Traditional Chinese Medicine – Part II: Tonifying The Body

Suggested Citation: Garko, M. G. (2014, April). Traditional Chinese medicine – Part II: Tonifying the body. Health and Wellness Monthly. Retrieved (insert month, day, year), from

 Traditional Chinese Medicine – Part II: Tonifying The Body

Michael Garko, Ph.D.

Syndicated Host-Producer of Let’s Talk Nutrition


From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), an imbalance of Yin and Yang is implicated in most if not all of the diseases plaguing contemporary society.[1]  TCM practitioners attempt to correct this imbalance through tonification. Tonification is one of the eight recognized methods of herbal therapy.[2] Specifically, it is an herbal therapeutic treatment used in those instances where there is a need to nourish and rebuild the qi (pronounced Chi) or life-energy of the body’s organs and organ systems when they suffer from a deficiency or weakness[3] or otherwise when the body’s Yin and Yang are out of balance.

According to Tierra (1998), herbs can be used as tonics to build and sustain the energy of the organ systems. Within the Eastern paradigm of medicine (e.g., Ayurveda, TCM & Tibetan medicine), herbal tonics are used to practice preventative medicine and to assist in the treatment of acute ailments and build strength when recovering from an illness, all of which is achieved by restoring and balancing energy levels or qi of the body (see Tierra, 1998).

The March, 2014, issue of Health and Wellness Monthly provides a proposed whole body tonic made-up of specific herbs designed to help bring the body’s Yin and Yang back into balance and, thereby, assist in restoring and maintaining overall health after suffering from a disruption and depletion of the body’s vital energy due to an illness. However, the proposed formula could be used as a preventative measure to sustain balance and vitality.

Yin and Yang Herbal Tonics

There are specific Yin and Yang herbal tonics. On the one hand, Yin-tonics feed the organs, providing them with necessary nutrients.  Tierra (1998) asserts that the most valuable Yin-tonics are the “seaweeds (kelp and Irish Moss), alfalfa, comfrey and dandelion leaf” (p. 13). On the other hand, Yang-tonics balance and stimulate the life-energy of the organs, thereby, improving their assimilation and utilization of nutrients. According to Tierra (1998), Chinese root tonic herbs, burdock, dandelion root, parsley, Oregon grape root and goldenseal root are considered to be among the more efficacious Yang-tonics.


Mowrey (1986) recommends the following combination of herbs to serve as a whole body tonic: Sarsaprarilla root, siberian ginseng, fo-ti, gotu kola, saw palmetto berries, licorice root, kelp, stillingia, alfalfa and cayenne.

Herbal Tonification Formula[4]

Purpose of the Formula

Within the context of TCM and taking cues from Tierra (1998) and Mowrey (1986), the proposed whole body tonic is intended to help provide the organs of the body with vital nutrients (Yin function support) and ensure the proper functioning of the organs (Yang function support), thereby, keeping the body’s polarities of Yin and Yang in balance, while rebuilding the life-energy of the body’s organs and organ systems when they suffer from deficiency or weakness or excess for that matter.

Herbs Constituting the Formula

The proposed formula would consist of kelp, alfalfa, dandelion leaf (i.e., Yin-tonic herbs), along with dandelion root, burdock, parsley, goldenseal root and siberian ginseng (i.e., Yang-tonic herbs).

Kelp (Laminaria, macrocystis, ascophyllum). This is an important herb in providing nutrients. It is recognized as general nutritive tonic. Kelp is especially rich in iodine, which assists in proper glandular function, regulation of energy and metabolism by the burning of fat. Kelp is an excellent source of vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D and E. It also contains minerals such as iron, sodium, phosphorus and calcium, magnesium and potassium. Amino acids are contained in Kelp as well.

Kelp contains properties to help improve cardiovascular function, circulation, blood pressure, nerve and gland function and thyroid function. It is also noted for helping in detoxification of the body, weight loss and fighting the inflammation associated with arthritis, among other health benefits (see Mowrey, 1986; Tierra, 1998).

