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Wudang Taoist Kungfu Academy
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Chinese Herbology

Wudang medicinal plants study

Wudang abounds in its rich reservation of more than 2,000 kinds of Chinese herbal medicine. People often use "herb ocean" to tag the imposing mountains. As earlier as in Ming Dynasty the great Chinese herbalistdoctor Lee Shi Zhen, who wrote the book An Outline Treatise of Medical Herbs, traveled a lot within mountain ridges to collect various herbs. There left several caves in the southern side of Wudang where the doctor Lee Shi Zhen once stayed for sheltering. In his recording there were around 400 kinds of herbs to be available for medical application in Wudang area. As of today by the recording from the book Medical Herbs of China Wudang there have altogether 2,518 medical herbs to be found within the big mountains, 536 kinds more than all herbs listed in An Outline Treatise of Medical Herbs. Some herbs remain special locally and more interesting thing is many kinds feature special medical application and cannot be easily admitted in the traditional Chinese herbal system. Up to date more and more people begin to work upon the project to dig into the rich resources for better serving common people, among them Wang Dao Ke, Chen Ji Yan are the representative figures.

With the herb garden closeby, Wudang Taoist Kungfu Academy starts to offer Chinese herbology course from July of 2010. Such course offers the knowledge about 120 - 300 typical medicinal herbs, their property, growth, cultivation, harvest, preparation, storage and application in treatment. It is a fascinating subject and we hope many many people like to have such traditional knowledge.

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 slices" and traditional Chinese patent medicines and simple preparations' source, collection and preparation, performance, efficacy, and clinical applications.


  1. Role in Chinese medicine
  2. History of Chinese herbology
  3. Categorizing Chinese herbs
    3-1. The Four Natures
    3-2. The Five Tastes
    3-3. The Meridians
  4. What can Chinese Medicine treat?
  5. Are herbs safe?
  6. Chinese patent medicine
  7. Herbs in use
  8. 50 fundamental herbs
  9. Other Chinese herbs

1. Role in Chinese medicine

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

herbal medicineHerbology is one of the more important modalities utilized in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). 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 yin/yang 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 western 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, such as the leaf, stem, flower, root, and also ingredients from animals and minerals. The use of parts of endangered species (such as seahorses, rhinoceros horns, and tiger bones) 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.

Another difference between Chinese herbology and other traditional medical systems is its considerable use of marine products.

Chinese herbology can be oral (that is, eaten) or be external, as in the case of medicated, herbal adhesive plasters applied to the skin in order to treat certain diseases。

2. 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 farmers. The first Chinese manual on pharmacology, the Shennong Bencao Jing (Shennong Emperor's Classic of Materia Medica), 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 (literally "Treatise on the Nature of Medicinal Herbs"), a 7th century Tang Dynasty Chinese treatise on herbal medicine.

herbsArguably 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 Shen Nong's Herbal Classic, a 2000-year old medicinal Chinese book considered today as the oldest book on oriental herbal medicine, classifies 365 species of roots, grass, woods, furs, animals and stones into three categories of herbal medicine:

  • The first category, called "superior", includes herbs effective for multiple diseases and are mostly responsible for maintaining and restoring the body balance. They have almost no unfavorable side-effects.
  • The second category comprises tonics and boosters, for which their consumption must not be prolonged.
  • The third category must be taken, usually in small doses, and for the treatment of specific ailments only

Lingzhi ranked number one of the superior medicines, and was therefore the most exalted medicine in ancient times. The ancient Chinese use of medicinal mushrooms has inspired modern day research into mushrooms like shiitake, Agaricus blazei, Trametes versicolor, and of course lingzhi. Although a 2008 Review, by UC Davis, concluded that there is not enough evidence yet to promote the use of mushrooms or mushroom extracts in the treatment of disease, it stressed the urgency of further research and future clinical trials due to large numbers of promising in vivo and in vitro experiments.

3. Categorizing Chinese herbs

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

  • The Four Natures
  • The Five Tastes
  • The meridians

The earlier (Han through Tang eras) Ben Cao (Materia Medicae) 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 (10th to 12th Centuries), the theoretical framework from acupuncture theory (which was rooted in Confucian Han theory) was formally applied to herbal categorization (which was earlier more the domain of Daoist natural science). In particular, alignment with the Five Phases and the 12 channels theory came to be used after this period.

