Review: Chinese Medicinal Teas

bk_ehs99mby Zong Xiao-fan & Gary Liscum
see the book

In “Chinese Medicinal Teas,” the authors have given us a compendium of folk formulas that can be made by lay people as well as Chinese medical practitioners. The introduction gives clear, concise instructions about how to make these teas, and just enough information about Chinese medicine to invite the non-practitioner into the world of medicinal herbs without overwhelming the reader with theory. The rest of the book is divided into chapters on teas for all manner of ailments including respiratory, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, neurologic, endocrine, infectious, dermatological, gastrointestinal, reproductive, and even cancer.

The beauty of this book is in the simplicity of the formulas (most are only 2-4 ingredients,) and the fact that all the teas can be made as infusions (that is by steeping the ingredients,) rather than by long boiling which typically makes a more bitter brew.

My only problem
with this book is that some of the language describing the patterns that each tea treats might be confusing to non-practitioners. Terminology like “courses wind,” “externally contracted repletions,” “stomach vacuity with contraction of cold,” and “yin jaundice due to conversion of yang jaundice,” though standard language for a practitioner, is likely to be daunting to the lay reader.

I’m also not comfortable with the authors’ choice to include folk teas for the treatment of serious medical conditions like bleeding ulcers and abdominal pain (which could be life threatening without proper diagnosis,) even though the authors recommend getting help from a practitioner in cases of serious illness.

For these reasons, this book is probably more useful to Chinese medical practitioners. As a TCM practitioner, it’s nice to be reminded of the power of simple formulas. For instance, as the flu season approaches, why not recommend the excellent flu and cold prevention tea, Yu Fang Gan Mao Cha, which is made from 4 simple ingredients? It will most likely work better than the flu vaccine, and without the dangerous side effects of the latter.

By Narrye Caldwell, L.Ac.

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