A. Health Preservation in Chinese Medicine

According to the theories of Chinese medicine, health preservation means preserving one’s body so as to maintain good health, prevent diseases and prolong life expectancy. The key concept of health preservation in Chinese medicine is “Prevent disease before its occurrence”. If one wants to preserve health according to the theories of Chinese medicine, one should follow the following recommendations:

  1. Adapt to the natural laws

    For example, in order to adapt to the warm and humid environment of Hong Kong, many people in Hong Kong have the habit of drinking herbal tea which would clear away heat and eliminate dampness. We should also prevent getting cold in winter and too hot in summer. By doing so, we can adapt to the seasonal changes so as to prevent from falling ill.

  2. Perform exercises regularly

    Suitable and continuous physical exercises can strengthen the constitution of human body, regulate the vitality of human being and improve the body’s physical and mental health. One could choose the types of exercises according to one’s physical condition and interest, e.g. the traditional exercises of Chinese medicine such as Taijiquan, Baduanjin, etc.

  3. Maintain a healthy diet

    One should pay attention to food hygiene, e.g. food should be washed before cooking, spoiled food should not be eaten. One should also be aware that different kinds of food should be abstained from under different conditions e.g. one should not eat mutton when having cold. At the same time, one should also maintain a balanced diet, have regular amount of foods at regular time. Indulgence in particular food should be avoided, e.g. eating too much raw and cold food would impair the function of the spleen and stomach.

  4. Tranquilize the mind

    One should avoid being emotionally unstable and learn to regulate oneself emotionally, e.g. listen to light music and maintain an optimistic attitude could tranquilize one’s mind.

  5. Maintain a healthy sexual life

    One should maintain a healthy sexual life so as to prevent the kidney-essence from being consumed excessively, or else one’s health may be affected and premature senility may even result.

  6. Strengthen the body’s resistance to diseases

    Food remedies could strengthen the body’s resistance to diseases, e.g. drinking soup with green bean in summer can prevent heat stroke and drinking soup with mutton in winter can help to keep out the cold. The elderly, people recovered from serious illness and women after giving birth could take some tonic Chinese medicines so as to strengthen the body and prevent diseases. One could also strengthen the body’s resistance to diseases by massage, e.g. one could relieve the tiredness of the eyes and protect eyesight by massaging acupoints around the eyes.

  7. One should keep away from the sources of diseases, e.g. one should try not to go to some crowded and air-polluted places during the peak season of cold. One could also take some Chinese medicines to prevent infectious diseases, e.g. cold could be prevented by taking certain types of Chinese medicines.

(Source: Chinese Medicine Division of the Department of Health)


B. Preparing Herbal Decoctions

One should use a suitable container and appropriate method when preparing herbal decoctions, otherwise, the therapeutic effect of the decoctions will be affected. Here is some useful information on preparing herbal decoctions:

  1. Containers for preparing herbal decoctions

    One should select ceramic containers (e.g. earthenware pot, enamel pot, china pot, clay pot, etc.) for preparing herbal decoctions. Decoctions of good quality can be produced with ceramic containers because ceramic is heat stable and heat can be transmitted evenly and well preserved in the containers. However, iron containers (e.g. iron pot, titanium pot, etc.) should not be used for preparing herbal decoctions

  2. The pot for preparing herbal decoctions should be washed thoroughly

    The pot for preparing herbal decoctions should be washed thoroughly after being used. This is to prevent the residue from interfering with the new Chinese herbal medicines to be decocted resulting in changes in therapeutic effects of the decoctions.

  3. Preparation procedures

    First soak the Chinese herbal medicines in water for about 30 minutes, then add in water to a level about 2-3 cm above the medicines, then boil the medicines in water over strong heat. When the water boils, shift to gentle heat and stew for another 30-45 minutes. Stir the medicines 2-3 times during decocting. Strain the decoction when the decoction is ready. The dosage for adult is about 250 ml (equivalent to 80% of the capacity of a normal rice bowl); the dosage for children is about 150ml (equivalent to half of the capacity of a normal rice bowl.).

