Chinese herbology

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Chinese herbs do not grow in China only. If you find the right climate and soil type, you can grow many of those herbs overseas. For instance, American Ginseng is grown in Wisconsin State.

The raw herbs available in retail have the following natural features:

  • Part of a plant: root, leave, seed, flowers, branch, etc.
  • Unprocessed except being cut, sliced, and cleansed of dirt.
  • Dried because the dried form weighs less and can be stored longer.
  • Some herbs can be eaten after boiling because they turn soft.
  • Most herbs cannot be eaten for they remain very coarse after boiling.
  • Herbs in general do not taste good. Most taste bitter and earthly. Some taste neutral. A few taste even sweet.
  • Inexpensive except for a few like Ren Shen 人參, Chuan Bei Mu 川貝母, or Dong Chong Xia Cao 冬虫夏草.


Herbal tea[change | edit source]

How do people take the raw herbs? Raw herbs are usually taken orally by extracting the essence out of them. The natural way being practiced since ancient time is to boil and brew the herbal package in water to get a dark brown solution called herb tea that never tastes good. One hour of brewing should be good enough. Then you drink one or two cups a day. Honey or sugar may be added to make it taste less bad. The herbal package can be conveniently modified by changing some ingredients to make it work for you. So an herbal package is really tailor-made for you only.


Tablet form[change | edit source]

Raw herbs can be dried and grounded into a powder then compressed into a tablet which is better than buying your own tablets or having to buy gel capsules

Capsule form[change | edit source]

Raw herbs can be made into capsules at home. All you need is a tailor-made package of raw herbs. Turn it into fine powder with a powerful grinder, and put the powder into empty gel capsules. When you swallow the capsules, your digestive system has to extract the essence out of the raw herb powder. Whereas if you drink the herb tea, the essence extraction is already done after brewing. The herbal solution will readily be absorbed by your body. Furthermore, the herb tea has a history spanning over two thousand years. How many years of history does the tablet or capsule have besides offering convenience?


Healing properties[change | edit source]

  • Herbs have natural healing effects on organs, blood, and various unhealthy conditions.
  • In contrast to Western pharmaceuticals, which are mainly designed to fix or suppress certain health conditions, herbs have additional enhancing and strengthening values on the body.
  • Due to their strengthening and enhancing values, herbs can also be used for preventive measures.
  • The herbal effects are natural and mild, with little adverse side effects.
  • Each herb has multiple effects on the body, in addition to one major effect.
  • Herbs do not work singly because the effects of one herb are too gentle.
  • The effects of herbs rely on synergies because of their overlapping multiple effects. Therefore, an herbal package of different herbs put together can deliver a much greater effect than a single herb of equal weight.
  • How to create synergy for an herbal package is an essential knowledge and experience that distinguish a good herbalist from a mediocre one.


Usage of some Chinese herbs[change | edit source]

