Dr. Michael Tierra L.AC., O.M.D.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Traditional Chinese Medicine was being overshadowed by Western scientific medicine. Many were turning to this because they admired the lifestyle of invading Western societies such as the British. Part of the Communist revolution of Mao Tse Tung was a revival by the Communists of Traditional Chinese Medicine as in Mao’s words, “a national treasure.” Under the influence of materialistic Communist socialism, Traditional Chinese Medicine underwent a divestment from its more obvious earlier spiritual and mystical influences from Taoism and other religious philosophies. As such it has enjoyed increasing favor throughout many Western countries. However, many Western practitioners today feel a need to reinstate the universal, non-sectarian spiritual orientation of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
In America, Traditional Chinese Medicine lead by the widespread acceptance of acupuncture and its being legally licensed in the majority of the states, makes it a truly alternative holistic medical practice and it is increasingly including the practice of Traditional Chinese Herbalism. Recently the NCAA a national commission for the testing and certification of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medical Doctors have created a separate test certifying practitioners as Chinese Herbalists. This is good news not only because individuals trained as Chinese herbalists will undoubtedly be allowed to use native herbs and herbs from throughout the world but shows a growing trend leading to the recognition of herbalism as a distinct profession in the United States.
Once upon visit to Thailand, I wanted to discover what Thai herbalism was about. They are justly famous for their unique system of Thai massage but a number of Thai people directed me to a Chinese pharmacy and said that in fact, throughout Asian countries, including Africa, Traditional Chinese Medicine was the most respected because it was the most reliably effective system of natural healing. After decades of practice and study of Western, Native American and Ayurvedic systems of medicine, I feel that with its integrated theoretical, diagnostic and medicinal classification system and over 3000 years of accumulated experience, Traditional Chinese Medicine is indeed the most effective system of healing and a truly worthy alternative to Western scientific allopathy. Planetary Herbology, which is what the orientation of the East West Herb Course, is the integration of herbs from around the world into the system of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The Traditional Classification of Chinese Herbs
Chinese herbalism classifies herbs according to the Four Energies, the Five Flavors, the Four Directions and their relationship to the 12 Internal Organs. While they are called herbs because the majority of the substances used consist of plants, in fact, to a lesser extent, substances from the animal and mineral kingdoms are also used. Herbs are also described as food-like, mildly toxic and very toxic.
The Four Energies
The Four Energies are cold, cool, warm and hot. Sickness is also classified as cold or hot in nature so that herbs that have the ability to oppose or counterbalance a cold or hot disease. Herbs that have a cold energy are used to treat inflammatory and toxic conditions. Some of these are Lonicera and Forsythia blossoms and gentian root for instances. In western herbalism these might be classified as alterative, blood purifying or detoxifying.
Herbs such as dried ginger or cinnamon bark have a warm energy and counteract cold, hypotonic conditions, promoting digestion and circulation. One characteristic of a cold natured disease is clear or white mucus. A tea of fresh or dried ginger is a simple and effective treatment for this condition.
Warm or cool natured herbs are a lesser degree of cold or hot and are used accordingly. There is actually a fifth or neutral energy and commonly includes whole grains and seeds.
The Five Flavors
The Five Flavors are spicy, sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Herbs may have a complex of more than one flavor. This organoleptic classification of herbs is a way that Chinese herbalism relates to the biochemical action of herbs. The flavors of herbs do not always relate to the actual perceived flavors but are used to indicate the actions of specific herbs.
- Spicy flavor: Herbs with this flavor includes cinnamon, pepper, ginger, mint and cardamon. These are used to promote diaphoresis, disperse external pathogenic influences, promote circulation, restore energy. Commonly the spicy flavor indicates the presence of volatile oils. This means that herbs with this flavor are usually not boiled or decocted but added to steep for 10 or 20 minutes after preparing the other herbs in a formula.
- Sweet flavor: These include many tonic or nourishing herbs such as ginseng, Codonopsis, astragalus root and jujube dates. Herbs with this flavor have nourishing and tonifying properties. They also serve to normalize the functions of the Stomach and Spleen, harmonize the effects of different herbs in formulas, relieve spasm and pain, etc. They are generally used to treat symptoms of Deficiency including dry cough, constipation caused by dryness of the intestines, malnutrition and low energy. Some sweet flavored herbs also have detoxifying properties. The sweet flavor usually indicates the presence of carbohydrates, proteins, various sugars and glycosides.
- Sour flavor: These include citrus peel and schizandra berries. The sour flavored herb are used to induce astringency and arrest sweating and various discharges. They are used for perspiration caused by weakness, chronic cough, chronic diarrhea, spermatorrhea, enuresis, frequent urination, chronic leucorrhea, metrorrhagia, etc. These may have acid compounds and tannins.
- Bitter Flavor: This includes herbs such as Coptis, gentian, phellodendron, Lonicera, rhubarb and many others. Herbs with this flavor are generally used for clearing heat, inflammation, infections, toxicity, purgation, discharge dampness, cough vomiting. Herbs with this flavor may have many different chemical constituents but most characteristic is the presence of alkaloids.
