The Different Classifications of Chinese Herbs

Chinese herbology or Chinese herbal medicine is a means of therapy that has been practiced for thousands of years. This procedure has been used to address a wide range of diseases over the years. Most of the Chinese herbs that are used today have been tested over time and are derived from various fruits, roots, and plants. These days, modern science is borrowing a lot from these herbs to create new drugs for many health conditions that they had no answer to before.

Five Tastes

The herbs under this classification are further categorized according to taste. They include salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and pungent. Sweet herbs are utilized to bring about harmony in the body while bitter herbs aid in the elimination of excessive body heat. Pungent herbs are known to raise vitality by boosting metabolism. Each specific taste influences a specific bodily function and therefore can stimulate a unique healing effect on the body.

Four Natural

Chinese herbs have four natural classifications. They include hot, warm, cool, and cold. Under this classification, the herbs are designed to bring back natural temperature in the body by modifying internal temperature. The four natural classifications are further classified as ‘yin’ (cold) and ‘yang’ (hot). For example a person with colds, will be treated with herbs that have yang (warming) properties.


The energy channel of the herb is associated with the organ system of the body that the herb is designed to affect. Some herbs are used to target the blood vessels, some the kidneys, lungs, heart, etc. A practitioner will use an herbal formula that specifically targets an affected organ system.

Herbal practitioners strive to utilize the various classifications to optimally treat the patient. They may either use the herbs that have the appropriate meridian, nature, and taste or mix the herbs together to address the specific needs of the patient. Chinese medicine still uses various ancient Chinese herbs that are now borrowed heavily and oftentimes synthesized by modern Western medicine. Listed below are some of these ancient Chinese herbs:

1. Cinnamon – In TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), cinnamon is called ‘gui shi.’ It is an herb that helps add warmth in the body and thus is classified as a yang herb. Cinnamon also affects the blood system and is believed to help resolve many blood related conditions. It also treats allergies conditions basically associated with the circulatory system.

2. Mushrooms – Mushrooms have wide medicinal applications and is used in many communities all over the world. Western modern medicine has discovered that mushrooms possess immunity boosting qualities and is presently used in the creation of various new drugs.

3. Ginseng – Having been used for millennia, ginseng is classified as sweet and is utilized to significantly raise the energy of people who have been weakened by illness. This herb has an active ingredient known as ginsenosides that is known to help alleviate stress. There are different species of Ginseng. The Red Panax Ginseng is quite common while wild Ginseng is quite rare and a bit expensive. They all are used to address many types of illnesses including hot flashes, sweating problems, fever, and constipation.

Cynthia Chamberlain is a licensed acupuncturist in Overland Park, KS. She is also the founder of Eastern Healing Solutions, LLC.