Herbal Medicines and remedies play an important role in TCM. The main ingredients are from the medicinal herbs. Chinese ancestor started to use wild-growing plants to treat and cure illness and diseases about 5000 years ago. Throughout the history, there have been over 12,000 kinds of herbs documented. There are approximately 1200 kinds of most common herbs that a professional TCM doctor will have to learn by heart. A herbal medicine or remedy is almost by rule, consisted of a number of herbs by the ratio prescribed by a TMC doctor. It is not common to see one-herb formula in the Chinese herbal medicines. In fact, it is hard to see a single herb to be served as a remedy in Chinese medicine. The reason is a herb often has the medicinal properties with a toxin side. It is essential to incorporate it with other related herb(s) that is aimed to help suppress the toxin side of the main herb. Plus, by combining it with other different herbs, it may become a cure for different illness or disease, or its medicinal properties are strengthened. Anyway, question any single-herb formulas or remedies before you take it. Various properties and flavors of herbal medicines exert different effects. This is an important theory of traditional Chinese pharmacology.
By the theory of Chinese Medicine, there are four properties of herbal medicines, i.e., Cold, Heat, Warm and Cool. In general, the herbal medicines with warm and heat properties are prescribed for cold-syndrome (e.g. aversion to cold, cold limbs, pale tongue, slow pulse, etc.) and those with cool and cold characteristics for heat-syndrome (e.g. fever, thirst, deep-colored urine, red tongue, rapid pulse, etc.). Furthermore, the herbal medicines are grouped under five flavors: Acrid, Sweet, Sour, Bitter and Salty, which exert different effects. Generally speaking, Acrid flavor serves to expel and to activate, Sweet to invigorate, regulate and moderate, Sour to astringe and to preserve, Bitter to lower, release and dry, and Salty to soften and purge. Every herbal medicine has a specific characteristic and flavor in different levels. It is the combination of both that constitutes the overall action of an individual herbal medicine. The clinical application of herbal medicines are always based on this conventional theory.