Here are some tips on preparing herbal decoctions:

  1. One should follow the instructions of Chinese medicine practitioners in preparing some Chinese herbal medicines that require special cooking time, e.g. tonic herbal medicines should be stewed for another 40-60 minutes after boiling.
  2. Some Chinese herbal medicines require special preparation procedures, therefore one should follow the instructions of the Chinese medicine practitioners, e.g. some Chinese herbal medicines need to be cooked first and other Chinese herbal medicines can be added only after the decoction is boiled for about 15 minutes; while some Chinese medicines should be added later when the decoction of other Chinese herbal medicines is about to ready, i.e. about 5 minutes before the decoction is ready.
  3. A dose of Chinese herbal medicines can be decocted for once or twice. For the second decoction, the medicines need not be soaked in water and less water should be added for cooking accordingly.
  4. If the Chinese herbal medicines are overcooked, the effective ingredients will be evaporated. It will reduce the therapeutic effect of the medicines which will be no longer suitable for consumption.
  5. Burnt Chinese herbal medicines should not be decocted again since its therapeutice effect had been lost or changed.

(Source: Chinese Medicine Division of the Department of Health)


C. Treatment Modalities of Chinese Medicine

There are many modalities of treatment in Chinese medicine, some of the common treatment modalities are listed as follows:

  1. Chinese medicines

    Chinese medicines can be divided into those for internal use and external use. Chinese medicines for internal use have different dose forms e.g. decoction, granule, tablet, oral mixture, pill, etc.. Chinese medicines for external use also have different dose forms, e.g. plaster, ointment, suppository, liquid preparation etc..

  2. Acupuncture-moxibustion

    According to the theories of Chinese medicine, acupuncture-moxibustion therapy refers to the stimulation of specific acupoints on the body for regulating one’s health and curing diseases. Acupuncture-moxibustion therapy includes acupuncture and moxibustion. In acupuncture, special needles are used to stimulate different acupoints for curing certain diseases, e.g. different kinds of painful conditions like headache, toothache, etc., and allergic diseases like asthma, eczema, etc. In moxibustion, the acupoints are stimulated with heat by fumigating. It is often applied to pain caused by cold of deficiency type.

  3. Massage

    The Chinese medicine practitioner first chooses a suitable area for treatment according to the patient’s condition, and then applies different massage manipulations to the area to relax the muscles and tendons, activate the channels, promote the local blood circulation and regulate the vitality so as to preserve health and cure diseases. Massage is often applied to different kinds of painful conditions, e.g. sprain, internal and childhood diseases, etc..

  4. Manual therapy

    Manual therapy is one of the treatment modalities in Orthopaedics and Traumatology of Chinese medicine. It could promote blood circulation, subdue swelling, relieve pain, relieve muscle spasm and fix bone fracture etc. Manual therapy is therefore often used in treating local injuries, e.g. fracture, dislocation, injury of muscles and tendons, etc..

(Source: Chinese Medicine Division of the Department of Health)


D. Information on How to Purchase Chinese Medicines

One should pay attention to the following points before purchasing Chinese medicines and should seek advice from a Chinese medicine practitioner when having any query. Do not recklessly purchase or prescribe medicines by oneself.

  1. Understand one’s own condition and constitution

    People of different constitutions requires different Chinese medicines. For example: people with cold constitution may have aversion to cold, loose stool and pale complexion. They may feel sick after eating cold and raw food. In such case, Chinese medicines of cold nature, e.g. Rhizoma Coptidis, Radix Isatidis, etc. should be used cautiously. Likewise, different causes and courses of diseases should be treated with different Chinese medicines. For example: there are many causes of cold. Cold caused by wind and cold should be treated with medicines for cold of wind-cold type; while cold caused by wind and heat should be treated with medicines for cold of wind-heat type.

