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Friday, September 07, 2007

Upcoming series on Herbal Remedies

Note: This work originally appeared in Dr. Leung's newsletter in 1997 (Issue # 8). What follows is a brief introduction to the series of remedies that he introduced, all based on mainly food herbs. We will present the series of remedies here next week.

Chinese herbal medicine is probably the only ancient medical culture that has been continuously maintained, updated, and expanded since about 1,100 BC, when it was first documented. Over the past 3,000 years, extensive documentation of herb use has resulted in hundreds of major works (including numerous famous classic herbals) describing the properties and uses of over 13,000 natural drugs as well as over 130,000 prescriptions. The most well-known classic records include the Wu Shi Er Bing Fang or Prescriptions for Fifty-two Diseases (1,065-771 BC), Shennong Ben Cao Jing or Shennong Herbal (100 BC-200 AD), and the Ben Cao Gang Mu or Herbal Systematics by Li Shi-Zhen (1590 AD). The Prescriptions describes 247 drugs and 283 prescriptions for diseases ranging from snake bites, wounds, skin ulcers, and hemorrhoids to male sexual problems and malaria. The Shennong Herbal was the first work devoted exclusively to drugs. It describes 365 drugs that are divided into 3 categories, viz., superior, medium and inferior, with the first composed of mostly tonics suitable for long-term consumption while the last composed of drugs that are generally toxic and are reserved for serious illnesses. Many of the herbs described in these two ancient herbals are still commonly used today; they include astragalus, licorice, ginger, qinghao, and magnolia bud (this Newsletter, Issue 7, p. 3). Li’s Herbal Systematics documents 1,892 drugs and 11,096 prescriptions and is probably the most famous herbal; it has been translated into numerous languages, including Latin, English, German, French, Russian, Korean, and Japanese. In addition to these classic herbals, there are many formularies (formula books) describing thousands of remedies for practically every disease known to mankind. In one famous formulary alone, the Pu Ji Fang (Prescriptions for Healing the Masses), published in the 14th century, close to 62,000 formulas are described. Also, in a recent compilation, titled Zhongyi Fangji Da Cidian (Encyclopedia of Traditional Chinese Prescriptions), over 90,000 prescriptions with formula names will be described. The completed work will be in 11 volumes, with the last volume as index. Up until last year, 4 volumes had been published, documenting 38,876 prescriptions. The information in this compilation is based on about 2,000 published works over a period of 2,000 years. The editors estimate that there are over 130,000 published prescriptions during this period, although only about 90,000 bear formula names, which will be published in this new work. These formulas don’t even include the many thousands that are primarily used in diet therapy. With this brief background information, you can see that it is easy to come up with remedies for various conditions. For obvious reasons, I am only reporting remedies that are primarily food based (those for diet therapy), which will not do harm even if they don’t work, as well as some simple ones consisting of nontoxic or only slightly toxic herbs. I know many of you are not seriously into Chinese herbs. The main reason you subscribe to this newsletter is to keep tabs on recent developments in Chinese herbal medicine, both in China and in America. You are not the ones who would actually take time to obtain the herbs and cook up a storm in your kitchen, unless the herbs I report here are already in your kitchen and you don’t need to do more than boil them in water. For those who are more serious about actually utilizing some of the remedies, I expect you have already found your way around your local Chinatown and are able to obtain the herbs that are not found in your kitchen or major supermarkets. So, here they are:
Note: To be continued next week - ed.

These and more herbal remedies are available from the volumes of Dr. Leung’s newsletter, of the same name as this blog (Leung’s Chinese Herb News). This newsletter was published and sent to subscribers (most were industry-insiders) from 1996 to 2004. The collected works now serve as an excellent reference work, created with Dr. Leung’s frank, honest opinions and down-to-earth communication style.

For more information about Dr. Leung and his writings, visit http://www.earthpower.com/. To order the newsletter referenced above, visit the bookstore, click “Buy Now” on the newsletter, and select Issue # 8 from the drop down list.

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