- Salty flavor: This includes various seaweeds such as kelp or dulse, certain mineral salts such as sodium sulfate (Glauber’s salts) and certain plants. Herbs with this flavor are often used to lubricate, soften hard masses and to relieve constipation by purgation.
In most cases, herbs with the same flavor have similar properties, while those of different flavors have different properties. However, some herbs may have similar flavors but different properties or different properties with similar flavors. Because of this both the nature and flavors are jointly taken into consideration.
The Four Directions
Herbs have lifting, lowering, floating and descending properties. These may also be interpreted as upward, downward, outward or inward directions in terms of their ability to influence physiological processes.
Lifting refers to herbs that stimulate Yang Qi. Lowering or inward means to sedate or penetrate more deeply. Floating means to extend outward to the surface and usually includes diaphoretic properties. Downward means to purge or treat the lower part of the body.
Herbs with a lifting energy are used for diseases associated with a collapse of Qi, prolapse of various internal organs, coldness, depression, low energy and fatigue. These may include warm tonic herbs such as astragalus root but may also include bupleurum and cimicifuga which while having a cool energy are used to raise the Qi. Mint is also used because it has the ability to direct the Qi upwards to the mind and relieve depression.
Herbs with a floating energy have diaphoretic properties and are used for the initial stages of colds, flus, fevers and eruptive skin diseases. Examples of herbs with this property are numerous and include ephedra (ma huang), cinnamon twigs, mint and schizonepeta.
Herbs with a descending energy are used to treat diseases whose symptoms express themselves upward including symptoms of cough, vomiting and asthma. Two examples of herbs in this category include Pinellia and perilla.
Herbs whose energy is downward have the ability to purge or promote circulation in the lower part of the body. Examples are rhubarb root, angelica du huo and achryanthes.
Herbs also have heavy or light qualities. In general, flowers or leaves are light while roots, seeds or fruits are heavy. So that light herbs a commonly used for treating acute, feverish diseases while heavy herbs are used for deeper, more chronic conditions.
Herbs Classified 12 Internal Organs
In more recent Chinese medical history, herbs have been classified as entering or affecting one or more of the 12 Internal Organs. Since the internal organs in Chinese medicine refer not only to the specific organ but to the acupuncture channel or meridian that belongs to that organ, specific herbs are known to have a more or less specific effect on the corresponding organ meridian. Many of the relationships are obvious and correspond with some exceptions to the relationship of the flavors to the Five Elements.
Herbs with a sweet flavor typically belong to the Earth element and therefore enter the Spleen-pancreas and Stomach organ meridians. These commonly have a nutritive and tonifying energy. Those with spicy a spicy flavor belong to the Lungs and large intestine which are part of the Metal element. At least in terms of the lungs, these have the ability to promote diaphoresis and lessen mucus. Herbs with a salty energy belong to the Kidney-adrenals and bladder which belongs to the Water element. These have the effect of lubricating and moistening bodily tissues. Herbs that are sour enter the Liver and Gall Bladder meridians which belong to the Wood element and these aid in inhibiting and regulating bodily secretions. Finally, herbs that are bitter belong to the Fire element which includes the Heart, Pericardium Small Intestines and Triple Warmer. These are detoxifying and help to clear and improve the circulatory passages.
As stated previously, there are exceptions with the relationship of the flavors with their corresponding organs and acupuncture meridians. Because herbs often have complex biochemical properties, they may have more than one flavor and thus affect and enter more than one organ meridian.
A somewhat minor theory based on Five Element correspondence is the use of herbs according to their colors. Thus green herbs enter the Liver, red colored substances enter Heart, yellow colored herbs enter the Spleen, white colored herbs enter the Lungs and Black colored herbs enter the Kidneys. Besides the actual color of the herbs the Chinese will go through the trouble of coloring pills according to the particular organ that is primarily affected.
Toxic and Non-toxic Herbs:
The materia medica clearly indicates when an herb has reputed toxicity and may be indicated as “toxic” or “slightly toxic”. Herbs that are toxic have a much more narrow margin of safety according to dosage and are usually taken for a short period of time ranging from one to five days at a time.
Contraindications are when an herb is able to aggravate a preexisting condition or imbalance. There are the classically contraindicated and incompatible herbs listed below, herbs contraindicated during pregnancy, avoiding the use of drying or warm natured herbs for conditions associated with Yin deficiency or heat, moistening herbs for conditions of dampness, tonifying herbs for conditions of excess, cold natured herbs associated with conditions of coldness.
The place where one may encounter contraindications with herbs is when they are prescribed too heavily according to a specific disease. Nearly all diseases have at least two faces and more often more, based on the Eight Principles. Most diseases can have underlying excess or deficiency, coldness or heat, chronic or acute, yin or yang as part of the complex and require different herbal approaches accordingly.
Given even this, herbs are relatively safe. In fact, in terms of many physiological propensities, they are have amphoteric or regulating properties. It is wise to use herbs carefully, beginning with a lower dosage with periodic evaluations and reconsiderations at least weekly.
