A New Integrated System

Jeremy Ross has developed a new system that successfully integrates three paradigms:

  • Western herbal tradition
  • Chinese medicine
  • Phytopharmacological research

This unique integration provides a new level of understanding that can resolve many of the difficulties and controversies of the past. It can give a broader and deeper understanding of the individual herbs, enabling more sophisticated herb combinations that are both safer and more effective.

Please note: that in this website, the phrase Combining Western Herbs and Chinese Medicine refers to the integration of the three paradigms: Western herbal tradition, Chinese medicine, and modern research. It is not just assigning Chinese properties to Western herbs.


Back to topWhy use this system?

Since many herb practitioners are only trained in one of these three paradigms, frequently asked questions are:


Back to topWhy use Western Herbs?

Western herbs represent a treasure-trove of effective traditional medicines and the collected and refined experience of practitioners for over 2,500 years.

Three big advantages of Western herbs for people living in the Western world are:

  • availability
  • safety
  • power


Angelica from a Western garden

Angelica from a Western garden

Since they grow here in the West, they are more readily available, and to quote Julian Scott:

“This means that the plants can be studied at first hand: the way they grow; their preferred habitat; and the effect of climate on their therapeutic effectiveness. All can be observed through the changes of the seasons, often in the wild within a few miles of where one lives. They can be gathered in the wild or grown in the garden. All this helps to deepen one's understanding of the nature and action of a herb.”


Western herbs are often safer.

When herbs are grown, harvested, and processed, and tested and certified in the West, it easier to control quality. So Western herbs are more likely to be effective and safe.

In some countries, herbs are not always properly tested and certified. This means that they may be the wrong species, they may be endangered species, they may contain toxic impurities, or they may be ‘boosted’ with potentially dangerous drugs.


There is a common error that Western herbs are weak: just a pleasant cup of chamomile tea for Granny. People do not realize that some Western herbs are so powerful that, in the UK, their maximum dose is regulated by law, and their over-the-counter sales are forbidden.

Such powerful herbs include: Chelidonium, Cinchona, Convallaria, Ephedra, Gelsemium, and Lobelia. Like most conventional medical drugs, these useful herbs are powerful, and dangerous if not properly used. Practitioners must be fully familiar with their dose limits and with their contraindications.


Another common error is that people think that Western herbs are only given in low doses, like 1-3 gram per day, so they won’t work. Sometimes a lower dose is appropriate, but Western herbal combinations may contain over 30 gram of herbs for a daily dose. For example, Jeremy’s combination Althea: gastritis contains 26 gram of herb per day.


Back to topWhy use Chinese medicine?

The main problem in the practice of Western herbal medicine has been the lack of a system of theoretical principles for choosing herbs and for creating a balanced herb combination.



The Galenic theory system has not been in use for two centuries, and attempts to explain herb choice in terms of either Physiomedicalism or conventional Western medicine have not been wholly satisfactory.

Using Western herbs according to the theoretical principles of Chinese medicine has been seen by many as the most effective way of building balanced formulas of Western herbs. There has been a great upwelling of interest in this system in the West, among practitioners of both Western and Chinese herbal medicine.



Galen’s sophisticated system of Western pulse diagnosis has largely been forgotten. Western herbal medicine badly needs diagnostic tools that give a more holistic picture than conventional medicine.

The powerful diagnostic tools of Chinese medicine, the system of diagnostic questions, and pulse and tongue diagnosis, reveal the Chinese syndromes of the patient, and hence suggest herb choice.


Back to topWhy use the principles of Western herb tradition?

Just to apply the principles of Chinese medicine to Western herbs is to ignore over 2,500 years of tradition of herbal theory in the West.



Galenic medicine

Most people do not realize that a large amount of Galenic principles remain in English and German texts, and more is being recovered. In 1651, Nicholas Culpeper wrote A Key to Galen’s Method of Physic, which is still available in print. This is a clear description of Galen’s methods of herb prescription.

Nicholas Culpeper

Western herbal theory was very similar to Chinese medicine, and traditional Western syndromes were very similar to Chinese syndromes. For example, Culpeper discussed herbs to treat:

  • cold in the stomach
  • obstruction of the liver
  • obstruction of the spleen
  • obstruction of the lungs by phlegm
  • depression of the heart spirit

Please read Resources: Interview: History, which is a detailed comparison of Western and Chinese herbal theory.



Western herbal theory has some very important contributions for world herbal medicine. For example the emphasis on:

  • classification according to damp and dryness
  • use of (plants with) essential oils
  • treatment of emotional imbalances
  • use of bitter tonics and stabilizers for the nervous system
  • use of bitter tonics for digestive and hepatobiliary systems


Damp and dryness

Western herbs were classified, not just in terms of temperature, but also in terms of whether they were moistening or drying. This is very important in treating patterns with different degrees of dryness and damp.