(A) General Tonics

(1) *** (Tonify Qi) ***

ren shen 人参 radix Ginseng

dang shen 党参 radix Codonopsis

bai zhu 白朮 rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae

gan cao 甘草 radix Glycyrrhizae

shan yao 山药 rhizoma Dioscoreae

da jao 大枣 fructus Jujubae

(2) *** (Tonify Yang) ***

lu rong 鹿茸 cornu Cervi Pantotrichum

rou cong rong 肉蓯蓉 herba Cistanches

yin yang huo 淫羊霍 herba Epimedii

du zhong 杜仲 cortex Eucommiae

xu duan 续断 radix Dipsaci

gou ji 狗 脊 fructus Psoraleae

bu gu zhi 补骨脂 rhizoma Cibotii

dong chong xia cao 冬虫夏草 Cordyceps

yi zhi ren 益智仁 fructus Alpiniae Oxyphyllae

ge jie 蛤蚧 Gecko

(3) *** (Tonify Blood) ***

dang gui 当归 radix Angelicae Sinensis

hu tao rou 胡桃肉 semen Juglandis

shu di huang 熟地黄 radix Rehmanniae Preparata

he shou wu 何首乌 radix Polgoni Multiflori

e jiao 阿胶 Colla Corii Asini

(4) *** (Tonify Yin) ***

nan sha shen 南沙参 radix adenophorae

bei sha shen 北沙参 radix Glehniae

tian men dong 天门冬 radix Asparagi

mai men dong 麦门冬 radix Ophiopogonis

shi hu 石斛 herba Dendrobii

huang jing 黄精 rhizoma Polgonati

yu zhu 玉竹 rhizoma Polgonati Odorati

shan zhu yu 山茱萸 fructus Corni

gou qi zi 枸杞子 fructus Lycii

nu zhen zi 女贞子 fructus Ligustri Lucidi

mo han lian 旱莲草 herba Ecliptae

bie jia 鱉甲 carapax Trionycis

gui ban 龟板 plastrum Testudinis


(B) Stabilise and Bind

wu wei zi 五味子 fructus Schisandrae

wu mei 乌梅 fructus Mume

wu bei zi 五倍子 galla Chinensis

fu xiao mai 浮小麦 fructus Tritici Levis

he zi 訶子 fructus Chebulae

shi liu pi 石榴皮 pericarpium Granati

rou dou kou 肉荳蔻 semen Myristicae

lian zi 莲子 semen Nelumbinis

qian shi 芡实 semen Euryales

sang piao xiao 桑螵蛸 ootheca Mantidis

wu zei gu 乌贼骨 os Sepiae

bin lang 檳榔 semen Arecae


(C) Transform Phlegm and Stop Coughing

zi wan 紫菀 radix Asteris

bai bu 百部 radix Stemonae

kuan dong hua 款冬花 flos Farfarae

sang bai pi 桑白皮 cortex Mori Radicis

ma dou ling 马兜铃 fructus Aristolochiae

ting li zi 葶靂子 semen Lepidii seu Descurainiae


(D) Regulate Blood: Stop Bleeding

san qi (tianqi) 三七 radix Notoginseng

qian cao 茜草 radix Rubiae


(E) Regulate Blood: Invigorate Blood

shui zhi 水蛭 Hirudo

chuan xiong 川芎 rhizoma Chuanxiong

ru xiang 乳香 Olibanum

mo yao 没药 Myrrha

yu jin 鬱金 radix Curcumae

e zhu 莪朮 rhizoma Zedoariae

dan shen 丹参 radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae


(F) Transform Phlegm-cold

ban xia 半夏 rhizoma Pinelliae

tian nan xing 天南星 rhizoma Arisaematis

bai jie zi 白芥子 semen Sinapis Albae

xuan fu hua 旋覆花 flos Inulae


(G) Regulate Qi

fo shou 佛手 fructus Citri Sarcodactylis

mu xiang 木香 radix Aucklandiae

wu yao 乌药 radix Linderae

xiang fu 香附 rhizoma Cyperi

ju pi (chen pi) 陈皮 pericarpium Citri Reticulatae

ju hong 橘红 exocarpium Citri Rubrum

qing pi 青皮 pericarpium Citri Reticulatae Viride

zhi ke 枳壳 fructus Aurantii

zhi shi 枳实 fructus Aurantii Immaturus

chen xiang 沉香 lignum Aquilariae Resinatum

chuan lian zhi 川楝子 fructus Toosendan

yan hu suo 延胡索 rhizoma Corydalis

xie bai 薤白 bulbus Allii Macrostemi


(H) Regulate Digestion

shan zhu yu 山茱萸 fructus Crataegi

mai ya 麦芽 fructus Hordei germinatus

gu ya 穀芽 fructus Oryzae germinatus

lai fu zi 莱菔子 semen Raphani

ji nei jin 鸡内金 endothelium corneum Gigeriae galli

shen qu 神麴 massa Fermentata Medicinalis


(I) Dispel Wind Dampness

du huo 獨活 radix Angelicae Pubescentis

wei ling xian 威靈仙 radix Clematidis

fang ji 防己 radix Stephaniae Tetrandrae

qin jiao 秦艽 radix Gentianae Macrophyllae

mu gua 番木瓜 fructus Chaenomelis

sang ji sheng 桑寄生 ramulus Taxilli

wu jia pi 五加皮 cortex Acanthopanacis

bai hua she 白花蛇 Agkistrodon seu Bungarus

hu gu 虎骨 os Tigris

wu shao she 烏梢蛇 Zaocys

cang zhu 蒼朮 rhizoma Atractylodis

hou po 厚樸 cortex Magnoliae Officinalis

huo xiang 藿香 herba Agastaches

pei lan 佩蘭 herba Eupatorii

sha ren 砂仁 fructus Amomi

bai dou kou 白豆蔻 fructus Amomi Rotundus

cao guo 草果 fructus Tsaoko


(J) Warm, pungent, Release Exterior Wind Cold

su geng 苏梗 caulis Perillae

zi su ye 苏叶 folium Perillae

xiang ru 香薷 herba Elsholtziae

