Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs fall within the broader heading of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM has been used for thousands of years to understand and treat disease, and today is becoming more popular as people realize the powerful yet gentle ways of TCM healing.
Both acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be used effectively in treating health issues in dogs and cats. Many holistic veterinarians offer acupuncture as a treatment modality in their practice. Chinese herbal remedies are also widely used for pets in the holistic veterinary community, including many that are formulated specifically for pets. Following is an overview of the basic principles behind TCM.
How Do Chinese Herbs Work?
Here are a few basic principles that are helpful to understand when using Chinese herbs:
Chi or Qi
Pronounced "chee", is the fundamental life force energy. Chi flows through the body through 12 primary channels called "meridians." All beings start out with a certain amount of Chi, and obtain Chi by breathing it in from the air and deriving it from food and drink.
Pronounced "yong", it represents the duality or opposite nature of all things and is a common symbol of a white drop with a black dot and a black drop with a white dot in a circle. The dots remind us that there is a little bit of both in everything.
YinRepresenting water, it is considered feminine, cool, downward, and dark.
Representing fire and the opposite to yin, considered masculine, hot, upward, and bright.
Yin and Yang are interdependent; health depends on maintaining a balance of both. An imbalance may be either excessive or deficient.
The Five ElementsThis describes five natural phases of transformation: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. Each element has certain characteristics and governs certain organs and tissues. These phases constantly interact by creating and controlling to maintain balance. When they are out of balance, disease is the result. Diseases are characterized by which elements (organ system or tissue) is disturbed, and in what direction (Yin or Yang, excess or deficiency). It’s a bit like “Rock-Paper-Scissors”—Fire creates Earth (ashes); Water controls Fire.
There are many ways that the five elements can be categorized; here are just a few:
Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood
Summer, Late Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring
Red, Yellow, White, Blue, Green
Joy, Worry, Grief, Fear, Anger
Tongue, Mouth, Nose, Ears, Eyes
Heart, Small Intestine, Pericardium, Triple Heater; Spleen & Stomach; Lung & Large Intestine; Kidney & Bladder; Liver & Gall Bladder
Six External FactorsThese can invade the body and cause disease. These are wind, cold, (dry) heat, dampness, dryness, and (humid) heat. Arthritis is an example of a wind condition, while asthma indicates dryness.
Chinese Herbal Ingredients
Traditional Chinese Medicine uses a number of ingredients to support your pet's health. Although this list is not exhaustive, here are some of the more popular ingredients, the specific principals they address, and they health benefits that offer.
- Ganoderma (Reishi mushroom): strengthens immune system
- Tremella (Wood Ear mushroom): good for lungs, skin, and immune system
- Poria sclerotium (Indian bread mushroom): benefits digestive system
- Polyporus sclerotium (Umbellate Pore Fungus): anti-inflammatory and liver protectant
- Huo Xiang (Patchouli bark): for nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain
- Hou Po (Magnolia bark): for vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal distention
- Fu Ling (Poria mushroom): for diarrhea, loose stool
- Bai Zhu (White Atractylodes root): for digestive disorders
- Shen Qu (Fermented Yeast, Wormwood and Knotweed): improves digestion
- Gu Ya (Rice sprout): for problems caused by starchy foods
- Bai Zhi (Angelica root): for loss of appetite, gastrointestinal spasms, and flatulence
- Da Zao (Jujube fruit): for diarrhea, poor appetite, and liver protection
- Gan Cao (Licorice root): for upset stomachs, liver support, and overall GI support
Chinese herbs and Traditional Chinese Medicine are a well established system with many complexities. If you're interested in pursuing this for your pet, it's recommended you reach out to an acupuncturist or TCM pet specialist.
If you're interested in supporting your pet's health with Chinese herbs, there are a number of commercially available formulas, that support a number of conditions, including: gastrointestinal, anxiety, urinary support, immune health, eye care, discomfort and joint health, skin and coat issues, and more.