Certain foods tend to be contraindicated with some herbs and formulas. In most cases this means the avoidance of foods that could aggravate a previous imbalance such as raw, cold foods for conditions of Coldness; hot, spicy foods, heavy, sweet foods, richly nutritious animal protein foods for conditions of Excess; greasy and mucilaginous foods for conditions of Dampness; and foods that are heavy and hard to digest for conditions of Food Stagnation and digestive weakness.
In addition, there are certain herbs that are prohibited to be taken simultaneously with various foods. For instance neither Licorice (Gan cao), Coptis (Huang lian), Platycodon (Jie geng) nor Mume (Wu mei) can be taken with pork. Mint cannot be taken with turtle meat nor Poria mushroom with vinegar.
Principles of Formulation
Chinese herbalism is primarily formula based. Herbs represent an energy comprised of complex biochemical constituents which are enhanced and/or altered when they are combined together.
Formulations can be classified as follows:
- Mutually Synergistic: This occurs by combining two or more herbs with similar characteristics intended to amplify the original effect. Examples are the combination of angelica sinensis (dang gui) and ligusticum being two herbs that promote blood circulation, rhubarb and sodium sulfate which are two herbs that promote purgation and gypsum and anemarrhena which are two herbs that reduce fevers and inflammation.
- Mutual Assistance: If one herb is used as the major herb, the others are subordinately used to bring out the properties of the major herb. Examples are the use of ephedra (mahuang) and pueraria root to induce perspiration and release the surface, rhubarb root and Scutellaria to purge and detoxify.
- Mutually Enhancing: This represents the combination of herbs with different properties that mutually enhance each other’s action. Examples are the combination of poria cocos and astragalus root for treating edema and deficient Qi, rhubarb root and Coptis for purging and detoxifying.
- Mutually Pacifying: It is possible to combine two herbs together, for instance, so that one eliminates the toxicity of the other. An example is the combination of Pinellia and ginger. In fact, the toxicity of Pinellia is commonly pre-treated with ginger to eliminate its toxic properties. Licorice is combined with prepared aconite to counteract its toxicity.
- Mutually Antagonistic: By combining certain herbs together, one will cause the other to lose all or part of its therapeutic effect. An example is the use of ginseng and green tea. Classically Chinese herbalism delineates “nineteen antagonisms”. An example is the combination of ginseng with radish seeds.
- Mutually Incompatible: A small number of herbs when used together can create toxicity or strong side effects.
- Herbs That Are Best Used Alone: Some herbs work best when used alone such as deer antler.
Standard Pharmaceutical Principles of Formulation
Principles of organizing an herbal formula are the same in both traditional western pharmacy as well as Chinese. The Chinese, however, organize their formula to reflect ancient political organization of state as follows:
- Emperor or sovereign herb or herbs: ingredients in this category represent the primary therapeutic action of the formula.
- Minister herb or herbs: these include herbs that are added to assist the primary effect.
- Assistant herb or herbs: these are herbs added to treat accompanying symptoms or to lessen the toxicity or harshness of the primary substances. These can also serve as counter-assistants in that they may have an opposite property to the main herb such as being cooling to lessen the heating properties of the primary herbs or warming to control or lessen the cooling properties.
- Messenger herb or herbs are used either to direct and guide the primary herbs or smooth the way for their utilization.
Two examples of these principles are as follows:
- Four Major Herb Formula (Four Nobles)
- Ginseng or Codonopsis — Emperor or sovereign herb, Qi tonic.
- Atractylodes —- Assistant, complements the Qi tonic effect of Ginseng.
- Poria — Assistant, clears dampness and helps Qi tonification.
- Licorice — Messenger, harmonizes the formula.
This is the basic formula for Qi tonification and strengthening digestion.
- Dang Gui Four Combination
- Dang gui — Sovereign herb, Blood tonic
- Ligusticum — Assistant, promoting blood circulation with dang gui.
- White peony root — Assistant, aids tonifies blood.
- Rehmannia root — Assistant, nourishes blood and yin.
This is the basic formula for Blood tonification used in most gynecological formulas.
Many Chinese herbs are standardly processed for use to enhance their therapeutic properties. Some of these include Angelica sinensis and Rehmannia glutinosa which are presoaked in rice wine and dried for use, Pinellia ternata which is fried in fresh ginger juice to detoxify it and Prepared aconite which for which there are several methods of preparation that can be used to neutralize its toxicity.
In addition to this, herbs can be stir fired in honey to make them warmer and more tonifying such as prepared or baked licorice root. They are also commonly calcined or burnt to enhance their astringent properties.
Chinese herbs are each methodically sliced, tied together or cosmetically presented to prevent adulteration as well as to grade their quality. Because of this, one may find several grades of a single herb available in a Traditional pharmacy.
As with many imported herbs and foods, some are fumigated to preserve their color and fresh appearance as well as to prevent insect infestation. To date, I have never witnessed or heard of any adverse reaction to this processing. It must be remembered that Chinese herbs represent a relatively small part of one’s dietary input and are taken on a limited basis to achieve a specific therapeutic objective.