jing jie 荆芥 herba Schizonepetae

fan feng 防风 radix Ledebouriellae

jiang huo 薑活 radix Angelicae Dahuricae

bai zhi 白芷 rhizoma seu radix Notopterygli

cang er zi 苍耳子 fructus Xanthii

xin yi 辛荑花 flos Magnoliae

bo he 薄荷 herba Menthae

niu bang zi 牛蒡子 fructus Arctii

can tui 蝉蜕 periostracum Cicadae

dan dou chi 淡豆豉 semen Sojae preparatum

ju hua 菊花 flos Chrysanthemi

ge gen 葛根 radix Puerariae

chai hu 柴胡 radix Bupleuri

sheng ma 升麻 rhizoma Cimicifugae

ma huang 麻黄 radix Ephedrae

gui zhi 桂枝 ramulus Cinnamomi


(K) Regulate BloodL Stop Bleeding

zhu ma gen 苧麻根 radix Boehmeriae

bai mao gen 白茅根 rhizoma Imperatae

ce bai ye 侧柏叶 cacumen Biotae

huai hua 槐花 flos Sophorae

da ji 大蓟 herba seu Radix Cirsii Japonici

xiao ji 小蓟 herba Cephalanoploris

di yu 地榆 radix Sanguisorbae

xian he cao 仙鹤草 herba Agrimoniae

bai jiang (败酱草) rhizoma Bletillae

qian cao 茜草 radix Rubiae

ai ye 艾叶 folium Artemisiae Argyi

pu huang 蒲黄 pollen Typhae


(L) Drain Dampness

fu ling 茯苓 Poria

zhu ling 豬苓 Polyporus Umbellatus

ze xie 澤瀉 rhizoma Alismatis

yi yi ren 薏苡仁 semen Coicis

che qian zi 车前子 semen Plantaginis

hua shi 滑石 Talcum

mu tong 木通 caulis Akebiae

jin qian cao 金钱草 herba Lysimachiae

tong cao 通草 medulla Tetrapanacis

shi wei 石苇 folium Pyrrosiae

yin chen hao 茵陈蒿 herba Artemisiae Scopariae

bi xie 萆薢 rhizoma Dioscoreae Septemlobae


(M) Drain Fire

shi gao 石膏 gypsum Fibrosum

zhi mu 知母 rhizoma Anemarrhenae

tian hua fen 天花粉 radix Trichosanthis

lu gen 芦根 rhizoma Phragmitis

huang lian 黄莲 rhizoma Coptidis

huang qin 黄芩 radix Scutellariae

huang bai 黄柏 cortex Phellodendri

zhi zi 梔子 fructus Gardeniae

long dan cao 龙胆草 radix Gentianae

xia ku cao 夏枯草 spica Prunellae

ku shen 苦参 radix Sophorae Flavescentis

jue ming zi 决明子 semen Cassiae


(N) Relieve Fire Toxins

jin yin hua 金银花 flos Lonicerae

ren dong teng 忍冬藤 caulis Lonicerae

lian qiao 连翘 fructus Forsythiae

pu gong ying 蒲公英 herba Taraxaci

zi hua di ding 紫花地丁 herba Violae

da qing ye 大青叶 folium Isatidis

qing dai 青黛 indigo Naturalis

ban lan gen 板蓝根 radix Isatidis

chuan xin lian 穿心莲 herba Andrographitis

yu xing cao 鱼腥草 herba Houttuyniae

shan dou gen 山豆根 radix Sophorae Tonkinensis

she gan 射干 rhizoma Belamcandae

ma chi xian 马齿莧 herba Portulacae

bai tou weng 白头翁 radix Pulsatillae

hong teng 红藤 caulis Sargentodoxae

qin pi 秦皮 cortex Fraxini


(O) Cool Blood

shui niu jiao 水牛角 cornu Bubali

sheng di huang 生地黄 radix Rehmanniae

xuan shen 玄参 radix Scrophulariae

xi jiao 西角 cornu Rhinocerotis

bai jiang 败酱草 herba Patriniae

mu dan pi 牡丹皮 cortex Moutan Radicis

chi shao 赤芍 radix Paeoniae Rubra

zi cao 紫草 radix arnebiae seu lithospermi


(P) Cleasr Deficient Heat

qing hao 青蒿 herba Artemisiae Annuae

bai wei 白薇 radix cynanchi Atrati

di gu pi 地骨皮 cortex Lycii Radicis

yin chai hu 銀柴胡 radix Stellariae


(Q) Purge Downwards, Cathartically Drain Downwards

da huang 大黃 radix et rhizoma Rhei

mang xiao 芒硝 natrii Sulfas

fan xie ye 番瀉葉 folium Sennae

da ma ren 大麻仁 fructus Cannabis

gan sui 甘遂 radix Kansui

yu li ren 郁李仁 semen Pruni

da ji 大戟 radix Euphorbiae Pekinensis

yuan hua 芫花 flos Genkwa

qian niu zi 牽牛子 semen Pharbitidis


(R) Warm Interior and Expel Cold

rou gui 肉桂 cortex Cinnamomi

wu zhu yu 吴茱萸 fructus Evodiae

xi xin 细辛 herba Asari

hua jiao 花椒 pericarpium Zanthoxyli

ding xiang 丁香 flos Caryophylli

gao liang jiang 高莨姜 rhizoma Alpiniae Officinarum

xiao hui xiang 小茴香 fructus Foeniculi

fu zi 地肤子 radix Aconiti Lateralis Preparata

chuan wu tou 川乌头 radix Aconiti

cao wu tou 草乌头 radix Aconiti Kusnezoffiae

wu tou 乌头 radix Aconiti Lateralis Preparata

gan jiang 乾薑 rhizoma Zingiberis


(S) Expel Parasites

shi jun zi 使君子 fructus Quisqualis

da fu pi 大腹皮 pericarpium Arecae

lei wan 雷丸 Omphalia

ku lian pi 苦莲皮 cortex Meliae

nan gua zi 南瓜子 semen Cucurbitae

he cao ya 鹤草牙 gemma Agrimoniae

he shi fructus Carpesii

guan zhong 贯眾(贯仲) rhizoma Dryopteris Crassirhizomae

fei zi 榧子 semen Torreyae


(T) Calm Shen

long gu 龙骨 os Draconis

