The Principles of Tonic Herbalism
Tonic herbs are by definition herbs that safely promote ones health and healthy aging through regular consumption. We do not limit our recipes to herbs that grow in China – though many of our products do come from Asia. Tonic herbs, and the herbal products derived from them, grow in many places throughout the world (China, the Himalayas, Mongolia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, India, Indonesia, Africa, South America, North America, Europe and Oceania). However, the principles of tonic herbalism are largely derived from ancient principles first expressed by Asian wise men and women. These principles are profound and time tested. And these principles are largely supported by modern science and modern theories of health and healthy aging.
The Superior Herbalism
For over three thousand years the people of Asia have been using a very wide variety of “herbs” (including botanicals, animal products and minerals) and have developed an herbal system that is the world’s most sophisticated form of natural health maintenance. Asian herbalism is founded on the principle that health promotion is fundamental to any health care program. Chinese herbalism has traditionally been divided into three fundamental levels. These three levels were first described in the original classic of Chinese herbalism, attributed to the legendary emperor Shennong approximately twenty-five hundred years ago. The following excerpt from Shennong’s Pharmacopeia of the Divine Farmer describes the highest level of herbs, the Superior Class.
The Superior Class of herbs consists of 120 herbs. They are the rulers. They control the maintenance of life and correspond to heaven. These herbs are not medicines so the taking of these herbs in larger amounts or over a long period of time is not harmful. If one wishes to take the material weight from the body, to supplement the energies and nutrients circulating in the body, and to prolong the years of life without aging, a person should base their efforts on the herbs of the Superior Class. Chinese tonic herbalism is still the most sophisticated and effective herbal system in the world. It differs from other herbal systems in that it emphasizes the promotion of health rather than the elimination of disease. Of the several thousand herbs used in the Chinese herbal system, there is an elite group of about sixty herbs known as the “tonic herbs,” also known as the “superior herbs.” The most famous and important herbs associated with Asian herbalism all fall into this “tonic” (“superior herb”) category.
Chinese tonic herbalism is derived from the great Daoist (Taoist) tradition of China. Daoism is the fundamental Asian philosophy of balance and living in harmony with Nature. The Daoist tradition of health attainment emphasizes that the superior herbs are in many ways superior in nutrition to the foods most commonly eaten. Indeed, millions of people over thousands of years have found this to be true. The tonic herbs are defined as “herbs that promote a long, healthy, vibrant, happy life, without side effects, even when taken over a long period of time.” Essentially, the tonic herbs are wonderful, healthful “super-foods” which benefit our well being in ways that more common foods cannot. They have a protective, balancing, vitalizing quality beyond that of any other herbs. They are generally consumed as a supplement to a well balanced healthy diet for the purpose of completing our nutritional needs and enhancing our nutritional profile.
These Superior Herbs are not considered to be “medicinal” in the usual sense of the word. They are not used to treat or even prevent specific diseases or disorders. The tonics are used to promote over-all well being, to enhance the body’s energy, and to regulate the bodily and psychic functioning, to protect the body and mind so as to create what the Chinese call “radiant health.” Radiant health is defined in China as “health beyond danger.” Radiant health is dependent upon one’s ability to adapt appropriately and effectively to all the stresses that one encounters in the course of one’s life. Tonic herbs are said to provide “adaptive energy” which helps us handle stress much more easily. It is possible to develop a very high degree of adaptability to the many challenges we face and the changes that constantly take place in our lives. By overcoming stressful circumstances successfully, we grow as human beings and we enjoy life much more fully. The superior herbs are thus a primary source of true human empowerment. Tonic herbs are widely believed in the Far East to be transformational.
Only herbs that meet specific qualifications are ranked as tonic herbs. For an herb to be recognized as a superior (tonic) herb, that herb must have been found over many centuries of human use to meet six specific qualifications:
1) A tonic (superior) herb must have anti-aging characteristics and must aid in the attainment of a long life.
2) A tonic herb must have broad and profound health-promoting actions that result in a radiantly healthy life.
3) A tonic herb must help balance our emotional and psychic energy so as to help improve one’s state of spiritual and emotional well being and happiness.
