This class of herbs plays a fundamental role in Chinese medicine, with its major function being to strengthen the body. In Western medicine, this class of herbs could be referred to as the class of herbs that enhance the body's immune function. However, there is a fundamental difference between the Chinese and Western approaches in this regard. Western scientists believe that anything that enhances the body's immune function is beneficial to everyone. In contrast, Chinese medicine maintains that the body can only be strengthened in accordance with the nature of its weaknesses. Therefore, it is crucial to determine precisely what aspects of each individual are weak before effectively using this class of herbs.
In Chinese medicine, a person's weakness is referred to as a "deficiency." There are four types of deficiencies: energy deficiency, which indicates low energy levels; yang deficiency, which refers to general weakness of the kidneys and low sexual capacity; blood deficiency, which indicates a shortage or poor quality of blood; and yin deficiency, which refers to a shortage of body fluids.
This class of herbs is divided into four subclasses based on the four types of deficiencies. The first subclass consists of herbs to treat energy deficiency and is known as energy tonics. Chinese ginseng, Chinese yam, licorice, membranous milk vetch, and red dates belong to this subclass. The second subclass consists of herbs to treat yang deficiency, which are called yang tonics, and includes dodder, eucommia bark, longspur epimedium, morinda root, snake-bed seed, snow lotus, and teasel. The third subclass consists of herbs to treat blood deficiency, which are called blood tonics, and include danggui, glutinous rehmannia, and the tuber of multiflower knotweed. The fourth subclass consists of herbs to treat yin deficiency, which are called yin tonics, and include lily, matrimony vine, sealwort, sesame, tremella, wax tree, and white peony.
Herbs for treating energy deficiency are effective for shortness of breath, asthma, fatigue, low body weight, poor appetite, indigestion, diarrhea, abdominal swelling, puffiness, prolapse of the uterus and anus, and prolapse of the stomach. Herbs for treating yang deficiency are effective for lumbago, cold limbs, frequent urination, impotence, seminal emission, chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, infertility, and blurred vision. Herbs for treating blood deficiency are effective for palpitations, forgetfulness, insomnia, headaches, dizziness, ringing in the ears, irregular menstruation, muscular twitching, opisthotonos, night sweats, and diabetes. Herbs for treating yin deficiency are effective for a chronic cough, night sweats, seminal emission, hoarseness, constant thirst, a chronic sore throat, a dry cough, excessive perspiration, lumbago, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, and diabetes.
According to a report published in 1983 by the Chinese Academy of Medical Science, this class of herbs can effectively treat chronic tracheitis, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, glomerulonephritis, hyperthyroidism, chronic atrophic gastritis, hepatitis B, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, pulseless disease, Behcet's disease, tumors, organic transplantation, and aging, as well as prevent the common cold.