Pills, tablets and extracts taken over a longer period are unprocessed. Furthermore, not all Chinese herbs are fumigated and increasingly, there are Western Chinese importers who are making unfumigated Chinese herbs commercially available. The problem is that the consumer should be aware that cosmetically fumigated Chinese herbs will present a better appearance which does not attest to any therapeutic superiority.
Dosage and Preparation of Herbs
As previously stated, the range of safe dosage for the majority of Chinese herbs is wide while those that are classified as toxic have a much lower range of dosage requirements and preparation.
Metric weights are given throughout this book to conform to Western standards. However, Chinese herbal dosage is customarily given according to their own standard or weights and measures as follows:
- 1 fen = 0.3grams approx.
- 10 fen = 1 qin = 3grams approx.
- 10 qin = 1 liang = 30grams approx.
- 16 liang = 1 jin = 480grams approx.
Decoctions and Teas
The most common form of Chinese preparation is in decoction and teas. Traditionally these are prepared in a clay pot. They can also be prepared in glass, unchipped enamel or high quality stainless steel without interfering with their properties. They should not be prepared in iron, copper, aluminum or any type of metal that can alter the chemistry of the herbs.
The herbs should be soaked for 30 to 60 minutes in 4 cups of water before exposing them to heat. They are then quickly brought to a boil and simmered until the fluid is reduced by half. This is then strained and the original liquor is set aside for use. The same dose of herbs can be similarly cooked to make two or three further decoctions. The usual dose is one cup twice a day.
Herbs with volatile oils, usually diaphoretics, are usually prepared in less water and cooked for only 5 or 10 minutes. Tonics are simmered in more water for a longer period of time, usually 45 – 60 minutes.
Certain herbs should receive individual extractive consideration based on their constituents. Minerals and shells such as gypsum, oyster and abalone shell, turtle shell, dragon bone are boiled for 15 minutes before the others. Aromatic herbs such as mint, cardamon, Citrus peel, saussurea and others are added for the last 5 to 10 minutes in order to prevent the volatilization of their active constituents. This also applies to some purgative herbs such as rhubarb and senna leaf.
Herbs that are particularly precious should be decocted separately. This may include high grade ginseng and deer antler. This can be taken separately or added to the decoction.
Certain herbs and substances are unsuitable for decoction. These include amber and pseudoginseng. These are finely powdered and infused in warm boiled water or added to the decoction.
Some herbs such as donkey-hide gelatin and malt sugar are dissolved in boiling water or in the finished decoction.
One cup or dose is taken twice a day or as much as three times a day or every four hours for more acute diseases. Tonics are taken before meals, herbs that are bitter and might adversely effect digestion is given after (though not immediately after) meals. Anthelmintics and purgatives should be taken on an empty stomach. Sedatives and tranquilizers should be taken a half hour before bed-time. Anti-malarial herbs should be taken prior to the attack.
In most cases herbs are taken warm. For inflammatory or Heat diseases, they can be taken cool. For Yin Deficiency with Heat signs, the herbs should be taken cool while Yang Deficiency with Cold signs, the herbs are taken in warm decoction.
Pills should be taken with warm boiled water. Liquid alcoholic extracts are either 5 to 1 tinctures or a 1 10 1 extract. The tinctures are taken in prescribed 10 to 60 drop doses while the extract is taken in single to ten drop dosage because of its greater concentration. If one desires to nearly eliminate the alcohol, the prescribed alcoholic extract can be placed in a cup of boiling water, this will leave no more than 2% of the alcohol in solution.
Dried extracts are fast becoming the most popular and convenient form to take Chinese herbs. These are presently manufactured by a handful of companies based mostly in either Taiwan, Hong Kong or Mainland China. They are usually 5 to 1 in potency and the average adult dose is one half to one teaspoon twice daily. Children can take less according to age. These can be taken in hot water or placed in gelatin capsules as desired.
Classical Herbal Formulas
Herbal formulas represent the backbone of Traditional Chinese herbalism. Many of them date back well over 2000 years and have had the benefit of scrutiny and revision of some of the greatest Chinese herbalists down through the ages. Many of these are available in various forms, teas, patented commercial pills, liquid and dried extracts. For the beginning student of Chinese herbalism it is a good principle to emphasize the use of traditional formulas and then branch out to learn basic methods to modify them according to the individual and finally to extract the most salient principle of various formulas to create combinations appropriate for each individual.
- Astragalus Membranaceus (Huang Qi)
Common Name: Astragalus, Milk vetch, Yellow Vetch
Part Used: Root (Radix)
Energy and Flavor: sweet and slightly warm
Organ Meridians Affected: Lung and Spleen
History: Dates back to the Divine Husbandman’s Classic of the Materia Medica (Shen-nung pen-ts’ao ching) ascribed to the legendary Shen Nong during the late Han dynasty (206 B.C. – 8 A.D.). It was classed as a superior or “heaven” classed herb meaning that it is very safe and considered to be capable of prolonging life and alleviating the effects of aging.
Biochemical Constituents: The known constituents are D-B-Asparagine, 2′,4′-dihydroxy-5,6-dimethoxyisoflavane, calycosin, formononetin, cycloastragenol, astragalosides, choline, betaine, kumatakenin, sucrose, glucoronic acid, Beta sitosterol.
