Exploring the Use of Herbal Patches

More and more patients agree that acupuncture for pain and inflammation is a wise choice, with its faster and more long-lasting effect than taking painkillers or anti-inflammatory medicine. Most people think of acupoints only when the term ‘acupuncture’ comes to their mind. In fact, the two Chinese characters representing ‘acupuncture’ include the meaning of ‘use of the needle’ and ‘moxibustion’. ‘Moxibustion’ refers to using burning materials to burn or smoke certain parts of body surface to prevent illnesses. Both acupuncture and moxibustion are used to achieve the purpose of treatment through improving and regulating the functions of the meridians and viscera.

For those patients who are not comfortable with acupuncture treatments, moxibustion maybe a better option. In fact, moxibustion supplements the shortcomings of acupuncture and oral medicine. Introduction to Medicine says, “Whenever oral medicine or the application of needles to acupoints is not effective enough, moxibustion must be used.” For some diseases caused by the stagnation of coldness in the body, the curative effect of moxibustion is indeed better. The common moxibustion is implemented with the burning of the fine, mashed and dried moxa leaves, but today I am introducing another moxibustion method which applies irritating drugs instead of the use of fire to the affected areas or acupoints, causing congestion and foaming. This method of moxibustion without burning is called “Tian Jiu”, also known as “foaming moxibustion” or “cold moxibustion.” Chinese medicine practitioners implement this type of moxibustion with the use of herbal patches on the body. That is why we also refer to this type of treatment as “herbal patches”.

Some people may ask how applying irritating herbal patches on the body surface can treat different diseases. In fact, it adopts the same curative principles as acupuncture does. The vital energy from the herbal patches is transmitted through the conduction of acupoints and meridians which connect all viscera, the outer collaterals and limbs of the human body. According to the patient’s physique and condition, Chinese medicine practitioners select the appropriate combination of acupoints to achieve the best effect.

Functions of the herbal patches

The functions of the herbal patches include warming the meridians, improving the functions of the spleen and stomach, enhancing blood circulation and getting rid of the wind and coldness in the body, reducing swelling, warming the lungs and removing phlegm. After years of clinical application of the herbal patches, it has been proven that the herbal patches can help relieve symptoms of many different diseases, such as bronchial asthma, bronchitis, various joint and limb pains, chronic gastroenteritis, dyspepsia, cholecystitis, gastric ulcer, coronary heart diseases, high blood pressure, edema, enuresis, dysuria, irregular menstruation, menstrual cramps, vaginal discharge, malnutrition, diarrhea, anorexia, eczema, stubborn ringworm, itchy skin, etc.

For those who are afraid of the cold weather and prone to colds, the use of the herbal patches can warm their meridians, enhancing their immune system and their resistance to illnesses. In recent years, herbal patches have been used to treat cancer patients to relieve various cancer pains and improve their quality of life.  

The herbal patches are easy to use. Adults can remove the patches after they have been applied to their body for two to three hours during which they can carry out their daily activities as usual. However, within three days from the day of the initial patching, patients need to avoid eating cold, irritating, greasy, spicy or salty food, seafood, beef and mutton.

The herbal patches have very few side effects. Most people have the sensation of burning and tingling around and in the areas on which the patches have been applied. The sensation will last for about four to five hours. Very few people have blisters and the scabs will be absorbed within a week. These are all common side effects.

Every summer and winter, many TCM clinics provide treatments with the herbal patches for their patients. They are called “San Fu Tie” in summer or simply “herbal patches”. For the winter ones, we call them “San Jiu Tie” in winter or simply “winter herbal patches”. Chinese medicine practitioners choose to apply herbal patches for their patients on the “San Fu” days which are the three hottest days of the year. Choosing the hottest days for patching is to “treat winter illnesses with summer treatments”, reducing the chance of diseases caused by the cold weather. On the other hand, Chinese medicine practitioners choose to start providing the winter herbal patches for their patients on Winter Solstice because it is believed that “the ultimate Yin produces Yang” according to the theories of traditional Chinese medicine. Winter Solstice is one of the twenty-four solar terms in the lunar calendar and it marks the day with the shortest daytime, i.e. the day with the most Yin. By applying herbal patches on Winter Solstice helps cultivate the initial Yang in the body.

In fact, the use of the herbal patches is not limited to any days. Whenever appropriate, herbal patches can also be used to apply on suitable acupoints together with the intake of Chinese medicine by the patients to achieve the best therapeutic results. For example, applying herbal patches to the dingchuan acupoint and the feishu acupoint can treat patients with cold and deficient constitution, cough or asthma together with oral medicine by warming their lungs, dissipating phlegm and relieving cough, greatly shortening the time needed for healing.

The use of the herbal patches is simple and convenient. It is safe, reliable, inexpensive and effective in reducing symptoms of various diseases with minimal side effects. Therefore, herbal patches are in increasing demand. With more understanding of its therapeutic values, the use of the herbal patches has become one of the many choices that patients have for treating their illnesses. 

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