Cathy Lok, B.Ed., C.A.- In traditional Chinese medicine, all known herbal plants were divided into three categories: inferior, middle and superior. Inferior herbs have specific effects on specific ailments. This lower group of medicines, labeled "poisons", came from toxic plants which were used to fight the most virulent diseases. This is the "quick-fix", "magic bullet" philosophy prominent in Western medicine and culture.
Middle herbs nurture "nature," or vitality, and have broader powers because they also strengthen body functions. However, the highest form of medicine revered in China are the superior herbs (tonic herbs) which help everything to heal and nurture life itself.
Chinese medical philosophy states that superior herbs ( tonic herbs) work by strengthening and stimulating the immune/defense functions of the body, thereby increasing its resistance to all kinds of assaults. The superior herbs (tonic herbs) are non-toxic. They help the body detoxify, while strengthening it at the same time. Then the body's own wisdom can heal itself.
Christopher Hobbs--Tonics herbs are the highest and most sought-after herbal remedies in many traditional systems of healing, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda. These herbs nourish specific cells, tissues, organs, and the whole individual, and are often used for long periods of time. These remedies help focus and call forth the biogenetic potential or vitality of the individual for use such as supporting the immune system, nerve function or hormonal system.
Tonics are very gentle and slow stimulants, and they provide nutrients that the body can use, such as vitamins, minerals, and many other constituents like plant pigments, such as anthocyanins or flavonoids. Large quantities can be given without harm of overstressing cells, tissues, organs or body systems.
Most importantly, the therapeutic and toxic doses are very far apart--giving a large margin of safety. For this reason, these herbs are called "superior" herbs in TCM.
The tonics are remedies that are well-tolerated, do not force the body to change and have a slow, nourishing and normalizing effect on body systems, imparting strength and tone. In western herbal medicine, these medicines were called "alteratives," "roborants" or even "tonics." The most famous example in this category is ginseng.
The two types of tonics are:
1) stimulating tonics (gently stimulates functional activity, like weight-lifting stresses and builds muscle)
2) nourishing tonics (provides vitamins, minerals, other nutrients and building blocks for proper tissue health and organ function.
By Steven Schechter - Oriental Herbs For