What is Hanyak? Korean herbal and folk medicine
“Hanyak” is a type of traditional Korean medicine that uses herbal and folk remedies to treat diseases. It shows influences from traditional Chinese medicine. A person can use it alongside modern Western treatments, making it a type of complementary medicine or as a standalone form of care.
Hanyak is a component of Han Bang, the broader umbrella of traditional Korean medicine, which includes acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, and herbal remedies. It focuses on balancing the energies of the body and the elements of earth, fire, water, metal and wood.
People can use han bang and its ingredients, including hanyak, to treat and treat common symptoms like stomach pain. You can also use it to heal culture-bound syndromes like hwa-byung, a condition that occurs when a person suppresses and internalizes their anger.
Read on to learn more about Hanyak, including its benefits, uses, and risks.
Traditional Korean medicine focuses on the balance of um, which resembles yin, and yang – the energies of the body. It also aims to balance substances in the body and the body’s harmony with the world. For example, some Korean practitioners believe that illness stems from an inability to meet a person’s spiritual needs.
Hanyak falls under the larger umbrella of Han Bang, traditional Korean medicine. Other elements of traditional Korean medicine are:
- ch’im, that’s acupuncture
- d’um, that’s moxibustion, the process of heating a stick on or near the skin
- Buwang, which is cupping, is a process of applying glass cups to the skin, creating suction
An important benefit of hanyak is that it honors a person’s culture and heritage. Colonial powers have long tried to destroy the practice of traditional Korean medicine. Its use therefore reverts to these forces. In the past, traditional Korean medicine also ensured access to medical care for disadvantaged people living in underserved communities or rural areas in Korea.
Western medical professionals may be able to collaborate with traditional Korean physicians. The inclusion of Hanyak elements may also expand treatment and care options for cultural syndromes
Researchers have also tested various traditional Korean herbal remedies and shown that some can help with various symptoms. For example, a 2015 study showed that the herbal decoction samsoeum could disrupt the process of adipogenesis in a petri dish. Adipogenesis is the process by which the body builds up fat and it plays a role in obesity.
Also a number of Korean herbs such as chrysanthemum, Ginkgo biloba, and ginseng root, are popular anti-inflammatory remedies. New evidence suggests that at least some of these herbs may provide measurable benefits. For example, a 2019 study by ginkgo using human cells in a petri dish, found that it could help inhibit certain types of inflammation.
However, it may take a long time for science to test folk medicine. And not all the benefits of these therapies, such as Aspects such as recognition of a person’s culture or subjective experience are measurable using traditional scientific methods.
Therefore, scientists have not conclusively proven that Hanyak works or can cure diseases. This is similar to the science of studying other herbal remedies. More research needs to test Hanyak on humans rather than animals or a petri dish, and scientists need to compare it to placebos or other treatments.
Practitioners use Hanyak to treat a variety of conditions including:
- common symptoms such as abdominal pain and headaches
- chronic diseases such as arthritis
- serious illnesses such as cancer and infections
- culture-bound syndromes that traditional Western medicine does not typically treat or name
A person can use Hanyak as a form of complementary medicine along with other remedies like acupuncture and standard treatments like antibiotics. Indeed, some medical clinics in the United States are asking doctors to acknowledge Hanyak’s role in caring for Korean patients.
Hanyak has historically incorporated plants native to Korea. This contains:
- Mushrooms and fungi such as pores
- herbs such as pinelli
- Roots of plants like ginseng
- Flowers and shrubs such as ephedra and chrysanthemum
A person can take a single herb or plant, or use it as part of a brew that contains numerous ingredients. In most cases, you can use the herb orally, often as part of a tea.
There are a number of research studies on the healing properties of herbal remedies. However, larger standardized studies are needed to integrate them into mainstream standard of care.
Because of this, a major risk of Hanyak is that it may not work to treat or manage symptoms. People who substitute Hanyak methods for proven treatments may delay treatment or worsen symptoms.
Some other risks of Hanyak are:
- Security: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate herbal remedies, which may not be safe for everyone. Some can also cause harmful side effects.
- Interactions with other drugs: All medications, including natural and alternative medicines, can interact with each other. Since Hanyak is not a treatment with scientific validation, it has not been thoroughly tested for harmful drug interactions. Therefore, people taking other medications should seek advice from a doctor.
- Dosage: Since the FDA does not regulate Hanyak, there is no standard dosage or strength. Finding the right dosage can be difficult, and a person can experience side effects or even a dangerous overdose.
Hanyak has a long history in Korean culture. It has promoted access to health care for disadvantaged populations and helped oppressed groups resist colonialism. Many Koreans continue to use it, either to treat everyday symptoms or as an adjunct to standard Western interventions.
Individuals wishing to use Hanyak should consult a qualified, experienced practitioner. As with all herbal and alternative medicines, a person should speak to a doctor about any medication they wish to take. A doctor familiar with hanyak or working with a traditional Korean herbalist may be the most helpful source of information.