"Our cultural perspectives on Nature and our treatment of the non-human are not merely "wrong" in some contrived moral philosophic sense, but monstrous and unnatural."
                                                                                         -John Livingston, Rogue Primate

Chinese Medicine

Gardening, Mao's China, 1974.

 Commune workers' shuttle, 1974.

Chinese irrigation, primitive technology.

The Chinese dictionary of traditional medicines contains 5767 medicinal substances. In clinical practice 235 are commonly used.


Click a herb...

Astragalus Codonopsis Polygonatum
Bitter melon Ginger Polygonum
Bupleurum Ginseng Polypore mushroom
Burdock Jujube Schisandra, Wuweizi


Cardamon Licorice Siberian Ginseng
Chaste berry, Vitex Lotus  Wolfberry


Astragalus membranaceus, (huang chi), (haung qi)


USE: Tonic herb, use sliced root, glycosides, saponins, essential fatty acids. See astragalus in Physician's Laptop Reference section for more details.

Favorite Preparation: Six astragalus root cuttings (about 100 grams of the roots thatlook like tongue depressors) with a half handful (20 grams or less) of licorice root to three cups of water. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for twenty minutes. Fish or strain out all root material, then add a cup of brown rice to water. Simmer over low heat for 40 minutes in a covered pan to make soft rice dish. This food may be stored in refrigerator for three days. Consume for acute infection protection, for treating ulcers and stomach upset. Soothing to the entire digestive system.and upper respiratory tract.

Affinity to spleen lungs, energy slightly warm, sweet, slightly sour.

Immunotonic, cardiotonic, diuretic, lowers blood pressure, lowers blood sugar, improves circulation to flesh and skin TIM deficient energy, abnormal sweating

Take by decoction, or liquor 100 grams of sliced root in 1 liter of spirits for 3 months, take one ounce daily, works in combination with ginseng liquor.

Immune system tonic. Stimulates production of immunological substances throughout body, used to restore immune response in cancer patients. Increases both production and activity of white blood cells. does not directly attack cancer, strengthens immune defenses. Helps body resist viral infections, under study as treatment for AIDS it reduces number of T-suppressor cells. Chinese practitioners claim it improves adrenal gland function. May assist digestion. May increase metabolism along with other benefits making it a superior soup base for fighting the onset of colds and flu. According to Balch MD, Prescription for Nutritional Healing it may help deficient immune systems fight AIDS, cancer and other tumors. Chinese practitioners use it for chronic lung deficiencies.

Combine with licorice, ginseng, Echinacea, codonopsis.

Warning: Chinese practitioners caution against taking with a fever. It is a stimulating herb and is contraindicated with fever.

Chemistry: kumatakenin, glucoronic acid, dimethoxyisoflavone, choline, B-sitosterol, betaine.

Bitter Melon

Monordica charantia L.


Notes: This is one of my favorite foods at the Seven Seas Restaurant in Chicago's Chinatown. It is served with beef or chicken. I purchase it fresh at Oriental supermarkets and stir fry it with vegetables and oyster sauce. I have also blended the gourd like wrinkled skin in water and taken it three times a day as an anti-inflammatory agent for my psoriasis with little positive effect. It can be tinctured and used in the treatment of adult onset diabetes under the care of a holistic medical practitioner.


Food: Traditionally cooked with chicken of lean beef. A traditional Chinese therapeutic food. Delicious. You may grow this plant in your garden. Preparation: It's the skin you eat. Slice the skin Julienne style in strips. Discord seeds and white pulp. Saute in Oriental flavor principal, with scallions or green onions, maybe some oyster sauce.

Medicine: Used to treat diabetes, psoriasis and HIV. Traditionally used to treat cancer. It is antiviral. Has potent blood sugar lowering effect (hypoglycemic). Proteins alpha and beta momorcharin inhibit HIV (in vitro proof). Inhibits guanylate cyclase and may be of benefit to psoriasis sufferers. Single Chain Ribosome Inactivating Protein (SCRIP) in fruit and seed shows anti-tumor and anti-HIV activity in lab tests. These (momorcharins) inactivate the ribosomes of tumor cells and HIV cells without damaging healthy cells.

Chemistry: saponins to include: charantin, alkaloids, insulin like peptides, Alpha and beta proteins.

