Monday, October 6, 2008

Chinese herbology

Chinese Herbology , is the common name for the subject of Chinese ''materia medica''. It includes the basic theory of Chinese ''materia medica'', "crude medicine," "prepared drug in pieces" and traditional Chinese patent medicines and simple preparations' source, collection and preparation, performance, efficacy, and clinical applications.

Chinese ''materia medica'' , is also the medicine based on traditional Chinese medicine theory. it includes Chinese crude medicine, prepared drug in pieces of Chinese ''materia medica'', traditional Chinese patent medicines and simple preparations, etc.

Herbology is the art of combining medicinal herbs.

Herbology is traditionally one of the more important modalities utilized in traditional Chinese medicine . Each herbal medicine prescription is a cocktail of many herbs tailored to the individual patient. One batch of herbs is typically decocted twice over the course of one hour. The practitioner usually designs a remedy using one or two main ingredients that target the illness. Then the practitioner adds many other ingredients to adjust the formula to the patient's conditions. Sometimes, ingredients are needed to cancel out toxicity or side-effects of the main ingredients. Some herbs require the use of other ingredients as catalyst or else the brew is ineffective. The latter steps require great experience and knowledge, and make the difference between a good Chinese herbal doctor and an amateur. Unlike medications, the balance and interaction of all the ingredients are considered more important than the effect of individual ingredients. A key to success in TCM is the treatment of each patient as an individual.

Chinese herbology often incorporates ingredients from all parts of plants, the leaf, stem, flower, root, and also ingredients from animals and minerals. The use of parts of endangered species has created controversy and resulted in a black market of poachers who hunt restricted animals. Many herbal manufacturers have discontinued the use of any parts from endangered animals.

History of Chinese herbology

Chinese herbs have been used for centuries. The first herbalist in Chinese tradition is Shennong, a mythical personage, who is said to have tasted hundreds of herbs and imparted his knowledge of medicinal and poisonous plants to the agricultural people. The first Chinese manual on pharmacology, the Shennong Bencao Jing , lists some 365 medicines of which 252 of them are herbs, and dates back somewhere in the 1st century C.E. Han dynasty. Earlier literature included lists of prescriptions for specific ailments, exemplified by a manuscript "Recipes for 52 Ailments", found in the Mawangdui tomb, sealed in 168 B.C.E.

Succeeding generations augmented on this work, as in the ''Yaoxing Lun'' , a 7th century Tang Dynasty Chinese treatise on herbal medicine.

Arguably the most important of these was the Compendium of Materia Medica compiled during the Ming dynasty by Li Shizhen, which is still used today for consultation and reference.

The history of this literature is presented in Paul U. Unschuld's "Medicine in China: a History of Pharmaceutics"; Univ. of Calif. Press, 1986.

Categorizing Chinese herbs

Chinese physicians used several different methods to classify traditional Chinese herbs:

*The Four Natures
*The Five Tastes
*The Meridians

The earlier Ben Cao began with a three-level categorization:

Low level -- drastic acting, toxic substances;
Middle level -- medicinal physiological effects;
High level -- health and spirit enhancement

During the neo-Confucian Song-Jin-Yuan era , the theoretical framework from acupuncture theory was formally applied to herbal categorization . In particular, alignment with the Five Phases and the 12 channels came to be used after this period.

The Four Natures

This pertains to the degree of yin and yang, ranging from cold , cool, neutral to warm and hot . The patient's internal balance of yin and yang is taken into account when the herbs are selected. For example, medicinal herbs of "hot", yang nature are used when the person is suffering from internal cold that requires to be purged, or when the patient has a general cold constituency. Sometimes an ingredient is added to offset the extreme effect of one herb.

The Five Tastes

The five tastes are pungent, sweet, sour, bitter and salty, each of which their functions and characteristics. For example, pungent herbs are used to generate sweat and to direct and vitalize ''qi'' and the blood. Sweet-tasting herbs often tonify or harmonize bodily systems. Some sweet-tasting herbs also exhibit a bland taste, which helps drain dampness through diuresis. Sour taste most often is astringent or consolidates, while bitter taste dispels heat, purges the bowels and get rid of dampness by drying them out. Salty tastes soften hard masses as well as purge and open the bowels.

The Meridians

The Meridians refer to which organs the herb acts upon. For example, menthol is pungent, cool and is linked with the lungs and the liver. Since the lungs is the organ which protects the body from invasion from cold and influenza, menthol can help purge coldness in the lungs and invading heat toxins caused by hot "wind."

Chinese patent medicine

Chinese patent medicine is a kind of traditional Chinese medicine. They are formulas. Several herbs and other ingredients are dried and ground. They are then mixed into a powder and formed into pills. The is traditionally honey. They are characteristically little round black pills.

Chinese patent medicines are easy and convenient. They are not easy to customize on a patient-by-patient basis, however. They are best used when a patient's condition is not severe and the medicine can be taken as a long-term treatment.

These medicines are not "patented" in the traditional sense of the word. No one has exclusive rights to the formula. Instead, "patent" refers to the standardization of the formula. All Chinese patent medicines of the same name will have the same proportions of ingredients.

50 fundamental herbs

In Chinese herbology, there are 50 "fundamental herbs." These include:
#''Agastache rugosa'' - huò xiāng
#''Alangium chinense'' - bā jiǎo fēng
#''Anemone chinensis'' - bái tóu weng
#''Anisodus tanguticus'' - shān làng dàng
#''Ardisia japonica'' - zǐ jīn niú
#''Aster tataricus'' - zǐ wǎn
#''Astragalus propinquus'' - huáng qí or běi qí - zǐ huā màn tuó luó
#''Dendrobium nobile'' - shí hú or shí hú lán
#''Dichroa febrifuga'' - cháng shān
#''Ephedra sinica'' - cǎo má huáng
#'''' - dù zhòng
#''Euphorbia pekinensis'' - dà jǐ
#''Flueggea suffruticosa'' - yī yè qiū
#''Forsythia suspensa'' - liánqiào
#''Gentiana loureiroi'' - dì dīng
#''Gleditsia sinensis'' - zào jiá
#''Glycyrrhiza uralensis'' - gān cǎo
#''Hydnocarpus anthelminticus'' - dà fēng zǐ
#''Ilex purpurea'' - dōngqīng
#''Leonurus japonicus'' - yì mǔ cǎo
#''Ligusticum wallichii'' - chuān xiōng
#''Lobelia chinensis'' - bàn biān lián
#''Phellodendron amurense'' - huáng bǎi
#''Platycladus orientalis'' - cèbǎi
#''Pseudolarix amabilis'' - jīn qián sōng
#''Psilopeganum sinense'' - shān má huáng
#'''' - gé gēn
#''Rauwolfia serpentina'' - shégēnmù , cóng shégēnmù , or yìndù shé mù
#''Rehmannia glutinosa'' - dìhuáng or gān dìhuáng
#''Rheum officinale'' - yào yòng dà huáng
#''Rhododendron tsinghaiense'' - Qīng hǎi dù juān
#''Saussurea costus'' - yún mù xiāng
#''Schisandra chinensis'' - wǔ wèi zi
#''Scutellaria baicalensis'' - huáng qín
#''Stemona tuberosa'' - bǎi bù
#''Stephania tetrandra'' - fáng jǐ
#''Styphnolobium japonicum'' - huái , huái shù , or huái huā
#''Trichosanthes kirilowii'' - guā lóu
#''Wikstroemia indica'' - liǎo gē wáng

=General references

*Wong, Ming . ''La Médecine chinoise par les plantes''. Le Corps a Vivre series. ?ditions Tchou.

Educational resources

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