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa). Alfalfa contains high amounts of vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cobalamin), C, D, E and K, along with B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid). It also contains calcium, magnesium, chlorophyll, phosphorous, iron, potassium, zinc and copper and digestive enzymes. Alfalfa is a good source of protein. It contains saponins. Alfalfa is useful in fighting arthritis, high cholesterol and providing overall vitality and vigor. Because of its fiber content, it is effective in cellular detoxification (see Mowrey, 1986; Tierra, 1998).

Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale). Dandelion leaf contains substantial levels of vitamins A, C, D, and B complex. It also contains iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese, copper, chlorine, calcium, boron, and silicon. Dandelion leaf functions as a blood purifying herb, mild laxative, diuretic to help remove toxins, digestive aid, bile production agent and liver support herb (see Mowrey, 1986; Tierra, 1998).

Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale). Dandelion root is considered to be stronger in its metabolic action and possessing more Yang qualities than dandelion leaf. The following vitamins and minerals are contained in dandelion root: Vitamins A, C, D, riboflavin, thiamine calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. Dandelion root is noted especially for its benefit to the liver and its elimination of toxins from the blood. It promotes the production of bile, modulates bile duct inflammation and liver congestion. Dandelion root is recognized in clearing obstructions of the spleen, pancreas, gallbladder, bladder and kidneys. Furthermore, it possesses the ability to decrease blood glucose levels, modulate the growth of harmful bacteria, provide relief from indigestion and heartburn, remove foreign particles from the gallbladder, help the gallbladder release bile for digestion and absorption of nutrients (see Mowrey, 1986; Tierra, 1998).

Burdock root (Arctium lappa). Burdock Root is a good source of vitamins A, B complex, C and E. It contains relatively high amounts of chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, and zinc. Burdock root also contains calcium, copper, manganese, selenium, and sulphur. It is a good source of the carbohydrate, inulin. Burdock root is recognized to be an effective blood purifier (i.e., alterative), diuretic and diaphoretic, all of which gives it the ability to help cleanse the body of toxins and wastes. It is associated with proven restorative effects on the liver and gallbladder. It is known as having special value in preventing and remedying disease and recuperating from sickness (see Mowrey, 1986; Tierra, 1998).

Parsley (Petroselinum sativum). Although it used frequently as garnish decorating one sort of dish or another, parsley is highly nutritive in nature and possesses various medicinal properties to help create and sustain overall health. For example, parsley is rich in vitamins and minerals, including Vitamins, A, C and K. It is a good source of the B-vitamins. In terms of minerals, parsley contains calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc and iron. It is also contains contain up to 25% protein (see Mowrey, 1986; Tierra, 1998).

Parsley is considered to provide chemoprotective qualities, antibacterial action, anti-oxidant properties, cardiovascular protection and rheumatoid arthritis protection.

Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). As a Yang tonic, siberian ginseng is recognized for its ability to enhance circulation, boost the immune system, increase energy levels, increase endurance and eliminate fatigue and low vitality by supporting the function of the adrenal glands, spleen and pancreas (see Mowrey, 1986; Tierra, 1998).

Goldenseal root (Hydrastis canadensis). Goldenseal root is recognized as a broad spectrum herb containing, Vitamins A, C, E, B-complex, calcium, iron, manganese, among other nutrients. It possesses antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties. Goldenseal can sooth irritated mucous membranes and provide relief from excess mucous build-up in the eyes, ears, nose and throat. It has the ability to cleanse and support healthy glandular function by increasing bile and digestive enzymes (see Mowrey, 1986; Tierra, 1998).


