There are a number of herbs in Chinese medicine known as “superior tonic herbs”. These are not first-line defense herbs for acute illnesses. They are instead to be taken when one feels relatively well to ward off disease and enhance one’s quality of life. This article will discuss a few of the most important tonic herbs to know about to enhance one’s wellness which can also produce some life-changing effects.
Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is known as the “mushroom of immortality”. Reishi mushroom has been prized for millennia. It has a wide range of beneficial effects both spiritually and physically. The translation of the Chinese name for Reishi, Ling Zhi, is “spiritual mushroom”. It is believed to help calm the mind, ease tension, and improve memory and concentration. A small pilot study of 20 individuals showed a 90% success rate in treating anxiety after 4 month’s use.
Reishi is a powerful immune stimulant. It has been found to stimulate T-cells, macrophages, interferon, and tumor-necrosis-factor. Reishi not only stimulates the immune system, it regulates it. It is used in treatment of allergies as the ganodermic acids it contains inhibit histamine release. Reishi has also been shown to lower cholesterol, reduce liver enzymes in chronic hepatitis cases, and improve a variety of dermatological disorders.
Reishi can vary tremendously in terms of quality. Products made from the mycelium can be beneficial in supporting the immune system, but it is believed that the spiritual properties can only been obtained from consuming the mushroom (fruiting body).
Ginseng (Radix Ginseng) is the most famous herb in all of Chinese medicine. It is used in chewing gum, energy drinks, libido enhancers, and in life-sustaining medicines. It is famous for its energizing effect. There are several grades of ginseng, and quality makes a huge difference. Some older wild roots can be worth thousands of dollars each to the connoisseur.
Ginseng is an adaptogen. Adaptogens increase the body’s ability to adapt to environmental and internal stress and stabilize physiological functioning. Many strengthen the immune system, nervous system and/or glandular systems. Ginseng is known to increase alertness while improving memory and learning ability. It is used by athletes to shorten reaction time, improve visual and motor coordination, and increase respiratory functioning.
Ginseng is often used in the treatment of male sexual dysfunction. It has been shown to increase both potency and fertility. Ginseng roots have been a symbol of longevity as it provides the most primal energy needed to sustain life. Its effects are best understood by consuming the herb, as no description can do it justice.
Astragalus (Radix Astragali) is a premier energy tonic and a strong ally to the immune system. It is commonly taken as a preventative to ward off colds and infections by those with weakened immune systems. Because it is regarded as strengthening to the muscular system, it is a great choice for body builders and anyone engaged in demanding physical activity.
Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng) (Acanthopanax senticosus) is not a true ginseng species, but credited as having similar adaptogenic properties. Eleuthero has been shown to:
- Increase mental alertness
- Support the endocrine system
- Increase immunity, including killer cells and T-cells
- Enhance cardiovascular health
- Increase work output and delay time to exhaustion
Eleuthero is highly regarded in the sports community for its effects on physical endurance. Components of eleuthero have demonstrated anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, and cholesterol-lowering effects. Chinese herb texts say the herb quiets the spirit and treats weakness of the Heart, Kidneys, and Spleen which can manifest as fatigue, poor concentration, mild depression, and disturbed sleep.
Schizandra (Schizandra chinensis) is said by Taoists to enter all 12 channels (of acupuncture) and therefore, benefit the entire body’s functioning. It has been used for 2,000 years by women to enhance beauty, as its regular use has been said to make one’s skin radiant and pure. Its benefits are not mere folklore, as hundreds of scientific studies have proven its worth.
Many of the studies performed with schizandra are in regards to liver health. A synthetic analog of schizandrin, a component of schizandra, is widely used in China as a hepatoprotective drug. Real schizandrin has been found to reverse memory impairment in rats, confirming this berry’s reputation as a mind-strengthening substance.
In a review of four decade’s worth of research by the Russians, the Swedish Herbal Institute had this to say about the herb:
“Pharmacological studies on animals have shown that schizandra affords a stress-protective effect against a broad spectrum of harmful factors including heat shock… inflammation, irradiation, and heavy metal intoxication… In healthy subjects, schizandra increases endurance and accuracy of movement, mental performance and working capacity…”
That’s quite an impressive summary for one herb! It is important to note that some of schizandra’s components are sensitive to heat. In order to preserve its liver enhancing effects, it is recommended that you consume tinctures or products extracted at a low temperature.
I am happy to assist you with starting and maintaining a Chinese tonic herbal program for superior health. Please call to make an appointment. (619) 663-4325.
Disclaimer: The above article is for general information only. In no way should it be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any health condition or problem. Any questions regarding your health should be addressed to your own physician or other qualified healthcare practitioner.