Ma Shi Huang is said to be a famous veterinarian in the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) Period (2,696 BCE to 2,598 BCE). He’s the first man to treat animal diseases with acupuncture and herbal medicines.

Shen Nong lived about 5,000 years ago. His Materia Medica (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing) is a collection of 365 medicinal herbs discovered before the Han dynasty (206 BCE). This book is the earliest Chinese herbal Materia Medica. One of these herbs, Coptis Huang Lian, is commonly added to formulas today for the treatment of bloody diarrhea.

There is a rich history and many textbooks to follow. Of note is that it’s such a long history, and most of the ancient books are still in use today.

The core of TCVM is balance. “Heat is treated with cold, cold is treated with heat” (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine published 475-221 BCE). This is the balance of Yin and Yang.

In TCVM there are Five Elements, each governing different areas of the body and aspects of health. Each has its own taste (Sour, Bitter, Sweet, Pungent, or Salty). Herbs with each of these tastes have different physiological effects.

When used clinically today, herbals are combined to become a formula to allow for synergistic enhancement. They can usually be used safely with Western medications and are often used to treat patterns of imbalance caused by side effects of pharmaceuticals.

It’s important to use formulas from a reputable supplier that has high standards for quality control. They should use sources that have Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Standards. They should be manufactured in a cGMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certified facility. My preferred resource is Dr. Xie’s Jing Tang Herbal.