation and storage of energy. Yin energy is generallycondensed and stored in all of the tissues of the body, but most extensivelyin the major solid organs, and most particularly in the organs associatedwith the 'Kidney.' The 'Kidney,' as described in Chinese herbalism actuallyencompasses the structures and functions of the reproductive system, the brain, the adrenal glands (especially the hormone-producing cortex), the ears, the hair on the head, the skeleton, the teeth and the bone marrow.. Yin tonics nurture these organs and functions.
The storedenergy, the energy considered to be the body's fundamental reserves, especiallythat stored in the Kidney, is known as Yin Jing. Yin tonics provide softness,coolness and flexibility to the body and are necessary to healthy functioning.The Yin tonics are usually associated with the preservation of life and manyof them are considered in the Orient to be the most important 'anti-aging,longevity herbs.'
Yang Tonics are the power herbs of Chinese herbalism, and like the Yin tonic herbs, are said to affect primarily the 'Kidney' function. 'Yang' is the utilization of the 'Yin,' the stored energy. Yang tonics are generally said to have a 'warm or 'hot' energy. Yang tonics are believed in China to help build will power and courage. Yang energy is also associated with mental creativity and the ability to manifest one's ideas. Certain Yang tonic herbs are believed in Asia to strengthen marital functions and Yang energy is said to control marital drive. All Yang tonics build strength and are thus favorites of athletes. Yang herbs are also used to stimulate metabolism, build muscle and reduce the levels of fat in the system. Yang tonics strengthen bone and are often used to strengthen the skeleton, and are especially renowned for helping to strengthen the back (especially the lower back), knees and joints.
Qi tonicsincrease the amount, and improve the quality, of the energy and blood flowingthrough our system. This increase in energy and blood results in an overallincrease in physical and mental vitality. Qi tonics are divided into two categories: Energy Tonics (also called Qi tonics) and Xue tonics which build blood (and are thus often called 'Blood tonics'). There is a general principle in Chinese herbalism that 'men are governed by Qi and women are governed by blood.' Therefore many men consume extra amounts of Qi tonics and women consume larger amounts of Xue tonics to build blood and to regulate blood production. This does not mean that men don? need blood and women don? need Qi. It simply means that men do well when they pay special attention to building Qi and women do well when they focus on building abundant, healthy blood.
Energytonics, also known as Qi tonics, increase physiological energy production. They are not necessarily stimulants, and in fact most are not. Instead, they help the body to function optimally, resulting in a natural progressive increase in vitality. Energy tonics are generally believed to enhance the absorption of nutrients in the gastrointestinal system to yield energy and blood. Energy tonics that do this are said to influence the 'Spleen.' Energy tonics also nurture the 'Lungs' and enhance the extraction of energy from the air through the lungs into the body's energy system. Qi is then said to circulate throughout the body via the 'meridian' system, providing the organs and tissues with the vitality required to live and function.
Blood tonics nourish the blood and help the body to utilize nutrients so as to function optimally. Blood tonics help build muscle and increase energy. Blood nourishes all the tissues of the body and provides the key means of distribution of nutrients, hormones and immune cells throughout the body. Blood tonics are generally believed to benefit the quality and beauty of the skin. Women, who are often deficient in blood, often benefit greatly by regularly consumingblood tonics. Men, of course, benefit from blood tonics as well. Some bloodtonic herbs are also said to have 'blood vitalizing' activity, improving blood circulation.'
Shen tonics allow for the development of Shen, our Spirit. Spirit tonics encourage the opening up of Shen. There are two qualities of Spirit tonic herbs in the Superior Herb system: Shen 'stabilizing' and Shen 'developing'. The Spirit Stabilizing quality helps calm and stabilize the emotions so that Shen (our higher self) can develop and rule our lives. The Shen 'developing' quality causes Shen to rise up and to become prominent in our experience. The emotions are thus allowed to play themselves out, but not to dominate our lives and become obsessions or even addictions. In general all Spirit tonics have both Shen stabilizing and Shen developing qualities, to varying degrees. So usually they are not distinguished in herbal practice.
Shen tonics have been used by the great sages of the Orient to help in their quest for enlightenment and harmony with God, Nature and all of Mankind.
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