Chinese herbal medicine has been developing for thousands of years. Each herb has its own qualities that assist the body in healing, and in combination with the other herbs to make a formula. In rare instances, an herb is used alone to treat a condition.
Herbs are food substances, containing nutrients the body recognizes as food. This makes its properties easy to assimilate for their medicinal value. The Chinese use a class of “kitchen herbs” in everyday cooking for preventative health. (This topic will be expanded upon in future posts.)
A formula consists of herbs that work synergistically. Each is assigned a category. These are Chief, Deputy, Assistant, and Envoy. The Chief is representative of the main purpose of the formula. The Deputy reinforces the Chief, and the Assistant helps the Chief and Deputy. The Envoy acts as the guide, directing the other herbs in the formula to specific areas in the body; it often acts as the harmonizer, blending the various properties to optimize their assimilation via digestion.
Because the cold and flu season is looming near, an appropriate formula to discuss is Yu Ping Feng San (Jade Windscreen). Yu Ping Feng San was developed in 1271-1368 AD during the Yuan Dynasty.
The name says it all: it screens the lungs against wind, which is thought to carry pathogens, making the formula as precious as jade. The lungs are called the “delicate organ” because they are easily weakened with illness, and are susceptible to bacterial and viral pathogens.
Yu Ping Feng San (Jade Windscreen)
This formula is so gentle and safe, it is often used in pediatrics. It can be used to treat common chest colds, early onset of bronchitis, upper respiratory tract infections in patients with weak immune systems, and chronic or persistent allergies.
Some of the hallmark symptoms are a runny nose with clear mucus, lots of sneezing, easy sweat when exposed to wind or with minimal exertion, and preventatively for patients who are experiencing frequent colds and flu.
Huang qi is the Chief herb in the formula. It is classified as an adaptogen, strengthening the body’s natural defenses to overcome stress and pathogens. Some of the nutrient substances in huang qi are vitamins B and C, amino acids, and fatty acids.
Bai Zhu is the Deputy, and contains an abundance of amino acids that are the building blocks for enzymes; enzymes aid digestion in general, and help the body process the nutrients in the other herbs.
Fang Feng acts as both Assistant and Envoy. It circulates at the superficial layer of the body, specifically leading the actions of the other herbs to the lungs.
Yu Ping Feng San is widely used in China, where many gold-standard research studies have been conducted. Our National Institute of Health (NIH) includes studies that focus on measuring the formula’s effects on identified immune markers, indicating future research is possible. Yet, like vitamin C in the U.S., until conclusive evidence is established, the hard science lags behind conventional wisdom.
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