Chinese medicine has taught for thousands of years that health is a state of balance and ill-health is an imbalance of the opposing energy forces of Yin and Yang.  Readers in need of nourishing and rebuilding the qi or life-energy of his/her organs and organ systems because they suffer from deficiency or weakness  or otherwise have an imbalance of Yin and Yang might want to consider using an herbal therapeutic treatment to tonify the body such as the one proposed above. The proposed formula whole body herbal tonic formula is intended to help restore and maintain overall health and balance by providing nourishment to the organs so as to improve their function.

If the reader has sufficient knowledge and training in herbology and knows how to prepare herbs to put into a formula, then he/she can prepare the formula outlined above to tonify the body. If the reader does not have such knowledge and skill, then he/she can search the internet or visit his/her local health store to purchase a formula that would contain most of the herbs in the proposed formula. It is also possible that a supplement manufacturer has put together a wholly different herbal formula to tonify the body that would help to tonify the body.

Another alternative would be to seek out the services of a professional herbalist who could put the formula together using a particular delivery system such as capsules with appropriate dosage levels of the individual herbs contained in the proposed whole body tonic. The herbalist might even recommend a different combination of herbs to tonify the body.

Whether or not readers use the exact proposed formula is not as important as it is that they acquire a whole body tonic for restoring and maintaining health and vitality if they are in need of such a tonic. Further, it is hoped that this month’s newsletter serves to inform readers not familiar with the healing power of herbs and to remind those who are how herbs can be used to restore balance and vitality to the body through tonification, especially when suffering from deficiency and weakness. 


Mowrey, D. B. (1986). The scientific validation of herbal medicine. How to remedy and prevent disease with herbs, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Lincolnwood, Illinois: Keats Publishing.

Reid, D. (1995). The complete book of Chinese health and healing: Guarding the three treasures. Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, Inc.

Tierra, M. (1998). The way of herbs. New York: Pocket Books.

[1] The principle of Yin and Yang was featured in the February, 2009 issue of Healthful Hints. Readers can refer to that issue for an explanation of the Yin-Yang principle. By way of review, TCM teaches that all phenomena, including life processes, remain in balance by interacting, complimentary forces/energies referred to as Yin and Yang, which are in polar opposition to one another. Cold vs. hot, full vs. empty, internal vs. external, dampness vs. dryness, descending vs. ascending and rest vs. active are a few of the countless examples caught up in the principle of Yin and Yang.

TCM practitioners use the principle of Yin and Yang to describe naturally occurring opposing, yet, complimentary and interdependent physical conditions of the body. Yin is related to organ tissue. Yang is related to organ function. A Yin-deficiency occurs when the organs are deficient in nourishment. A Yang-deficiency exists when there is a deficiency in an organ or organ system. The disequilibrium of Yin and Yang reflects an energy imbalance. This imbalance can cause such conditions as fever, indigestion, constipation, headaches, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and cancer, among numerous other unhealthy conditions and debilitating diseases (see Reid, 1994). Conversely, health is a reflection of Yin and Yang in equilibrium with respect to the organs and organ systems of the body.

[2] The other seven general methods of herbal therapy are stimulation, tanquilization, blood purification, diuresis (i.e., control of fluid balance), sweating, emesis (i.e., vomiting) and purging (see Tierra, 1998).

[3]Tonification can also be used to correct a blood-deficiency, Yin-deficiency and a Yang-deficiency.

[4] Disclaimer

•The content of this article is for informational purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical care or nutritional advice.

•Any products, compounds, formulas and the claims made about specific products, compounds and formulas have not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration and are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

•If you have a medical condition or disease, talk to your doctor before using any particular product even if it is described in these materials.  Do not disregard or delay in seeking professional advice based on this information.  If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

•Do not attempt to self-diagnose. Proper medical care is critical to good health. If you have a health concern or undiagnosed sign or symptom, consult with your doctor or other health care specialist.

•Make your doctor aware of all the nutritional supplements, herbal products and dietary changes you intend to introduce into your daily nutritional regimen so as to avoid any negative interactions with any drugs you are taking. If you are taking a prescription medication, consult with your doctor before discontinuing any drug or altering any drug regimen.