How do two or more herbs interact with each other in an herbal medicine? This question captures the idea of synergism and the purpose of Innovative Chinese Medicine (ICM).
Synergism itself belongs to the ancient practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) herbal medicine. It also lies at the heart of Innovative Chinese Medicine. Together, they seek to provide patients with the safest and most effective herbal medicines.
What is Synergism?
Synergism belongs to the ancient herbal tradition of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It describes the way two or more herbs interact in an herbal medicine and the result they produce in the patient. Historically, the principles of synergism define how multi-herb medicines would be formulated.
Principles of Synergism in Herbal Medicine
In early Traditional Chinese Medicine, practitioners relied on single herbs to treat patients. Over time, practitioners began to create combinations of herbs based on their experience and knowledge. Much of this knowledge was codified more than 2,000 years ago in ancient texts like the Huangdi Neijing (Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine).
The principles of herb-herb interaction can be described in a number of ways. In practice, there are 7 effects from herbal combinations. They include:
- Single Effect
- Mutual Accentuation
- Mutual Enhancement
- Mutual Counteraction
- Mutual Suppression
- Mutual Antagonism
- Mutual Incompatibility
The final two describe different elements of toxicity. As a result, you might see some describe only 6 modes of herb-herb interaction. This would include reinforcement, potentiation, restraint, detoxification, counteraction and toxicity. Effectively, herbs can improve, enhance, balance, or in some way offset each other.
These principles reflect the TCM practitioners’ understanding that illness affected multiple systems in the body and the need to support them all to promote healing. Today we can see similar thinking in the practice, growth and popularity of Integrative Medicine. Aggressive therapies of modern conventional medicine may be needed to address diseases like cancer, but complete healing requires much more. This is why herbal medicine, acupuncture and other non-medical approaches have been integrated into the treatment process.
In a way, integrative medicine reflects the understanding practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine discovered more than two millennia ago. There is, however, one big difference between then and now – technology.
How Innovative Chinese Medicine Applies Synergism
Innovative Chinese Medicine represents the evolution of TCM, especially in herbal medicine. While those who developed the early herbal combinations certainly used a scientific method to produce them and even make them more potent, they would have had no way of knowing the precise compounds that made them so effective. The science and technology available to them produced successful therapies, but not an understanding of why.
Today, Innovative Chinese Medicine finds out the why. It explores why the herbs have the effect on each other that they do. It also studies the relationship of those active components within the human body. It then takes this knowledge and applies it to maximize the quality, safety and effectiveness of the herbal combinations.
ICM seeks to create the best synergy between herbs within a formula and with the patient. After all, this is the purpose of the synergy of the herbs – to restore the balance within the patient that we would call ‘health.’
Integrative Medicine, Innovative Chinese Medicine and the Future of Healthcare
The growth of Integrative Medicine today reflects the discovery made by early TCM practitioners. The human body is complex. Healing is also complex.
Innovative Chinese Medicine applies technology to improve the synergy between herbs, and between the herbal medicine and the patient. This approach develops natural herbal medicines with guaranteed quality and, through GCP testing, proven effectiveness.
As more patients seek safe, natural medicines, ICM meets the need. This promises to meet the demands of doctors of every background to recommend herbal medicines that are not only safe, but work.