Chinese Herbal Remedies and Medicated Liquors

Here is a book published by Beijing Science and Technology Press that students and practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) may find interesting and useful. Culturally, herbal tinctures have been an integral part of Chinese medicinal therapy for thousands of years. This book discusses hundreds of prescriptions. Some are meant to be taken short term for acute conditions like the common cold. Some of the recipes, like those for diminishing eyesight, are meant to be taken long term as a tonic for the Liver and Kidney. Some of the recipes are meant to be applied externally for conditions such as alopecia and vitiligo.

When I was a student at the International Institute of Chinese Medicine, I clearly remember an herbal medicine lecture where my Chinese professor was discussing the herb Bai Hua She (white patterned snake). He told us how to prepare a powerful tonic for post stroke complications such as deviation of the face and hemiplegia. He went into great detail, telling us to dry the snake first and cut off the head. Then you soak the snake in 80-100 proof alcohol for several weeks. Enough to cover the snake in a glass jar. This preparation could be kept at room temperature for two years. The patient was to take two or three spoonfuls a day.

The benefits of this preparation sounded so wonderful, I raised my hand to ask if it was available in a ready to use product. I will never forget his response. He looked at me like I was nuts and said, “Yes, but why would you…. it is so easy to prepare!” Obviously, he did not understand that our culture was very different from his and I would not be hunting down a white snake to soak in alcohol any time soon.

Last year I had the pleasure of visiting China. At one of our dinner stops, I was reminded of this lecture when I saw a waitress pushing a cart and approaching each table in the dining room. On the cart was a large glass jar. Inside was a coiled snake covered with liquid. She was offering a small shot sized drink to the patrons for three dollars!

Some of the recipes in this book remind me of that snake story. I will not be killing a soft shelled turtle to get the blood for my menopausal ladies with hot flashes. But I just might suggest one of the tinctures to apply topically for alopecia.

About the Author:
Joyce Marley is a licensed acupuncturist with a practice in New Hartford, NY. She writes alternative health articles about acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Herbal Medicine
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