A subset of traditional Korean medicine, “hanyak,” aims to harmonize the body’s energies with those of the elements of fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. It dates back to ancient times and is based on the legend of two animals, a tiger, and a bear, who decided to consume absinthe and garlic, considered to be “medicine edible,” in order to transform into humans upon reincarnation.
It is a part of “Han bang,” the more comprehensive term for traditional Korean medicine, which also includes acupuncture, cupping, and treatments of the herbal kind.
Han bang and its elements, such as hanyak, can be used by people to control and alleviate common symptoms like stomach aches or headaches. Koreans might also utilize it to treat cultural disorders like “hwa-byung,” a malady brought on by repressed anger.
When our body cannot hold homeostasis and loses power over some bodily systems, we become unwell. This occurs when the body has an imbalance of certain substances or elements, such as heat, cold, dampness, dryness, water, and phlegm. This imbalance can lead to food retention, kidney yang insufficiency, blood stasis, liver ki stagnation, and lung damp phlegm.
Hanyak seeks to achieve harmony between the body and the outside world. It can be used as a supplemental medicine in conjunction with modern Western therapies or as a treatment that stands on its own.
During the Japanese colonization of Korea (1910–1945), the Japanese colonial government attempted to abolish the old Korean medical system in order to enforce the Western medical system. This had the consequence of greatly diminishing the expertise in this type of medicine.
Still, traditional Korean herbalists, or “hanyakeopsa,” who also produced Korean herbal medication and used acupuncture as an alternative therapy, have persisted in the face of extinction.
After the colonial era and the Korean War in the 1950s, when medical facilities became insufficient, particularly in rural or under-resourced regions, they were especially crucial across the country.
Thanks to their perseverance, their art of medicine is still in use today.
Now that we have gone over its history, hanyak is host to many excellent benefits. Koreans continue to visit traditional Korean herbal medicine stores, or “hanyakbang,” to purchase herbal remedies like decoctions (concentrated extracts that have been boiled down) or powdered medications.
This is especially true for those unable to find cures for their illnesses in Western medicine.
Many Korean herbs are well-known anti-inflammatory treatments, including chrysanthemum, Ginkgo biloba, and ginseng root. In addition, recent research indicates that some of these plants might have quantifiable advantages.
For example, a Ginkgo study conducted in 2019 on human cells in a petri dish revealed that it may be capable of reducing certain types of inflammation.
Another herb, Zizyphi fructus, may also help with asthma symptoms, according to animal research.
Hanyak is produced by boiling herbal combinations to free the chemical compounds into an aqueous extract. These combinations can be highly bitter depending on the primary ingredients. However, hanyak cannot be practiced carelessly due to its potent biological effects. Always seek the advice of an expert.
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