3-1.The Four Natures
This pertains to the degree of yin and yang, namely cold (extreme yin), cool, warm and hot (extreme yang). 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.

3-2.The Five Tastes
The five tastes are pungent, sweet, sour, bitter and salty, and each taste has a different set of 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.

3-3.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."

4. What can Chinese Medicine treat?
Chinese medicine is successfully used for a very wide range of conditions. Among the more commonly treated disorders are:

  1. Skin disease, including eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, urticaria
  2. Gastro-intestinal disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, ulcerative colitis
  3. Gynaecological conditions, including pre-menstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhoea, endometriosis, infertility
  4. Hepatitis and HIV: some promising results have been obtained for treatment of Hepatitis C, and supportive treatment may be beneficial in the case of HIV
  5. Chronic fatigue syndromes, whether with a background of viral infection or in other situations
  6. Respiratory conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, and chronic coughs, allergic and perennial rhinitis and sinusitis
  7. Rheumatological conditions (e.g. osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis)
  8. Urinary conditions including chronic cystitis
  9. Psychological problems (e.g. depression, anxiety)
  10. Children's diseases

5. Are herbs safe?

Chinese herbs are very safe when prescribed correctly by a properly trained practitioner. Over the centuries doctors have compiled detailed information about the pharmacopoiea and placed great emphasis on the protection of the patient.

6. Chinese patent medicine

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

Chinese herbsChinese 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.

7. Herbs in use

The use of Chinese herbs is a very popular tradition. “Many of the modern day drugs have been developed from these herbs such as the treatments for asthma and hay fever from Chinese ephedra, hepatitis remedies from schizandra fruits and licorice roots and a number of anticancer agents from trees and shrubs”. “There are several herbal drugs that invigorate the energy, nourish the blood, calm tension and regulate menstruation such as Bupleurum Sedative Pills and Women’s Precious Pills”. There are over three hundred herbs that are commonly being used today that have a history that goes back at least 2,000 years.

“The two most common ways to using herbs are to make a strong tea that should be simmered for about an hour or possibly more, or to make large honey bound pills”.

Most Chinese herbs are usually used to help build and strengthen the body. The most commonly used herbs are Ginseng, wolfberry, Angelica sinensis, astragalus, atractylodes, bupleurum, cinnamon, cinnamon bark, coptis, ginger, hoelen, licorice, ephedra sinica, peony, rehmannia, rhubarb, and salvia. These are just a few of the herbs.

8. 50 fundamental herbs

In Chinese herbology, there are 50 "fundamental" herbs, as given in the reference text, although these herbs are not universally recognized as such in other texts. The herbs are:
1. Agastache rugosa
2. Alangium chinense
3. Anemone chinensis
4. Anisodus tanguticus
5. Ardisia japonica
6. Aster tataricus
7. Astragalus propinquus
8. Camellia sinensis
9. Cannabis sativa
10. Carthamus tinctorius
11. Cinnamomum cassia
12. Cissampelos pareira
13. Coptis chinensis
14. Corydalis ambigua
15. Croton tiglium
16. Daphne genkwa
17. Datura metel
18. Datura stramonium
19. Dendrobium nobile
20. Dichroa febrifuga
21. Ephedra sinica (草麻黄)
22. Eucommia ulmoides (杜仲)
23. Euphorbia pekinensis (大戟)
24. Flueggea suffruticosa (一叶秋)
25. Forsythia suspensa (连翘)
26. Gentiana loureiroi (地丁)
27. Gleditsia sinensis (皂荚)
28. Glycyrrhiza uralensis (甘草)
29. Hydnocarpus anthelminticus (大风子)
30. Ilex purpurea (冬青)
31. Leonurus japonicus (益母草)
32. Ligusticum wallichii (川芎)
33. Lobelia chinensis (半边莲)
34. Phellodendron amurense (黄柏)
35. Platycladus orientalis (侧柏)
36. Pseudolarix amabilis (金钱松)
37. Psilopeganum sinense (山麻黄)
38. Pueraria lobata (葛根)
39. Rauwolfia serpentina (蛇根木)
40. Rehmannia glutinosa (地黄)
41. Rheum officinale (药用大黄)
42. Rhododendron (青海杜鹃)
43. Saussurea costus (云木香)
44. Schisandra chinensis (五味子)
45. Scutellaria baicalensis (黄芩)
46. Stemona tuberosa (百部)
47. Stephania tetrandra (防己)
48. Styphnolobium japonicum (槐花)
49. Trichosanthes kirilowii (栝楼)
50. Wikstroemia indica (了哥王)