  2. One should read carefully labels on the proprietary Chinese medicines or description on the prescriptions of Chinese herbal medicines which contain information of the ingredients, pharmacological actions, indications, route and method of usage, dosages, preparation methods and contraindications, etc.
  3. One should only take Chinese medicines according to the instructions of a Chinese medicine practitioner under certain circumstances. For example, pregnant or breast feeding women should seek advice from a Chinese medicine practitioner before taking any Chinese medicines since certain Chinese medicines would cause miscarriage and reduction of breast milk. One should tell the Chinese medicine practitioner if he is taking other medicines while taking Chinese medicines, since the co-administration of different kinds of medicines may enhance or weaken the pharmacological actions of the medicines or produce undesirable side effects.
  4. If one’s medical condition has not improved or has worsened, one should consult a practitioner as soon as possible in order not to delay treatment.
  5. The storage of Chinese medicines

    Chinese medicines should be stored in a cool and dry place for moth and mould proof. One should also pay attention to the expiry dates of the proprietary Chinese medicines. Mildewed, spoiled or expired Chinese medicines should not be taken. Moreover, Chinese medicines should be stored properly to prevent children from mistaking.

(Source: Chinese Medicine Division of the Department of Health)


E. Information of Taking Chinese Medicines

One should seek advice from a Chinese medicine practitioner when having any query in taking Chinese medicines. Here is the general methods in taking oral Chinese medicines:

  1. Dosage and Frequency

    Usually, one dose of herbal decoction is to be taken once or twice daily. If the decoction is to be taken once a day, the Chinese herbal medicines should be decocted once; if the decoction is to be taken twice a day, the same dose of Chinese herbal medicines should be decocted for a second time. Dosage differs from individual to individual. The dosage for children is about 150 ml (equivalent to half of the capacity of a normal rice bowl), and the dosage for adult is about 250 ml (equivalent to 80% of the capacity of a normal rice bowl). For the taking of proprietary Chinese medicines, one should refer to the instructions on the labels or package inserts of the medicines.

  2. Time of taking medicines

    The time of taking medicines mainly depends on the patients’ condition and the pharmacological actions of the medicines. Some Chinese medicines have to be taken at a specific time, e.g. before meal, after meal, before eating any food or before bed time, etc. If the medicines are to be taken before or after meal, they should be taken one to two hours before or after the meal time respectively.

  3. Directions for use

    Chinese medicines are usually taken with warm water, unless otherwise specified by the Chinese medicine practitioner. In general, one should not drink strong tea at the same time when taking Chinese medicines.

  4. Foods to be abstained

    One should avoid eating food that is difficult to digest or irritating when taking Chinese medicines; e.g. one should avoid eating radish, drinking strong tea and coffee when taking Chinese medicines possessing nourishing and supplementation function. One should avoid eating pepper, curry or chilli food, etc. when taking Chinese medicines of cold nature and should avoid having raw and cold food like melons, fruits and cold drinks, etc. when taking Chinese medicines of warm nature.

(Source: Chinese Medicine Division of the Department of Health)


F. Information on Toxic/Potent Chinese Herbal Medicines

Toxic/potent Chinese herbal medicines have the characteristic of potent pharmacological actions and being toxic e.g. Radix Sophorae Tonkinensis, unprocessed Rhizoma Pinelliae, unprocessed Radix Aconiti Lateralis, etc.. Improper use of the medicines will cause poisoning or even death.

One should therefore pay attention to the following points when taking toxic/potent Chinese herbal medicines:

  1. Toxic/potent Chinese herbal medicines can only be purchased with a prescription issued by a registered Chinese medicine practitioner;
  2. One should follow the instructions of a Chinese medicine practitioner when preparing and taking the medicines;
  3. One should consult a practitioner as soon as possible if any symptoms of poisoning by Chinese herbal medicines is noticed.

Symptoms of poisoning by Chinese herbal medicines

A. Symptoms of acute poisoning:

  1. Symptoms concerning the digestive system, e.g. nausea, vomiting, burning abdominal pain, diarrhea, or even vomit blood, bloody stool, etc.;
  2. Symptoms concerning the respiratory system, e.g. shortness of breath, bluish lip, etc,;
  3. Symptoms concerning the circulatory system, e.g. chest discomfort, palpitation, irregular heart beat, etc.;
  4. Symptoms concerning the nervous system, e.g. dizziness, headache, numbness of tongue and limbs, blurring of vision, hearing impairment or even coma, paralysis, etc.
  5. Symptoms concerning the urinary system, e.g. pain during urination, bloody urine, oedema, etc.

B. Chronic poisoning may lead to anaemia, impairment of liver and kidney function, etc.

(Source: Chinese Medicine Division of the Department of Health)

Source: Hong Kong Government Elderly Health Service

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