Knowledge of Chinese herbs

The website is dedicated to telling the knowledge of Chinese herbs based on the theory of traditional Chinese medicine. My goal is to create an online dictionary about Chinese herbs.

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Development History of the Therapy of Chinese Herbs

Ben Cao means Chinese herbs, as most of medicinal raw materials in traditional Chinese medicine are from plants.

In the early history of traditional Chinese medicine, external therapies were once more popular, as early processing technology of herbs could not effectively reduce the side effects of herbs. Therefore, when the author of the book The Commentary of Zuo commented an event that happened in 523 B.C., he said, “Though you serve your monarch with all your heart, you don’t have to give him medicine.”

However, external therapies were far from satisfying the needs of people for relieving symptoms and restoring health. The needs pushed the development of the therapy of herbs. In 597 B.C., before a battle two nobles from opposite sides used their knowledge of herbs to give a secret message. In the second century B.C., more than two hundred medicinal raw materials and nearly three hundred recipes had been applied to the treatment of fifty-two kinds of illness.

The discovering of new herbs, the improving of processing technology, and the researching of the combination of herbs greatly increased the effectiveness and safety of herbal therapy.

In the Eastern Han Dynasty, which lasted from the first century A.D. to the third century, a book named Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, which collects 365 medicinal raw materials, gave a systematic summarization about the theory of using medicinal raw materials.

In the early third century, Zhang Zhongjing wrote a book named Shang Han Za Bing Lun. The book mainly discusses the treatment of diseases through herbal therapy. The principles of creating recipes shown in the book enlightened later practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, and this is why Zhang Zhongjing was called medical sage in ancient China.

In the fifth century, a book named Lei Gong Pao Zhi Lun specifically recorded the processing technology of three hundred medicinal raw materials.

In the seventh century, the government of the Tang Dynasty published the first pharmacopeia, which collects 844 medicinal raw materials. The pharmacopeia tells where to obtain herbs, when to pick herbs, how to distinguish herbs, and how to process herbs.

In the Song Dynasty, which lasted from the tenth century to the thirteenth century, the government implemented the system of strict examinations in official medical education. The dynasty actively updated pharmacopeia, and published a lot of medical books through newly developed block printing techology. As a policy for satisfying people’s needs of conveniently using recipes, the government opened official stores to sell ready-made medicinal products, and published the standards about making the products.

In the past thousand years, because of the wide use of block printing, the practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine had more opportunities to exchange experience. A lot of specialized books discussed about how recipes effectively relieve symptoms, remove pathogenic factors, reduce side effects, and suit different people. The theory of creating and using recipes had a great development.

The effective and safe use of Chinese herbs cannot be separated from the strict design of a recipe based on the theory of traditional Chinese medicine. The website gives the basic knowledge of Chinese herbs to you. I hope the website may give you inspiration to become interested in traditional Chinese medicine.