Herbal Medicine - Minty Freshness Isn't Just for Your Breath

Did you know that Chinese herbal medicine far predates acupuncture techniques for eliciting change in the body? Fortunately, Chinese herbal medicine isn't just weird sounding and smelling substances. In fact, many Chinese herbal medicines might be hiding in your kitchen or garden and since a vast majority of Chinese herbal medicines are plant based, chances are that you have come in contact with many that play important roles in herbal medicine. Sometimes they may be in a form we aren't used to, like asparagus tubers, gardenia fruits and apricot seeds, but they are still related to the plant we know and love.

One oft used herb is Bo He, better known as Field Mint. Bo He is an herb that is cooling in temperature but also has a pungent and aromatic nature to it. It is said to travel to the Lung and Liver meridians. The Lungs are involved in the immune system and the body's defense against external pathogens. The Liver is largely responsible for the smooth flow of Qi through the body.

Based on its actions on the Lungs, Field Mint is used in Chinese medicine to release the Exterior and disperse Wind-Heat. What is meant by this is that can be used to combat colds and flu that have a fever, sore throat, cough with yellow sputum, and headache component to them. Chinese medicine holds that the immune system resides superficially in the exterior layers of the skin so by opening these layers, an invading pathogen can be forced out easier. In addition, Field Mint is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to decrease the severity of colds. Peppermint oil has also been shown to have anti-microbial and anti-viral capabilities in research studies.

Bo He also has a role in promoting the free flow of Qi through the body and thus Soothes the Liver Qi. To Soothe in Chinese medicine means to "Promote the Free Flow" so Field Mint can help treat conditions of stuck or constrained Liver Qi like chest pressure, depression or irritability, and gynecological complaints like painful menstruation. Considering the pungent scent of mint and the active component, menthol, it is easy to see how it can relieve chest tightness or pressure. But what about menstrual complaints? In a 2012 study published in the Journal of American Science, a survey of rural adolescent girls in Egypt struggling with menstrual pain showed that peppermint was the second most commonly used herbal remedy behind fenugreek seed, which is also a Chinese herbal remedy called Hu Lu Ba. The menthol in mint is known to have an anti-spasmodic action on the muscles of the digestive tract that can cause menstrual cramping. In addition to cramping, Bo He has a positive effect on PMS symptoms, scanty periods, or heavy menstrual bleeding as well.

So next time you are drinking a nice cup of tea to help combat a cold or to relax and warm your belly when you are stuck at home with abdominal discomfort, pop a piece of mint or two into your mug and enjoy the after effects. Why do you think those twins in the gum commercials looked so happy after all?

Chris Lehmann is a nationally board licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practicing in Boston, MA. His acupuncture practice, Eastern Sun Acupuncture, seeks to provide the safest, most effective and comprehensive acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy to Boston and surrounding communities. More information can be found at the website, http://www.easternsunacupuncture.com/. He also publishes blog posts, maintains an active Facebook fan page and tweets acupuncture related news as @easternsunacu. To learn more about Eastern Sun Acupuncture or to book an appointment, visit http://www.easternsunacupuncture.com/ today.


  1. I found the medicine you have discussed in this blog quite effective. These Chinese medicines are very good for acupuncture. I am researching on Chinese medicines and this blog is definitely going to be very informational to me.
    Chinese Herbal Medicine

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