A Short Guide to Chinese Herbal Medicine

by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM

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. At the bottom of the article you will find links to the Chinese herbal remedies offered at Only Natural Pet Store.

Here are a few basic principles that are helpful to understand when using Chinese herbs:

1. 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.

2. Yin/Yang (pronounced Yong) represents the duality or opposite nature of all things; this is its familiar symbol. Yet the dot reminds us that there is a little bit of both in everything. Yin (Water) is considered feminine, cool, downward, weak, and dark; while Yang (Fire) is the opposite: masculine, hot, upward, strong, and bright. Yin and Yang are interdependent; health depends on maintaining a balance of both. An imbalance may be either excessive or deficient.

3. The Five Elements 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:









Late Summer























Heart, Small Intestine, Pericardium, Triple Heater

Spleen & Stomach

Lung & Large Intestine

Kidney & Bladder

Liver & Gall Bladder

4. Six External Factors can invade the body, and cause disease. These are wind, cold, (dry) heat, dampness, dryness, and summer (humid) heat. Arthritis is an example of a wind condition, while asthma indicates dryness.


Health Concerns Power Mushrooms

This formula helps strengthen and stabilize the organs and immune system.

Chinese Therapeutic Effects:

  • Tonifies Chi and Yin
  • Benefits stomach, spleen, lungs, and kidneys

Ingredients: 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.

Only Natural Pet Chinese Herbal Blends Digestion

While modern medicine knows that the spleen is not part of the digestive tract, in TCM, digestive problems occur when the stomach and spleen are unbalanced or out of harmony.

Chinese Therapeutic Effects:

  • Dispels wind and dampness
  • Disperses stagnation
  • Promotes movement of Chi
  • Benefits spleen, stomach, and blood

Ingredients: Huo Xiang (Patchouli bark) –for nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain Hou Po (Magnolia bark) – for vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal distention Ban Xia (Pinellia root) – for vomiting Chen Pi (Tangerine peel) – for vomiting Fu Ling (Poria mushroom) –for diarrhea, loose stool Bai Zhu (White Atractylodes root) –for digestive disorders Shan Zha (Hawthorne berry) – for diarrhea 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 chronic gastritis, liver disorders, food poisoning, and ulcers

Click the links below to view Chinese Herbal Formulas formulated for specific conditions in cats and dogs:

The complete selection of Chinese herbal remedies offered by Only Natural Pet Store can be found here

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The articles and information in the Holistic Healthcare Library are presented for informational purposes only and are not intended as an endorsement of any product. The information is not intended to be a substitute for visits to your local veterinarian. Instead, the content offers the reader information and opinions written by our staff, guest authors, and/or veterinarians concerning animal health issues and animal care products.

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