4) A tonic herb must have no negative side-effects when used reasonably, and therefore may be taken continuously over a long period of time if desired, yielding cumulative, long-term benefits. This emphasis on safety is in accordance with the first law of Chinese herbalism—“Do no harm.”
5) A tonic herb must taste good enough to be consumed easily and must be easily digestible and assimilable. Most of the herbs in the tonic category do taste good and, and in fact, any of these tonic herbs may be used in healthy cooking. Most are used commonly in a healthy Chinese diet. The tonic herbs are considered to be a major food group in the Asian diet.
6) A tonic herb must contain at least one of the three treasures in such abundance that it can contribute to the building and maintenance of that treasure in one who consumes it. Some of the tonic herbs contain just one of the treasures, some contain two and some contain all three, in varying amounts and with varying power.
The great Chinese tonic herbs can make a very major contribution toward your ultimate well being. They can be consumed on a daily basis to fortify you for the adventure of life and to help you take full advantage of life’s richness. We are pleased to introduce Liquified’s range of Medicinal Tonics containing a range of superior herbal products, as an opportunity for people to “step up” to true Superior Herbalism.
The Dao of Herbs
In the Orient, all philosophy, art and science are traditionally based on the fundamental realization that all things, and all processes, are interconnected. Oriental wise men and women long ago recognized the interconnectedness of the various parts of the body. The human body, mind and spirit are experienced as one complete whole, within themselves, with the environment and with the universe. The notion of the unity of the body and psyche is fundamental to the Oriental health arts. Changes in one’s physical condition will result in changes in one’s thinking and in one’s intuitive and emotional processes. The mind likewise directly and indirectly influences gross and subtle changes in one’s physical nature and in the actions we take. Virtually all aspects of health are rooted in the harmonious integration of the body and the psyche.
The Oriental health‑maintenance and health‑promotion arts, such as tonic herbalism, take full advantage of this oneness of body and psyche to help each person to grow to as full a state of health, well being, and spiritual awareness as the person is ready to achieve. The tonic herbs are used to bring about changes in one’s physical condition; and simultaneously, they are routinely used to influence the conscious and subconscious mind, the emotions, and the human spirit. No form of health care is complete unless it recognizes and utilizes this principle of the unity of physical and psychic energy. A Chinese tonic herbalist will never attempt to influence a change in just one aspect of a person’s physical or psychic life. In any case, such an attempt would be fruitless.
The goal of tonic herbalism is to help the user of the tonic herbs to establish a harmony of body, mind and spirit which can result in a new level of well‑being, a new level of health and happiness that forms the foundation for a creative, successful life, as well as for true spiritual discovery, growth, and possibly, eventual mastery and enlightenment. The tonic herbs increase your ability to handle stress and to adapt to all the changes taking place around you
We human beings are intimately interconnected with our environment. Any change in the environment influences us both physically and psychically. How we handle such changes, how we adapt to the changes in our environment and to the stresses of life, will be the determining factor in our health and well‑being. Conversely, as we change, the environment around us will be influenced and will reflect our changes. The greatness of Oriental natural philosophy lies, to a great degree, in its subtlety and breadth of vision with regard to the connection between the human being and their environment. The tonic herbalist recognizes such environmental influences as the change of seasons, wind, heat, cold, dryness, moisture, and so on, as fundamental causative factors in one’s health as well as one’s dis‑ease. A person’s ability to adapt to the ever‑changing variables of life determines that person’s health, well‑being and happiness. Adaptability requires energy. The greater the stresses of life and the more dynamic the changes in one’s life, the greater the requirement for adaptive energy. The very purpose of using Chinese tonic herbs is to aid the body‑mind in its adaptive needs. The greatness of the Chinese tonic herbs lies in their adaptogenic quality; that is, the ability to enhance the body‑mind’s capacity to adapt optimally, accurately and with endurance to changes in the environment, and thus to overcome the stresses of life.
By replenishing the energy of the cells, tissues and systems that regulate our adaptability, we find ourselves capable of experiencing life at its fullest. We find ourselves with increased physical, mental and emotional endurance. We find ourselves easily handling stresses that would exhaust others. We find ourselves to be resilient on every level. This adaptability allows us to lead a rich, broad, adventurous life.
