Herbal medicine is one of the major contributions of Chinese medication. Chinese medicine distinguishes the herbs on the basis of their temperature and taste. On the basis of temperature, herbs are classified into hot (re), warm (wen), cold (han), neutral (ping), and aromatic. The second distinction on the basis of taste, groups the herbs as sour (suan), bitter (ku), sweet (gan), spicy (xin), and salty (xian).
The different combinations of taste and temperature provide medicinal properties to herbs in such a way that the energy patterns of human body are influenced. Each herb, in isolation, does not possess any healing power. A single Chinese formula of medication might involve four to twenty different herbs. Pre-made Chinese formulas are now made available as pills, tablets, capsules, powders, water-extracts etc.
The technique of medication lies in the effective combination of herbs with different temperature and qualities. Warm herbs are to be administered on those suffering from heat disorders. But these herbs are not applied alone. They are mixed with cold energy-providing herbs in order to attain the needed balance of heat. Similarly cold herbs are mixed with warm herbs in the right manner in order to apply on those people suffering from cold disorders. Apart from cool and hot herbs, there are neutral herbs as well, which are neither warm nor cold. They are generally gentle herbs.
Similarly, sour herbs are given as medicine for cough, severe diarrhoea, urinary irregularities etc. Inconsistencies related to hypo-metabolism also get treated with sour herbs. Bitter herbs help in clearing heat, enhancing appetite, emptying the bowels etc. Chinese medicine treats arthritis and acute infectious disorders with these bitter herbs. Sweet herbs play the role of body harmoniser. They improve the functioning of various body systems and also rectify gastro-intestinal problems. Spicy herbs are applied on those people whose blood circulation is obstructed and organs weakened. Salty herbs opens up the bowels and are also used in the treatment of cysts and other inflammatory masses.