Actions: 1. Tonifies the Wei Qi and stops perspiration; 2. Tonifies the Spleen Qi and the Yang Qi of the Earth Element; 3. Tonifies the Qi and Blood; 4. Expels pus and assists in the healing of wounds; 5. Helps to regulate water metabolism in the body and reduce edema.
Indications: 1. For Deficiency of the Wei Qi and the Lungs (since the Wei resides in the Lungs) with symptoms of frequent colds and flus, shortness of breath, spontaneous sweating and night sweats; 2. For Deficiency of the Earth element with symptoms such as lack of appetite, prolapse of Internal Organs, diarrhea, fatigue and uterine bleeding; 3. For recovery from severe blood loss and postpartum bleeding; 4. For chronic abscesses and ulcers resulting from Deficiency; 5. For chronic Dampness and edema associated with Spleen Qi Deficiency.
Contraindications: This herb should not be used for case of Excess or Deficiency of Yin with Heat signs and should not be used when there is Stagnation of Qi or Dampness especially when there is painful obstruction.
Dosage: 9 – 30 grams, much more can be used when indicated
Notes: Astragalus tonifies the immune or “Wei Qi ” tonic herb for the prevention of colds, flus and other seasonal diseases. Wei Qi is that part of Yang that circulates just below the skin imparting radiance and suppleness as well as being responsible for the reaction of goose-bumps or shivers. By giving strength to the nervous system (the assumption is that a weakened immune system is concomitant with neurological weakness) and regulating the neurological reflex of the skin pores, it is able to contract and regulate perspiration. Thus it prevents the penetration of the External Evils of Cold, Damp or Wind. For the prevention of colds and flus, combine it with Atractylodes (Bai Zhu) and Ledebouriella (Fang Feng) in the Jade Screen Combination (Yu Ping Feng San). Astragalus, when combined with a smaller amount of Angelica sinensis (Dang gui) is a blood tonic for treating anemia. Used either in formula of singly, it serves to regulate fluid metabolism, prevent bloating and counteract obesity. When combined with licorice, it regulates blood sugar and is useful for both diabetes and hypoglycemia. It is commonly added to many tonic formulas including those that contain ginseng and/or codonopsis (Dang shen) to help the build immune system, stamina and endurance. A good combination for promoting health and longevity is Astragalus (Huang Qi) with codonopsis (Dang shen), lycii berries (Gou gi zi), Polygonum multiflorum (He shou wu) a small amount of both Angelica sinensis (Dang gui) and Jujube dates (Da zao). This can be made into a soup taken weekly or daily or cooked in rice congee (porridge). Because of its popularity, there are many grades of Astragalus with a wide range of price. The best quality are large and long roots with a yellow pith and a sweet flavor when chewed. Chinese astragalus species are now under cultivation in North America.
Immunomodulating Activities: Extensive research has confirmed the immunomodulating effects of both the crude astragalus preparations and specific polysaccharide and saponin fractions both in vitro and in vivo. One study demonstrated a “striking reversal of cyclophosphamide-induced immunosuppression,” completely restoring mononuclear cells of cancer patients to a normal level of immunocompetence. In the same study, it was shown that certain biochemical constituents of astragalus fully correct in vitro T-cell function deficiency in cancer patients. Further in vitro assays have shown that astragalus extracts can significantly enhance macrophage activity and reduce the activity of suppressor T-cells. Astragalus was also able to significantly increase natural killer cell cytotoxicity. Honey baked astragalus, a method used to increase Qi tonic properties seems to show no or very low macrophage modulating activity.
Antibody Response: Astragalus extracts injected into normal and immunodeficient mice seemed to enhance antibody response and production 2.6 times with a concomitant increase in T-helper cell activity. Maximum effect was achieved after three days.
Interferon Response: Astragalus seems to potentiate the effects of r-interferon with enhanced lymphocyte transformation both in vitro and in vivo. This substantiates the traditional well known claim that astragalus is highly effective in preventing the common cold.
Hematopoiesis: Besides its immune stimulating and qi tonic properties, Astragalus either alone or in combination with Dang Gui is very effective in counteracting anemia.
Hepatoprotective Effects: Oral administration of astragalus has been shown to proved significant protection against liver damage induced by the chemotherapeutic drug stilbenemidine, and carbon tetrachloride.
Sperm Motility: Astragalus had been shown to exhibit significant stimulatory effect on sperm motility which makes it useful for certain types of male impotence.
- Isatis Tinctoria (Da Qing Ye)
Common Name: Isatis Leaf, Indigo
Part Used: Foliage (Folium)
Energy and Flavor: bitter and cold
Organ Meridians Affected: Heart, Lung and Stomach
Actions: 1. Clears Heat and toxicity from the Blood; 2. Clears Heat associated with contagious febrile diseases.
Indications: 1. For any kind of Heat and toxicity in the Blood associated with infection, skin rashes, fever, or sores; 2. For febrile diseases of the contagious nature such as influenza, pneumonia, viral infections where there are symptoms of Heat.