The Principle of Yin and Yang
The “great principle” of Yin and Yang is a fundamental concept in Chinese philosophy and in the Oriental health care system. The great principle of Yin and Yang was developed more than three thousand years ago by great sages and scholars. Health is dependent upon the maintenance of the correct balance of Yin and Yang forces in the body and psyche. Yin and Yang are the two opposing components of one integrated whole. These two opposing forces are totally interdependent, interacting constantly so as to maintain the normality and integrity of the whole. Each in turn tends to dominate over the other, but no total dominance is permanent. No matter how dominating one side appears, eventually the other will take its turn as the dominant force. This interplay of opposing forces establishes the basis of all existence and all change.
The Law of Yin and Yang describes the innately dynamic, cyclical, bipolar, pulsing, rhythmic nature of everything in the universe. It is a very simple concept to grasp, although many people find it foreign and difficult at first. To some degree it may be understood intellectually, but fundamentally it must be grasped intuitively. The universe expands and contracts. Light and sound move in waves that are pulsing. The earth turns on its axis resulting in a multitude of rhythmic manifestations here on earth. Human sleeping/waking cycles, seasonal changes and the millions of microscopic cycles that support these daily and seasonal changes are the result of the larger (macroscopic) cycles in our solar system, galaxy and super‑galactic systems.
Within our bodies, our hearts beat, our lungs inhale and exhale, our glands secrete hormones, and our bowels and bladders excrete waste rhythmically. Our eyes each dominate for several minutes at a time, rhythmically. Indeed, virtually every human function follows rhythmic patterns. These rhythms are described and explained by the Law of Yin and Yang. What are these forces called Yin and Yang? Yin is defined as that part of a cycle or process in which energy is being accumulated, assimilated and stored for later use. Yang is defined as that part of a cycle or process in which energy is being expended in order to create a manifest action. Thus Yin is often associated with rest, receptivity and quietude, while Yang is associated with action, creativity and movement. But Yin should not be thought of as the absence of Yang. Nor should it be automatically associated with weakness. Yin is, in fact, the very substance of life, and it is absolutely essential to all functioning. Yang on the other hand is the functional, active aspect of any process and is also essential to life. Yin and Yang are relative concepts, and they always exist together. They are different aspects of the same thing or process, two sides of the same coin.
The relationship of Yin and Yang is never static. Though the two forces are actually acting in harmony with one another, they are also always competing with one another for dominance. First one dominates, then the other in its appropriate time. Under normal circumstances, the interaction of the two forces will remain within well‑defined limits. Yin provides sustenance for the Yang and the Yang protects the Yin. Neither Yin nor Yang will normally go to such an extreme that its opposing force cannot recover. However, if for some reason Yin or Yang exceeds the limits normally inherent in the system, the self regulatory mechanism breaks down and crisis ensues, perhaps leading to the breakdown of the system. In human physiology, such a breakdown is synonymous with illness or even death.
Health is dependent upon the maintenance of the correct balance of Yin and Yang forces in the body and psyche. Neither Yin nor Yang should increase or decrease beyond normal limits. It is believed possible, through the regular consumption of Chinese tonic herbs, to help the body‑mind maintain its self‑regulatory capacity, assuring optimum functioning and “radiant health.” This is the very basis of Chinese tonic herbalism.
The Yin and Yang of People
Our personalities reflect Yin and Yang. A person who is shy and inward would be said to have a yin* personality. An outgoing, assertive or aggressive individual would be said to be more yang. Of course, our personalities change throughout the day and over time. We all go through yin phases and yang phases. Our personal relationships also manifest the principle of Yin and Yang. Sometimes we dominate another individual and sometimes we are the dominated. Sometimes we are the giver, and sometimes we are the receiver. Giving and receiving in life are but a reflection of the Universal Law of Yin and Yang.
Yin and Yang is a concept of relativity and each person must be looked at relatively. An aggressive person with a hot temper would be considered to be of a Yang nature, irrespective of sex. A cold, inward, passive person would be considered relatively Yin, irrespective of sex. A person who is dry (yang) will need to increase their fluids and blood (Yin) and a person who has cold extremities will need to invigorate their circulation and metabolism by increasing Yang, in order to establish a healthy, balanced physiology. *Note: By convention, when the terms Yin or Yang are used as nouns, the terms are capitalized. When the terms are used as an adjective (descriptive), the terms are not capitalized (yin and yang).