9. Other Chinese herbs

In addition to the above, many other Chinese herbs are in common use, and these include:

1. Akebia quinata (木通)
2. Arisaema cum Bile (胆南星)
3. Arsenic trioxide (砒霜)
4. Arsenolite (砒石)
5. Aspongopus (九香虫)
6. Asteriscus Pseudosciaenae (鱼脑石)
7. Benzoinum (安息香)
8. Bombyx Batryticatus (僵蚕)
9. Bulbus Fritillariae Cirrhosae (川贝母)
10. Bulbus Fritillariae Hupehensis (湖北贝母)
11. Bulbus Fritillariae Pallidiflorae (伊贝母)
12. Bulbus Fritillariae Thunbergii (浙贝母)
13. Bulbus Fritillariae Ussuriensis (平贝母)
14. Bulbus Lycoridis Radiatae (石蒜)
15. Cacumen Securinegae Suffruticosae (叶底珠)
16. Cacumen Tamaricis (西河柳)
17. Calamina (炉甘石)
18. Calculus Bovis (牛黄)
19. Calculus Equi (马宝)
20. Calomelas (轻粉)
21. Calyx seu Fructus Physalis (锦灯笼)
22. Caulis Ampelopsis Brevipedunculae (山葡萄)
23. Caulis Aristolochiae Manshuriensis (关木通)
24. Caulis Bambusae in Taeniam (竹茹)
25. Caulis Clematidis Armandii (川木通)
26. Caulis Entadae (过江龙)
27. Caulis Erycibes (丁公藤)
28. Caulis et Folium Piperis Hancei (山莒???)
29. Caulis et Folium Schefflerae Arboricolae (七叶莲)
30. Caulis Euphorbiae Antiquori (火殃???)
31. Caulis Fibraureae (黄藤)
32. Caulis Gneti (买麻藤)
33. Caulis Hederae Sinensis (常春藤)
34. Caulis Impatientis (透骨草)
35. Caulis Lonicerae (忍冬藤)
36. Caulis Mahoniae (功劳木)
37. Caulis Perillae (紫苏梗)
38. Caulis Piperis Kadsurae (海风藤)
39. Caulis Polygoni Multiflori (首乌藤)
40. Caulis Sargentodoxae (大血藤)
41. Caulis Sinomenii (青风藤)
42. Caulis Spatholobi (鸡血藤)
43. Caulis Tinosporae (宽根藤)
44. Caulis Trachelospermi (络石藤)
45. Cera Chinensis (虫白蜡)
46. Chenpi (陳皮)
47. Cinnabaris (朱砂)
48. Clematis (威灵仙)
49. Colla Corii Asini (阿胶)
50. Concha Arcae (瓦楞子)
51. Concha Haliotidis (石决明)
52. Concha Margaritifera Usta (珍珠母)
53. Concha Mauritiae Arabicae (紫贝齿)
54. Concha Meretricis seu Cyclinae (蛤壳)
55. Concretio Silicea Bambusae (天竺黄)
56. Cordyceps sinensis (冬虫夏草)
57. Corium Erinacei seu Hemiechianus (刺?????)
58. Cornu Bubali (水牛角)
59. Cornu Cervi (鹿角)
60. Cornu Cervi Degelatinatum (鹿角霜)
61. Cornu Cervi Pantotrichum (鹿茸)
62. Cornu Saigae Tataricae (羚羊角)
63. Cortex Acanthopanacis (五加皮)
64. Cortex Ailanthi (椿皮)
65. Cortex Albiziae (合欢皮)
66. Cortex Cinchonae (金鸡纳皮)
67. Cortex Dictamni (白鲜皮)
68. Curcumae (郁金)
69. Dalbergia odorifera (降香)
70. Hirudo medicinalis (水蛭)
71. Myrrh (没药)
72. Olibanum (乳香)
73. Persicaria (桃仁)
74. Polygonium (虎杖)
75. Sparganium (三棱)
76. Zedoary (莪朮)

Wudang Taoist Kung Fu Academy
Purple Heaven Palace
Mount Wudang Scenery Zone
ShiYan City, Hubei Province, China 442714
Tel: 0086-139-9820-6370 (foreign)
Tel: (0)-139-9820-6370 (domestic)