TCM uses herbs to treat disease but not on the basis of their chemical components. So on what is the principle of disease treatment in Chinese medicine?

 TCM uses herbs to treat disease but not on the basis of their chemical components. So on what is the principle of disease treatment in Chinese medicine?

A: This is the major difference between Western and Chinese medicine. Generally, TCM treatments focus on the overall state of the body, rather than pinpoint a specific pathogen that may cause the condition. This focus on the overall state of the body is done according to set principles.

Firstly, practitioners definite the nature a disease into yin, yang, exterior, interior, cold, heat, deficiency (xu) and excess (shi) which summarize the location and pathological changes as well as the course of the disease. Then they use certain properties of a particular Chinese medicine, what they call energy, flavor, movement, and therapeutic action on a certain meridian to draft the appropriate formulae. Every type of Chinese medicine has a particular energy: cold, hot, warm, and cool; it also has a particular taste: spicy, sweet, sour, bitter, salty; they also have ascending, descending, floating and sinking properties and their corresponding targeted meridians. Practitioners use these properties of herbs to stimulate the body's self-healing power, and make the body resume its balance. The medicinal nature of substances has been determined through years of accumulated experience. 

Chinese herbs rely on their unique properties to counteract the opposite nature of the disease, and make the body shift to a new balance. For example, herbs that can treat or eliminate heat or hot syndromes mostly have a cold or cool nature, such as baical skullcap and isatis root. Herbs that can treat or eliminate cold syndromes mostly have a warm or hot nature, such as monkshood and ginger. As the Shennong Bencaojing (Classic of Herbal Medicine) says, "Treat cold disease with hot medicines and treat hot diseases with cold medicines." The Su Wen (Book of Plain Questions) also states: "Treat cold with heat and heat with cold." These are the basic principles in prescribing medicines.