Herbs and the Regulation of Yin and Yang
In tonic herbalism, we utilize the Law of Yin and Yang constantly. Tonic herbs are I categorized according to Yin and Yang. It is the attempt of tonic herbalism to provide yin and yang energy in an appropriate balance so that the individual eventually attains a proper dynamic balance and thus attains radiant health. Thus it is important to discern which balance of yin and yang herbs is appropriate. A person who shows signs of Yin deficiency will do well to take more Yin herbs while a person who shows signs of Yang deficiency should take more Yang herbs.
Since Yin and Yang are always both necessary, both yin and yang herbs should be consumed by everybody. Since Yin is by definition cooling, moistening and relaxing, Yin deficiency (a shortage of Yin) is often characterized by hot conditions, hot feelings, dryness and agitation. Yang, on the other hand, is warming, drying and invigorating. Therefore Yang deficiency is characterized by cold feelings and conditions, excessive moistness and a lack of vitality (fatigue).
Tonic herbalism is an adaptogenic system. This relates to the concept that the body‑mind is naturally and innately self‑regulatory. Human neurological and endocrine functions have evolved over millions of years as the primary human regulatory systems designed by nature to maintain homeostasis (functional balance), even under an enormous variety of stressful conditions, thus allowing the whole system to survive and even thrive. Every system and every function of the body has regulatory mechanisms built into them so that balance is maintained. Blood chemistry, fluid balance, energy maintenance, sexual functioning – these and every other function are regulated in various ways. This regulatory ability is quite miraculous and cannot be micro-managed. However, the regulatory mechanisms themselves can be nurtured. This is the basis of tonic herbalism.
The tonic herbs, it appears, help these fundamental regulatory systems in maintaining optimal functioning and provide increased vitality in carrying out their roles efficiently and accurately. Furthermore, adaptogenic herbs and formulations appear to expand the range of adaptability, thus increasing the amount of challenge and stress an individual can sustain before breaking down. Most of the tonic herbs have “double-direction activity,” that is they help to regulate the various bodily and mental functions by adjusting the body in either direction, up or down. The human body is itself a “double-direction” system composed of thousands of “double-direction” mechanisms – all of which need some nutritional support.
This adaptogenic quality is the basis of the Daoist concept of “radiant health,” which is generally defined as “health beyond danger.” If one has increased adaptive capacity, it is possible to survive, or even thrive under stressful conditions that other, less well‑nourished individuals might not. When we have mastered the principle of Yin and Yang, we have mastered the art of living.
The Traditional Three Treasures System of Healthcare in Chinese Tonic Herbalism
Traditionally in Asia, there are said to be three primary types of energy in the human body, and the same is true throughout nature. These three energy categories are traditionally known as “the three treasures,” Jing, Qi (pronounced chee) and Shen. These energies are called “treasures” because they are the very basis of our life. As the great Chinese Daoist sage Lu Zi said:
“The human body is only Jing, Qi and Shen. These are the three treasures. These three treasures are complete as a human being. In order to attain true health and happiness, you must value the three treasures. Without the three treasures you cannot live long, and deep attainment cannot be reached in a lifetime. The three treasures must not be wasted. They must be nourished and protected as one’s life.”
The Three Treasures are the fundamental energies of life within a human being. They are more important to our health and happiness than any thing else. The Three Treasures are known as Jing, Qi and Shen in Chinese. Jing is our primal power – it determines our fundamental life force and how long we live. If you replenish Jing on a daily basis, you will be recharging your inner battery before you run dry. You will slow down the aging process and will always have the ener gy reserves to handle everything that life can throw at you. Qi is our daytoday vitality and our protective energy – it determines how we adapt to the world around us and how well we function. With an abundance of Qi, your adapt ability will be optimized, and since adaptability is the measure of your life, your life will be abundant. Shen is our Spirit – we know it as our state of psychological well being and our spiritu al experience. It is the spark of divinity that resides within your heart. With Shen fully open, you will experience the full joy of life. By fully nurturing and protecting our Three Treasures, we virtually assure ourselves of health, happiness and a long life. Learn the art of cultivating the Three Treasures. Consume tonic herbs that nurture the Three Treasures.