Contraindications: This herb should not be used by those with weak and Cold Spleen or Stomach.
Dosage: 9 – 15 grams
Notes: Da Qin Ye together with Isatis Tinctoria (Ban Lan Gen) represent two of the most powerful antiviral herbs in all of herbal medicine. Often combined together, they can be used for either bacterial or viral sore throat and for any infectious conditions anywhere on the body. For the common cold, influenza and epidemic fevers of various kinds for individuals regardless of their constitution, these are among the most powerful herbs taken alone or with other herbs such as Lonicera (Jin Yin Hua) and Forsythia (Lian Qiao) for sore throat, sores and mumps. Taken with Gypsum, the properties of these herbs will be focused more on relieving External Heat with high fever and mania.
- Isatis Tinctoria (Ban Lan Gen)
Common Name: Isatis
Part Used: Root (Radix)
Energy and Flavor: bitter and cold
Organ Meridians Affected: Lung, Heart and Stomach
Actions: 1. Expels Heat and Fire toxicity; 2. cools the Blood; 3. Dispels Damp-Heat in the Lower Burner.
Indications: 1. For febrile diseases especially infectious diseases such as mumps and others associated with viral infections; 2. For febrile diseases with symptoms of fever, rapid pulse and a red tongue body with a yellow coat; 3. For jaundice and hepatitis.
Contraindications: This herb should not be used by those who are Deficient or are without true Fire toxicity.
Dosage: 10 – 30 grams
Notes: See notes for the previous herb, Isatis (Da Qing Ye). These herbs are good to use to Cool the Blood and relieve blotches and skin eruptions caused by Blood Heat. As such it is very good to use for agent orange disease. A Western herb perhaps with similar properties is Baptisia Tinctoria.
- Reishi Mushroom (Ling Zhi)
Common Names: Reishi, Ling zhi, Ling chih
Energy and Flavors: Sweet or bitter (depending on the variety), astringent, warming
Organ Meridians Affected: Heart, Lung, nourishes the Shen (spirit)
Historical Background: The world’s first plant monograph was done on Reishi mushroom. Referred to as “the mushroom of immortality”, original Chinese and Japanese herbalists described six different colors of Reishi including green, black, white, red, yellow and purple. Reishi has always been associated with divine or magical properties especially by the Taoist monks. This is reflected in the Chinese character for ling zhi which is a shaman crying for rain. It was included in the first Chinese herbal, the Ben Cao Jing of Shen-nung (206 B.C.-8 A.D.) as an herb in the non-toxic superior class.
Biochemical Constituents: polysaccharides and highly oxygenated lanostanoid triterpenes, including multiple pairs of C-3 stereoisomers and C-3/C-15 positional isomers.
Sources: In China it grows predominantly on the roots and stumps of dead oaks and other broad leafed trees. In Japan it grows exclusively on old plum trees and is extremely rare. In North America, it frequently grows on hardwoods but can also be found on conifers. Most of the ganoderma today is imported from China and is widely cultivated domestically, year round. The best quality is determined by color, size and shape. The large, deep red with a swirled ram’s horn patter is considered the best quality. Some buyers prefer the rarer, wild antler form. Related species is Ganoderma Applanatum which is commonly available as artist’s conk and is reported to possess similar activity.
Properties: ACE inhibition (Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibition which serves to regulate and/or lower blood pressure), sedative and calmative, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, cardiotonic, cholesterol biosynthesis inhibition, hypoglycemic, hepatoprotectant, antitussive, anti-asthmatic, immunomodulation, platelet aggregation inhibition, benefits the vital energy, strengthens the bones and tendons, improves complexion.
Indications: It is used for neurasthenia, dizziness, insomnia, chronic bronchitis, asthma, hepatitis, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, hypercholesterolemia, coronary heart disease, gastritis, anorexia, rheumatic arthritis, inhibit the growth of tumors.
Contraindications: None reported.
Dosage: of the Powder: 2-10 gm twice daily; of the decoction about 375 ml twice daily; of the rice wine or alcoholic extract: 30 ml twice daily.
Cardiovascular effects: It has been shown in vitro to increase the contractility amplitude between 40 and 45%. It has been demonstrated and shown to reduce cholesterol absorption in experimental animals fed a 2% cholesterol diet, presumably by occupying the sterol receptors in the intestinal tract (Shiao, 1994). This is possibly corroborated with the ancient belief that Reishi mushrooms make one lighter.
Immunomodulating activity: The polysaccharide component of Reishi enhances T cell proliferation.
Anti-tumor Effects: Numerous studies and reports have demonstrated the antitumor activity of G. lucidum constituents (Lee, 1994; Sone, 1985; Kino, 1989; Lieu, 1992; Lin, 1991: Maruyama, 1989). This action is associated with the triterpenes and polysaccharides in general. The extract also significantly lessens side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, enhanced post-operation patient recovery and with no allergic reactions. The extracts of the fruiting body inhibit the growth of Sarcoma 180 solid tumors in mice (Lee, 1994).
Hypoglycemic Activity: Two glycans, ganoderans A and B, have been shown to possess strong hypoglycemic actions making it useful for regulating blood sugar levels.
