Click here to download a handout covering pretty much everything below.
(And then some…includes the most commonly used herbs
and formulas as well a what category they fall into.)
Chinese herbs are still called by their Chinese names in many parts of the world, though that is changing and Latin nomenclature is becoming more common. Click on this link to learn the Chinese names of the parts of the plants used in herbal medicine. This will help you understand what some of those single herbs do.
Also refer to the Preparation of Herbs section on page 5-6 on this page. The way the herbs were prepared by the manufacturer are often included in the name of the herbs you study in Single Herbs.
This section gives you common Chinese (pinyin) names for colors. Color often corresponds to a five element entity. And sometimes the color names describing the herb will give you a clue on herbal identification tests.
Properties to know about herbs include:
Not the temperature of the herb as measured by a thermometer, but whether it heats, cools, or is neutral after the patient ingests it.
Different flavors have different effects on the body.
Direction of Movement
They all have directions. What? You didn’t think they just sat in the stomach did you? 🙂 Nope. They might go upward, downward, and more.
Herbs that Guide to Channels
(page 1) Not only do herbs have directions, they also can be used to guide a whole bunch of other herbs to a specific channel. You will see this reflected in most materia medica guides. An herb called Qiang Huo guides to the upper back while Du Huo guides down to the lower back for instance.
Most formulas have a primary herb (or two or three) called the chief, a deputy (second in command), an assistant, and envoy (the guide).
But before you can start combining formulas together it is imperative to know what herbs absolutely do not play well together and what herbs are great together.
Cooking raw herbs in a Chinese formula is pretty easy, but is a little time intensive. This document, pages 1-6, gives you a good breakdown of how you do it and the various considerations for cooking.
Basic guidelines for dosages of raw and powdered herbs, pages 6 through the end. There is a single line about patent herbs that says ‘easy, just take what the bottle says’ but I would like to amend that.
Dosages for Patents
All patent herb bottles will give you a ‘standard dosage’ on the bottle. Plum Flower, for instance, says 8 pills three times per day, while Evergreen’s herb bottles generally says 3-4 capsules three times per day.
This is important: any and all bottle dosages are geared toward a 150lb man. To get a good dosage for patents divide 150lbs by the standard dosage on the bottle. That gives you the pounds that are serviced by 1 pill.
Using the above examples, Plum Flower bottles that recommend 8 pills three times per day for 150lbs. But if you divide that out, it’s 1 pill for every 18.75 pounds of body weight. If you patient weighs 200lbs you would divide 200/18.75, which comes out to a little more than 10 pills 3 times per day, so 11 pills 3 times daily would be a good dosage for this patient.
This is great to know for kids. A 60 pound kid taking the same herbs would only need 3-4 pills for their body size.
If you were giving your patient Evergreen herbs you would give 4 capsules 3 times daily since the recommended dosage is 3 pills for a 150# person, or 1 pill for every 50lbs of body weight.
Moral to the story: if your patient is taking patents, do the math and get the right dosage for them.
-Divide 150 (the ‘standard’ body weight) by the number of pills for the recommended dosage.
-Divide your patient’s body weight by the answer you got in the first step above to get the number of pills at a time for their body weight.