Jing, the First Treasure
The first “treasure” is known as Jing. Jing is generally translated as Regenerative Essence, or simply as Essence. Jing energy is fundamental to life. It is the deepest source of energy in the body and is associated with our genetics. Jing is also our long term energy and may be thought of as our reserves of life force. In Asia, Jing is associated with regeneration, longevity, youthfulness, deep long-term vitality, mental energy, the source of power for the reproductive system and for optimal functioning of the immune system. Jing energy also supports our skeletal system, renal functions and our sensory functions, especially our ability to hear. Jing is believed to govern our courage and is the power behind our will.
Jing energy is depleted by living itself, but most especially by stress, excessive behavior, and overwork. Jing can be re-acquired and replenished through the consumption of certain rare herbs which contain this treasure. Jing herbs are divided into two categories: Yin and Yang tonics. Some Yin and Yang herbs can be used singularly because they are so well balanced. Sophisticated formulations have been developed over the centuries that build Yin and Yang energy and these are created by blending Yin herbs and Yang herbs. The secret of rejuvenation and in maintaining our health lies in rebuilding the right balance of Yin and Yang. These Yin and Yang tonic herbs tend to be mild and are very well tolerated in both the short and long term by most people. Everybody needs some Yin and Yang tonification, so finding an appropriate combination is very important. Some Yin and Yang tonics are almost universally tolerated and may be used by anyone.
Yin herbs are deeply nourishing. They replenish spent Jing and build reserves that are stored in the body for future use. They are famed for their long term regenerative qualities. They are generally moistening and are believed to be youth preserving. Yin herbs should be consumed by people who have depleted their Yin reserves. Life itself depletes Yin, and Yin is constantly consumed as we grow older, until by middle age many people experience Yin depletion. Yin tonic herbs tend to nourish endocrine hormones, which are noticeably depleted as one grows older. Besides aging, Yin is also specifically depleted by stress, overwork, exhaustion, childbearing, excessive or chronic drug or medicine use, disease, excessive emotionalism and sexual excess. Those who are deficient in Yin Jing tend to be chronically exhausted, and they tend to have dark rings under their eyes, backaches, weak kidney and reproductive functions, low resistance to infection, weak digestion and show signs of rapid aging, including dryness and wrinkling of the skin. Yin Jing herbs are capable of replenishing the treasure and building reserves for the future. Thus Yin Jing herbs are considered in Asia to be the cornerstone of rejuvenation and the foundation of longevity.
Yang herbs are deeply empowering. The rekindle the fire of life where it has been spent and invigorate vigor at the deepest levels. They are famed for their rejuvenative, deeply invigorating qualities. Yang herbs are used to build sexual energy, creative power, will power and athletic power. The result of consuming Yang Jing herbs is a renewed youthfulness. However, Yang energy tends to be warm and invigoration and therefore requires Yin to maintain coolness and balance. Yang herbs should be accompanied by Yin herbs. This is especially true for those who are suffering from Yin deficiency. If you wish to utilize Yang herbs, build up the Yin Jing first until the signs of Yin deficiency are eliminated. This may take some time, but regular consumption of powerful Yin Jing herbs will surely nurture the deep Yin. Eventually Yang herbs can be consumed – and that’s when the real fun begins.
Some people may experience hot symptoms and dryness, and still be Yang deficient. It is possible to be both Yin and Yang deficient but to be more Yin deficient. This will result in what is known as “false fire,” where the person will experience heat, inflammation, low grade fevers, hot flashes, etc. These people will certainly need to consume a lot of Yin Jing herbs, but they may also need to consume a small amount of Yang Jing herbs if they also lack any power.
Jing herbs include Dendrobium, Chinese Asparagus root, Raw Rehmannia root, Astragalus root, Eucommia bark, Prepared Rehmannia root, Cornus officinalis fruit, Codonopsis root, Ophiopogon tuber, Phellodendron bark and others .