suan zao ren 酸枣仁 semen Ziziphi Spinosae

yuan zhi 远志 radix Polygalae

bai zi ren 柏子仁 semen Biotae


(U)Extinguish Internal Wind and Stop Tremors

mu li 牡蠣 concha Ostreae

zhen zhu 珍珠 Magarita

zhen zhu mu 珍珠母 concha Margaritifera Usta

dai zhe shi 代赭石 Haematitum

ling yang jiao 铃羊角 cornu Saigae Tataricae

tian ma 天麻 rhizoma Gastrodiae


(V) Open Orifices

she xiang 麝香 Moschus

niu huang 牛黄 calculus Bovis

Bing Pian 冰片 borneolum Syntheticum

su he xiang 苏合香 Storax

shi chang pu 石菖蒲 rhizoma Acori Graminei

Notes[change | edit source]

(1)The terms used here reflect typical TCM usage (as translated literally from individual Chinese characters), and may not reflect their meanings in TCM, namely, meanings that are normative, figurative or metaphorical when read in context. The meanings of these terms are therefore different from that in common English usage. In particular, they are not to be used for purposes of self-diagnosis, much less for self-medication. For example, "Xia Huo" means "To reduce fire", but "fire" here does not refer to combustion involving oxygen. Even within TCM, there are various meanings of "fire", and it can refer to "real" or "false" fire. The 3 herbs mentioned above cannot be used to reduce "false fire", or fires of yin deficiency in the zhang organs.

(2) An example of the non-literal use of transliterated characters is "long gu" which literally means "dragon bones". This term cannot possible refer to Chinese dragons, since they do not exist. However, one can easily buy "long gu" from any TCM herbal shop. Another term that cannot be taken literally is "di long" which literally means "earth dragon".

(3) Although the above herbs are common in TCM prescriptions, they cannot be purchased if we refer only to their Latin names. One likely reason is that TCM pharmacists rarely, if ever, use the Latin names of the herbs. The Chinese names, or the transliterated names (pinyin) should be used instead. For example, if we ask for "flos Lonicerae" we will almost certainly get a blank look. However, if we ask for "Jin Yin Hua" or 金银花 we will connect immediately, even though the pharmacist may speak any of the large number of Chinese dialects (such as Cantonese, where the herb is known as "Kum Gen Fa", or Golden Silver Flower, in Hong Kong). Wherever possible, use the written form (金银花) to avoid miscommunication and/or mis-pronunciation, since there is no dialect form of the written language.

(4) There are a large number of synonyms of the herb names, in both Chinese, English and Latin. This makes it even more essential to use the written form of the Chinese names to ensure accuracy.

(5) Some herbs are prone to adulteration, substitution, or both. For example, Ling Zhi Cao (Cordyceps) can be substituted with an inactive form of the herb. If an extract is first made with water, the herb will be tasteless when dried and re-used/recycled. On the other hand, the genuine Ling Zhi tastes bitter, but few consumers would know the difference, especially if the herb is mixed in a prescription and boiled together with other herbs. The pharmacists themselves may not be aware, as some may trust their suppliers implicitly, and do not conduct regular testing.

(6) Animal-based "herbs" are prone to substitution or adulteration, including Xiong Dan (bear bile / gall bladder) which looks very much like Niu Dan (bovine bile /gall bladder) when the gall bladder is dried, although Niu Dan is far less bitter in taste. Some are simply unavailable because they are banned in many countries. These include tiger parts, such as Hu Gu (tiger bone) which is substituted by bobcat bone, and Chuan San Jia (scales of the pangolin) which has no animal-based substitute. Niu Huang (bovine gallstone) is unavailable in many Western countries and Singapore because of its potential impact on pregnant women, although Niu Huang Pills with about 2% of Niu Huang are available in many Asian countries.