May 30, 2020

Kē Qín on Xuán Fù Dài Zhě Shí Tāng from the Collected Writings on Renewal of the Discussion of Cold Damage (伤寒来苏集)

“In Cold Damage which has resolved following sweating, purging or vomiting, [but there is now] a hard glomus below the heart and belching which will not resolve, Xuán Fù Dài Zhě Shí Tāng (Inula and Hematite Decoction) governs.”

(Shāng Hán Lùn clause 161) 

In cold damage, cold damages the heart. Now if sweat is effused, or one is purged or made to vomit, heart qi will become majorly deficient, and exterior cold will exploit this deficiency and bind below the heart. Heart qi will be unable to descend and instead ascend upwards resulting in noise [belching]. The sovereign [medicinal] governs the manifestation of this fleeing. Belching is the sound of pain. It cannot be referred to as sound, but should be named qi. Qi follows the sound and is seen on the outside.  


Xuán Fù Huā 3 liǎng

Gān Cǎo 3 liǎng

Rén Shēn 2 liǎng

Bàn Xià half a shēng

Dài Zhě Shí 1 liǎng

Shēng Jiāng 5 liǎng

Dà Zǎo 12 pieces


Use one dou of water for the above 7 ingredients, and boil until 6 shēng remain. Remove the dregs, and simmer again until 3 shēng remain. Take 1 shēng warm, three times daily.


This formula is shēng jiāng xiè xīn tang with huáng qín, huáng lián, and gān jiāng removed, and xuán fù huā and dài zhě shí added. In a heart qi deficiency a xiè xīn tang [formula] should not be taken, and can therefore be controlled with this formula. The heart governs the summer, and xuán fù huā reaches its end stage in the summer. Its salty flavor can supplement the heart, soften hardness, and disperse bound qi. Bàn xià grows at the beginning of summer, and its acrid flavor can scatter pathogens, disperse glomus, and move bound qi. Dài zhě shí is endowed with the fire of the south, which enters and frees the heart, scatters hard glomus, and settles the deficient counterflow. The sweetness of rén shēn, gān cǎo, and dà zǎo assist xuán fù huā in draining deficient fire, while acrid shēng jiāng assists bàn xià in scattering bound water. This will result in the dispersal of the hard glomus, and the elimination of belching. If huáng qín and huáng lián are used to drain the heart, how can one protect subtle yang from not being extinguished?

Kē Qín (柯琴), courtesy name Yùn Bó (韵伯) (1662 – 1735) was a Qīng Dynasty Shāng Hán Lùn (傷寒論 Discussion of Cold Damage) scholar, from Cí Xī county in Zhè Jiāng province. A prolific writer, Kē authored several books in his time and was a large proponent of the ‘school of formula types’ (方类证派), famously saying,  “Patterns are differentiated from the conformations, therefore the pattern is named after the formula (证从经分,以方名证).”




May 8, 2020

Zé Xiè from Zhāng Zhì-Cōng’s Běn Cǎo Chóng Yuán (本草崇原)

Zé Xiè from Zhāng Zhì-Cōng’s Běn Cǎo Chóng Yuán (本草崇原)

The Qi and flavor of Zé Xiè are sweet, cold and non-toxic. It treats wind, cold, damp impediment, difficult lactation; [it] nourishes the five viscera and boosts qi and strength, makes one plump and healthy, and disperses water. Taken for extended periods of time, the ears and eyes will become sharp and bright. It reduces hunger, extends the years [life], lightens the body, brightens the complexion, and [gives one] the ability to walk on water. [1]

Zexie is a water medicinal, which is sweet and cold. It is able to ascend the qi of water-yin upwards and nourish center earth. It governs the treatment of wind, cold, damp impediment, by initiating the water-fluids in the lower body, which then from center earth irrigate the muscles, interstices and skin. Breast milk is the fluid of the middle burner, so by the nourishment of water-fluids in center earth, it is able to treat difficult lactation. The five viscera receive the essence of food and grains, and since zexie flows and pools in center earth, it can therefore nourish the five viscera. The kidneys are the unyielding official, whose water essence supports the upper, and therefore boosts qi and strength. By irrigating the muscles and interstices from center earth, [zexie] is able to make one plump and healthy. Water qi first ascends then descends, therefore [zexie] disperses water. The sharpening and brightening of the ears and eyes after being taken over an extended period of time are the result of water assisting fire. Decreasing hunger and extending the years is due to water nourishing the earth. Lightening the body and brightening the complexion is due to the outward flow of water. With [giving one] the ability to walk on water, it can be said that [when one’s] ears and eyes are sharp and bright, and hunger is reduced, the years are extended, the body is lightened, and the complexion is bright, [they feel as if] they can walk on water!