Anti-inflammatory Activity: Reishi mushroom possesses significant anti-inflammatory action, similar to hydrocortisone. In one study, the water extract was inactive while 220mg of the ether extract was comparable to 5 mg of hydrocortisone.
Chronic Bronchitis: For centuries Chinese herbalism has recognized Reishi mushroom as being singularly effective for chronic bronchitis (Tasaka, 1988). In one study, 20 patients with chronic bronchitis were given Reishi mushroom for four months. In all but two patients, there was a significant decline in blood cholinesterase activity, suggesting a reduction in the excitability of the parasympathetic nerves (Chang, 1985). Ganoderic acids C and D directly inhibited histamine release in rat mast cells (Kohda, 1985)
Additional Effects: Reishi has been found to protect the liver and enhance its detoxifying activity (Jong, 1992). It has been found useful for liver necrosis, hepatitis and in general lowers SGOT (liver enzymes) which significantly contribute to impaired liver function.
Preparations: Boil 2 – 18 gms of chopped or powdered reishi mushroom in a quart of water. Decoct slowly down to about two thirds of a quart. Take one cup two or three times daily.
Alcoholic Extract: Macerate 90 gms of chopped or powdered Reishi mushroom in a 1/2 liter of rice wine for at least 10 days.
- Chinese Angelica (Dang Gui)
Radix Angelicae Sinensis
Common Name: Dong Quai, Dang Gui, Chinese Angelica
Energy and Flavor: sweet, acrid, bitter and warm
Organ Meridian Affected: Heart, Liver and Spleen
Properties: blood tonic, emmenagogue, sedative, analgesic, mild laxative, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory,
Indications: Dang Gui is the premiere herb for blood deficiency as Ginseng is for qi deficiency. Because of this, it is sometimes called women’s ginseng because women’s health is so closely related to blood as men’s is closely related to qi. Therefore, it is widely used for all gynecological conditions including irregular menstruation, infertility, post partum weakness, menopause imbalances and anemia. It is also indicated for blurred vision, dizziness or palpitations when these symptoms are caused by blood deficiency. It invigorates the blood and can be used for conditions of blood stagnation causing painful obstruction, abdominal and menstrual pain pains. It can also be used for wind damp painful obstruction associated with blood deficiency. It unblocks the intestines, having a mild laxative effect where there is constipation due to blood deficiency.
Contraindications: This herb should not be used by those with diarrhea, abdominal distention due to dampness or by those with yin deficiency with heat signs.
Dosage: 3 – 9 grams
Biochemical Constituents: Butylidene phthalide, ligustilide, n-butylidene-phthalide, sequiterpenes, carvacrol, dihydrophthalic, anhydride, sucrose, vitamin B12, carotene, Beta sitosterol.
Notes: There are several species of Angelica which are used as the herb Dang Gui. Chinese Dang Gui is Angelica Acutiloba and the Japanese regard this herb as equal or even surpassing the blood tonic properties of Angelica Sinensis. Dang Gui is finely sliced and soaked in wine to make it warmer and more bio-available. The body of the root is more for blood while the tails are considered to be more for the ‘qi of the blood’ meaning blood circulation.
- Fleeceflower (He Shou Wu)
Radix Polygoni Multiflori
Common Name: Ho Shou Wu, Fleeceflower
Energy and Flavor: sweet, bitter, astringent and slightly warm
Organ Meridian Affected: Liver and Kidney
Properties: blood tonic, lowers cholesterol, laxative, antibacterial
Indications: A liver and kidney blood and yin tonic. It helps to retain the essence and symptoms such as premature graying of the hair, anemia, dizziness, weak lower back and knees and nocturnal emissions or vaginal discharge. This herb is excellent as a tonic because unlike most tonics it is not cloying in nature and so therefore dose not tend to stagnate. It is a good for constipation in the elderly because it tonifies while having a mild laxative effect.
Contraindications: This herb should not be used by those with diarrhea or when there are phlegm conditions associated with Spleen deficiency.
Dosage: 9 – 30 grams
Notes: Fleeceflower is now being cultivated throughout many areas of western countries. While the roots are a blood tonic, it is useful to know that the stems are used as a sedative for nervousness and insomnia. He Shou Wu or Fleeceflower root is prepared by cooking the root in black soya bean soup and then drying it for use.
- Ophiopogon (Mai Men Dong)
Tuber Ophiopogonis Japonici
Common Name: Ophiopogon, Japanese Mondo Grass, Japanese Turf Lily
Energy and Flavor: sweet, slightly bitter and cold
Organ Meridian Affected: Heart, Lung and Stomach
Properties: yin tonic, demulcent, nutritive, expectorant, lowers blood sugar
Indications: This herb is indicated for lung yin deficiency where there is cough that is dry or with scanty blood streaked sputum. It is also used for stomach yin deficiency with dryness of the mouth and lips, possible mouth sores and inflammation of the gums. It can be used for febrile diseases where the heat is burning up the fluids of the body. It is also good when there constipation due to fever that has dried the intestines.
Contraindications: This herb should not be used by those with weak Spleen and Stomach with coldness and diarrhea.
