Chinese herbology is about more than just medicine, there is a food and nutritional aspect to it – a system of nourishment that most people don’t know exists. There is a class of herbs known as superior herbs or tonics that are considered foods to strengthen the body. In fact, tonic herbs are said to strengthen a weakness or deficiency somewhere in the body. This is what makes them so special. In today’s stressed out, maxed out, non-stop world, you need something to help you deal with stress and prevent burnout. That’s exactly what tonics are all about.
Tonics aren’t symptom oriented like medicine. Tonics are foods that impact your organs and glands, making sure they function at their optimum level. This develops reserves of energy and prevents exhaustion. When your energy is supported on a daily basis it’s easier to adapt to stress and stay healthy. I learned my herbalism as an apprentice. I wasn’t taught Chinese medicine but something that’s considered a higher art – Three Treasure Tonic Herbalism. One of the oldest philosophies in China, Three Treasures see the body as being composed of three different energies – Jing, Chi and Shen. It is the balance or flow between them that brings about your greatest experience of health.
Jing is associated with life-force and the kidney/adrenal energy. Chi is the energy of daily living produced in the lungs and digestion. Shen is considered spirit or how our heart/mind interacts or reacts to our surroundings.
The balance of energy between the Three Treasures determines our expression of Vitality, Energy and Spirit. On a more physical level, this matches up perfectly with what we call homeostasis in western medicine.
Lycium berries are a great example of a tonic herb. Marketed here in the United States as “goji” – it’s simply a red raisin used for building blood and nourishing the kidneys. Consumed in small quantities, lycium is a great food for building quality blood to compliment the health of your kidneys, liver, and heart.