[1] This last line is very interesting and can be translated and interpreted a couple different ways. The first translation, which is the most common interpretation and the one that makes sense according to later commentaries, is “the ability to walk on water.” Based on Zhāng’s reasoning it makes the most sense. However when first reading the line from the Běn Cǎo, I read it as “[zexie] is able to move water upwards.” This is a common function of the plant and the justification used for many of the positive effects experienced from taking this medicinal, therefore it would make sense. As there is no actual commentary found after the original entry, it’s impossible to know for sure what Shén Nóng meant with this string of characters.

April 19, 2020

Zhāng Zhì-Cōng on Bái Zhú

Bái Zhú from Zhāng Zhì-Cōng’s Běn Cǎo Chóng Yuán (本草崇原)[1]

The qi and flavor of Bái Zhú are sweet[2], warm, and non-toxic. [It] treats wind, cold, damp impediment, dead flesh, tetany, jaundice; stops sweating, expels heat, and disperses food. Make into fried cakes. Long-term consumption lightens the body, extends the years, and relieves hunger.

Bái Zhú’s qi and flavor is sweet and warm, and is abundant in fat and fluids. It is a medicinal for harmonizing and regulating spleen-earth. A major medicinal for treating wind, cold, damp impediment, Sù Wèn chapter 43 [‘discussion on impediment’] says “When the qi of wind, cold and damp all arrive together, they merge and result in impediment.” The taste of Bái Zhú is sweet and its nature is warm, for it supplements and boosts spleen earth; when earth qi moves, then the qi of the flesh moves externally to the skin and internally to the channels and vessels, therefore, impediment due to wind, cold and damp can be treated. The spleen governs the flesh, and (Bái Zhú) treats dead flesh, by moving spleen qi. In addition, the spleen governs the four extremities, and in tetany, the four extremities are strong but in disharmony. The color of the spleen is yellow; in jaundice the body and the eyes are yellow and the earth is deficient. Bái Zhú supplements the spleen therefore both tetany and jaundice can be treated. Stopping sweating (is achieved) through (the medicinals effect in assisting) the earth in overcoming dampness. Expelling heat refers to the expelling of deficient heat of spleen-earth. For dispersing food, (Bái Zhú) helps spleen-earth transport and transform. Fried cakes are made as it is said that Bái Zhú is rich in fats and can therefore treat dryness of spleen-earth. When made into cakes the flavor is sweet, warm and its nature is to enrich and moisten, thereby harmonizing and settling earth qi. As a result, the body is lightened, the years are extended and hunger is relieved.

Cāng Zhú (addendum)   

Bái Zhú is superior to Cāng Zhú. When one desires to supplement the spleen then use Bái Zhú. If one desires to move the spleen, then Cāng Zhú is used. If both these functions are desired, then both can be used in combination. So for example, ‘to supplement more and move less, use Bái Zhú more and Cāng Zhú less’, while to ‘move more and supplement less, use Cāng Zhú more and Bái Zhú less.’[3]
The Běn Jīng does not differentiate between Cāng or Bái (Zhú). Master Zhāng (Zhòng-Jǐng) in his Shāng Hán Lùn always used Bái Zhú, while in his Jìn Guì Yào Lüè used Chì (Red) Zhú[4]. It is only when arriving at Táo Hóng-Jǐng’s Míng Yī Bié Lù (Additional Records of Famous Physicians) that the two are differentiated, with key information on both Chì and Bái Zhú. Chì Zhú is Cāng Zhú, and its function and use is slightly similar to Bái Zhú, as it relates to the main treatments in the Běn Jīng. However, Bái Zhú is sweet and Cāng Zhú is bitter; Bái Zhú stops sweating while Cāng Zhú promotes sweating, therefore the reference to stopping sweating in the original text should be removed and not recorded! Later commentators say that Cāng Zhú is bitter, but in actual fact it is sweet and slightly bitter.

[1] Note that the original text contains more information on the identification, harvesting and processing of the herbs, however, I have opted to merely translate the clinically relevant information from the text, so this translation is by no means a compete rendering of the original work.
[2] It’s interesting here that Zhāng went ahead and changed the entry from the Shén Nóng Běn Cǎo Jīng referring to Bái Zhú as sweet, where the original text considered the medicinal bitter. He does go onto to say “The Běn Jīng refers to this medicinal as bitter, Táo Hóng-Jǐng calls it sweet, Zhēn Quán considers it sweet and acrid, while Zhāng Gǎo refers to it as bitter and sweet. If collected in the summer, the plant is more acrid and less sweet; if collected in the winter, it is more sweet and less acrid, while more bitter if collected any other time.” It is clear from this passage that Zhāng sides with Táo on this one.
[3] Rhythmic mnemonics have been a major feature of Chinese medicine to aid in increasing memorization and therefore the recall of long passages or complex bits of information. The nature of the Chinese language is as such that one can contain an enormous amount of information in just a few characters.
[4] Chi Zhu (赤术) is an alternate name for Atractylodes root, and in this text refers specifically to Cang Zhu.