Dosage: 6 – 12 grams
Notes: Ophiopogon is commonly grown throughout North America as an ornamental. There are several varieties and so far everyone that I have tried has been pleasant tasting and certainly an effective yin tonic.
- Platycodon (Jie Geng)
Radix Platycodi Grandiflori
Common Name: Platycodon, Balloon Flower Root
Energy and Flavor: acrid, bitter and neutral
Organ Meridian Affected: Lung
Properties: expectorant, demulcent, anti-inflammatory
Indications: This is herb can be used for both hot and cold phlegm especially when there is associated dryness. It assists the lung qi to expectorate phlegm and stop cough. It is also used for pulmonary abscesses and throat inflammations and loss of voice. It also eliminates pus, reducing inflammation and promoting healing. Finally, this is one of the herbs with a rising qi, that is used in formula to direct the activity of other herbs to the upper part of the body. It can be used to quell cough, clear phlegm, induce sweating for treating the common cold, influenza, bronchitis and pulmonary tuberculosis.
Contraindications: Because of its ascending energy, it is generally contraindicated for hemoptysis (blood in the sputum).
Dosage: 3 – 9 grams
- Houttuynia (Yu Xing Cao)
Herba cum Radicis Houttuyniae
Common Name: Houttuynia
Energy and Flavor: acrid and slightly cold
Organ Meridian Affected: Liver, Lung and Urinary Bladder
Properties: anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, diuretic, expectorant
Indications: This herb is indicated for any toxic swellings of the lungs where there is thick yellow or green sputum. It can also be used for other heated swellings either internally or externally as it will help expel pus and cool the inflammation. It promotes urination for damp heat in the lower burner.
Contraindications: This herb is contraindicated for those with cold deficiency symptoms.
Dosage: 15 – 40 grams only lightly decocted
- Codonopsis (Dang Shen)
Radix Codonopsis Pilosulae
Common Name: Codonopsis
Energy and Flavor: sweet and neutral
Organ Meridian Affected: Spleen and Lung
Properties: qi tonic, lowers blood pressure, regulates (raises of lowers) blood sugar, increase white and red blood cells
Indications: This herb is often and routinely used in all formulas place of Ginseng when the stronger herb is not required. It is used for Spleen qi deficiency causing lack of appetite or prolapse of internal organs. It is useful for fatigue and weakness of the limbs and is effective for deficiency of Lung qi causing shortness of breath or chronic cough. It can be used in small doses when there is an acute illness with an underlying deficiency as long as the acute attack is addressed in the formula presented.
Contraindications: This herb should be used with caution when there is acute illness.
Dosage: 9 – 30 grams
- Solomon’s Seal Rhizome (Yu Zhu)
Rhizoma Polygonati Odorati
Common Name: Solomon’s Seal
Energy and Flavor: sweet and slightly cold
Organ Meridian Affected: Lung, Heart and Stomach
Properties: yin tonic, demulcent, lowers blood pressure
Indications: Used for dryness of the Lung and Stomach with symptoms such as dry throat, chronic dry cough, thirst, hunger that cannot be satisfied and irritability. It is used during febrile diseases to nourish the yin while cool the body. It generates body fluids and extinguishes wind and can be used during externally contracted febrile diseases associated with wind.
Contraindications: This herb should not be used by those with cold damp phlegm in the stomach.
Dosage: 6 – 18 grams
- Lily Bulb (Bai He)
Bulbus Lilii Brownii, L. Pumilum, L. Lancifolium
Common Name: Lily Bulb
Energy and Flavor: sweet, bland and slightly cold
Organ Meridian Affected: Heart and Lung
Properties: yin tonic, demulcent, sedative, expectorant, demulcent, antitussive,
Indications: Lily bulb is used for dry cough and heat in the Lung due to yin deficiency. It nourishes the Heart and calms the spirit for Heart yin and qi deficiency with such symptoms as restlessness, insomnia and chronic low grade fever.
Contraindications: This herb should not be used by those with wind cold conditions such as the common cold when there is phlegm nor should it be used when there is Spleen deficiency with diarrhea.
Dosage: 9 – 30 grams
- Asparagus Root (Tian Men Dong)
Tuber Asparagi Cochinchinensis
Common Name: Asparagus Fern Tuber
Energy and Flavor: sweet, bitter and cold
Organ Meridian Affected: Lung and Kidney
Properties: yin tonic, nutritive, demulcent, expectorant
Indications: This herb is indicated for yin deficiency of the lung and kidney when there are signs of false heat because of the yin deficiency. It is used for lung abscesses and hot sputum that may contain blood and is difficult to expectorate. It moistens the dryness of yin deficiency and lubricates the intestines when there is constipation due to dry intestines.
Contraindications: This herb should not be used by those with deficiency of the spleen and stomach when there is presents of cold accompanied by diarrhea, it should not be used for wind cold cough.
Dosage: 6 – 18 grams
Note: While it is a different species, Asparagus fern is grown throughout Western countries as an ornamental and Asparagus Springerii, the most commonly available species has sweet flavored gelatinous tubers which I have eaten and find to be effective