For example, Culpeper classified nettles as warm and dry, and wrote that:
“ Winter is cold and moist, so nettle tops, eaten in the spring, consume the excess phlegm in the body that the coldness and moistness of winter has left behind.”

Aromatic herbs

The emphasis on the use of the aromatic herbs, and the aromatic oils in herbs, to treat mental and emotional conditions, is much greater in Western tradition than it is in Chinese medicine. This is the basis of aromatherapy in the West.

Culpeper in 1651 specifically described the use of rosemary essential oil for lethargy, mental dullness, weak memory, and depression, but warned of the danger of overdose.


Why use data from research?

In both China and the West, practitioners are increasingly using data from phytopharmacological and clinical research to give them new perspectives of herb use. Then they can treat a wider range of modern Western disorders.


  • Berberis has been reported to inhibit the multidrug resistant pumps of bacteria can be used against methicillin-resisant Staphylococcus
  • Polygala has been reported to be hypolipidemic, hypotensive, and anti-ischemic has potential use to treat hyperension and atherosclerosis
  • Scutellaria has been reported to be neuroprotective has potential use to treat cognitive impairment
  • Scrophularia has been reported to stimulate the growth of skin fibroblasts has potential use to treat skin fragility, for example after prolonged corticosteroid treatment


Jeremy’s first two books in his series on Combining Western Herbs and Chinese Medicine are: Principles, Practice, and Materia Medica and A Clinical Materia Medica: 120 Herbs in Western Use.

In these books, he gives evidence for all statements that he makes on herb properties, actions, uses, doses, and contraindications, by citing over 2,000 research studies and reference texts. Extensive translations from Chinese and from German were made to gain data from ancient and modern texts.

Back to topCrataegus: A great Example of the Integrated System

Crataegus is a good example of how Western tradition, Chinese medicine, and research all contribute to a give this herb a much wider range of use and a greater precision of use.







Crataegus is an excellent example of how the use of a single herb has changed and expanded over the centuries:

  • about 100 AD in Asia minor, Dioscorides used Crataegus as an astringent to reduce diarrhea and heavy menstrual flow
  • in 17th century Northern Europe it was used for kidney stone and edema, and for pain in the stomach or abdomen
  • from late 19th century in United States, Crataegus was used for heart disease



Traditionally, the main uses of Crataegus in Chinese medicine have been:

  • food stagnation from excess meat or greasy food
  • Stagnant Blood with pain in lower abdomen or chest
  • the partially charred fruit as an astringent for diarrhea



Use of Crataegus for cardiovascular disorders. During the last 100 years, research evidence has built up to show the effectiveness of Crataegus in the treatment of cardiovascular disorders.

Procyanidins, such as procyanidin B2 shown here, may contribute both to the cardio-active effects of Crataegus, and also to its astringency.


Actions supported by research

The following actions have been reported:

  • cardiotonic
  • antiarrhythmic
  • diuretic
  • antianginal
  • cardioprotective
  • antioxidant
  • vasorelaxant
  • hypotensive
  • hypocholesteroemic
  • antiatheromatic
  • anti-inflammatory
  • hepatoprotective


Herb-drug interactions

No negative herb-drug interactions have been reported for Crataegus. In fact, Crataegus has been shown to have positive herb-drug interactions. It can increase the beneficial effects of cardiac glycoside medicines, whilst reducing their side effects, such as arrhythmia.


Putting together the potential uses of Crataegus from Western tradition, Chinese medicine, and modern research, it is easy to see that the integration of the three paradigms greatly increases the range of use of this herb.

Crataegus has progressed over the centuries from a secondary astringent for diarrhea and menorrhagia, and a herb to treat food stagnation and abdominal pain, to one of the most useful herbs in the world for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases.



In Chinese medicine Crataegus is seen predominantly as a sour herb. This sour-astringent property can help to firm and stabilize the energy of the body, not just to prevent leakage of fluids, as in diarrhea, but to stabilize mind and emotions.

It is Jeremy’s proposal that the sour-astringent property of Crataegus may contribute to the ability of this herb to tonify, firm, and stabilize Heart Qi. Jeremy proposes that by reducing the fluctuations in both the physical manifestations of Heart Qi and the psychological manifestations of Heart Spirit, Crataegus can help to treat fluctuations in heart function, energy, temperature, or mood.



Providing that the disorder is linked to Deficiency, Stagnation, or instability of Heart Qi, Jeremy proposes that Crataegus can be used for:

  • children with debility and hyperactivity
  • teenagers with attention deficit disorder or bipolar disorders
  • chronic fatigue syndrome patients with fluctuations in energy from low
        to normal (or occasionally high)
  • menopausal patients with fluctuations in temperature and emotional       lability
  • adults with heart pain, labile blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias,       palpitations, or insomnia
  • the elderly: for example, degenerative heart conditions in the elderly

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