Simple Jing Tonic: Licorice Root, Fo Ti Root, Schzandra Berry, Chaga, Cinamon all Decocted as a Hot water extraction at 80 degrees for at least one hour. Add Schandra berry in last ten minutes of extraction. Add Nettle Leaf for a full body and add 5/10g of coconut butter to help extract fat soluble medicine for the herbs.
QI, the Second Treasure
The second treasure is known as Qi (pronounced Chee). Qi is translated as vitality. Qi is the energy of life that we acquire through breathing and eating and manifests as our day to day vitality. Qi tonics are also divided into two categories: Qi (Energy) tonics and Blood tonics. These Qi and Blood tonics are important in the maintenance of day-to-day health and vitality, our resistance to disease and our ability to cope with stress.
Qi tonics fortify the digestive, respiratory and immune functions and are necessary for true health. Qi tonics also help build muscle and develop muscular strength. Blood tonics help build blood and nourish all the tissues of the body. It is said that “men are governed by Qi and women are governed by Blood. This means that men generally benefit by consuming more Qi tonics while women generally benefit by consuming more Blood tonics. This does not mean that men do not need Blood and women do not need Qi. It is simply a matter of natural balance. Everybody should consume some amount of Qi and Blood tonics regularly according to need. Most Qi tonics are powerful adaptogens. That means they have significant double-direction activity as it relates to our stress responses, our immune functions and our metabolic functions. Every human can benefit from the consumption of adaptogenic herbs.
Qi supertonics used in Chinese tonic herbalism, include Ginseng, Gynostemma, Codonopsis, Astragalus, Tibetan Rhodiola, Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng), and others. These very powerful herbs can increase Qi production in the body by helping to strengthen the functions of the lungs and digestive system.
Simple Qi Tonic: Licorice Root, Goji Berry, Turkey Tail Mushroom, astragulas all Decocted as a Hot water extraction at 80 degrees for at least one hour. Add Goji berry in last ten minutes of extraction. Add Nettle Leaf for a full body and add 5/10g of coconut butter to help extract fat soluble medicine for the herbs.
SHEN, the Third Treasure
The third treasure is called Shen. Shen is the energy of consciousness and awareness. Though there is no precise translation for Shen, it is often translated as Spirit. Shen is the vitality and stability of the mind and of the human spirit. A person with strong Shen is one who is calm and at peace, strong minded, aware, clear, centered, deeply intelligent and profoundly happy. A person who is kind, generous and giving and who has a big heart is said to have a lot of Shen. Great Shen manifests as great love. From a spiritual perspective, Shen is the ultimate treasure.
Certain herbs have been found through the centuries to enhance this Shen energy. Shen tonics generally have a mild calming quality. When combined into an herbal program that is taken daily, Shen tonic formulation will have profound effects on our state of mind and body. Tonic herbs can be categorized as Jing (Yin and/or Yang), Qi (Energy and/or Blood) and Shen (opening and/or stabilizing) by virtue of which treasure(s) they tend to nourish and develop.
Shen tonic herbs, including Wild Asparagus Root, Albizzia Flower, Spirit Poria, Wild Reishi, Tibetan Rhodiola, Polygala, Longan, American Ginseng, and Guilin Sweetfruit. These herbs have the power to help calm the mind, stabilize Shen and lift the spirit.
Simple Shen Tonic: Licorice Root, Reishi Mushroom, Rosella, Jujube Dates ,Schzandra Berry all Decocted as a Hot water extraction at 80 degrees for at least one hour. Add Schandra berry in last ten minutes of extraction. Add Nettle Leaf for a full body and add 5/10g of coconut butter to help extract fat soluble medicine for the herbs.
Three Treasures Tonic:
Licorice Root, Reishi Mushroom, Turkey Tail Mushrrom, Chaga Mushroom, Cacao Nibs, Dang Gui, Fo ti Root,Schzandra Berry, Goji Berry, Astragalus all Decocted as a Hot water extraction at 80 degrees for at least one hour. Add Schandra berry and Goji Berry in last ten minutes of extraction. Add Nettle Leaf and cacao powder for a full body and add 5/10g of coconut butter to help extract fat soluble medicine for the herbs.