Side effects: bitter juice can cause abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. Hypoglycemic people should avoid it as it may induce hypoglycemia. Do not take without medical supervision if you are on anti diabetic drugs.

Amount: I eat up to one whole bitter melon at a sitting. Fifty ml (50 ml) of fresh juice can be tolerated by many. It may be tinctured in alcohol, but for treating psoriasis I would not recommend this as the alcohol may trigger, inflame, aggravate psoriasis. Tincture equal weight to volume of skin of herb to 180 proof alcohol. Take 5 ml or less.

Burdock, Gobo burdock

Arctium lappa (L.)



Description:  Large elephant ear like leaves.  Deep taproot.  This is the plant that deposits burrs on your dog and your trousers.  Break open the seed capsule and plant the seeds.

USES: (photo more information)

Food: Harvest roots in Fall or Spring of first years growth. Root may be twenty or more inches long. Peel root, slice diagonally and stir fry, steam. First year's leaves may be peeled, cooked and eaten. Second year flower spike may be cut in late spring and saute or steamed called cardone in Italy. Leaf infusion over chronic skin problems. Soak root in olive oil for topical skin treatment (soak in refrigerator for one month, slice thinly, put in oil, strain 1 month later...).

Planting tips: Plant in shade or sun. Pull burrs off dog, crush them to release seeds, spread seeds on scuffed soil in late winter. Plant thickly. Thin seedlings and spread them in May. Fall leaf stems and roots edible.  

Medicine: Root: Anti-diabetic (diabetes) internally, lightly cooked. Use to treat acne. Therapeutic for hypoglycemia when prepared correctly, don't overcook. Immune system stimulant. Helps prevent colds/flu. Perhaps helpful with chronic immune deficiencies, may be helpful with autoimmune diseases. Reported to help treat psoriasis. Warming. tonic, detoxifier. Internally for skin diseases. Diuretic. Treat eczema and psoriasis with root and drink water root cooked in. Also useful internally and externally for acne. Antibiotic. Strengthens stomach, liver, and lymphatic system. According to Japanese studies may be antimutagenic (anti cancer) in animal studies. Chinese use leafy second year branches in infusion to treat rheumatism, arthritis (Tierra) and measles. This medicinal tea is often sweetened with raw cane sugar. Tincture of seeds also used for psoriasis. Essential oil reported to encourage hair growth and improve skin condition. To remove oil puree seeds in hot olive oil and squeeze out through cheese cloth.

Root polysaccharides said to lower blood sugar, but in use probably slows release of glucose from intestine because polysaccharides require more steps in digestion before being reduced to monosaccharides for absorption. Thus the release of glucose is slow, gradual to blood from gut.

Tip: Wash root then beat in into warm water to release polysaccharides (inulin and mucilage).

CHEMISTRY: Roots contain polyphenolic compounds, caffeic acid, arctic acid and polyacetylenes (antimicrobial). Inulin. Seeds contain tannic acid, arctiin, arctigenin; Root: high in vitamin C, B vitamins and vitamin E, good potassium to sodium balance, with numerous minerals including sulfur, silica, manganese, iron...Bitter compound lappatin.(4)

Side effect: Root is edible and is eaten liberally in Oriental countries. I have eaten copious amounts of the saute, stir fried root. Raw root polysaccharides may give gas as they are tough to digest. Not recommended for pregnant or lactating women...Large amounts may have a uterine stimulating effect.

Amount: I can easily eat a whole 1/4 pound root in stir fry. 2-4 ml of burdock root tincture per day is recommended by herbalists or 1-2 grams of the dried root. Personally this is a small, conservative dosage. Make tincture with 25% alcohol. Lower amount of alcohol will keep polysaccharides from precipitating. Use fresh root one to one with alcohol weight to volume.


Bupleurum root (saiko in Japan and chai hu in China)

Bupleurum chinense


Use: This is one of the main ingredients of Sho-saiko-to a Kampo formula used to maintain and restore normal liver function. Other ingredients in the formula are ginger (Zingiber officinale), ginseng (Panax ginseng) licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) skullcap, (Scutellarria baicalensis) jujube (Zizyphus jujuba), pinellia tuber (Pinellia tuberifera). This formula has been to treat cirrhosis and may be chemopreventative to hepatocellular carcinoma.

This Kampo and Chinese formula may be purchased from Traditional Chinese Medicine pharmacists in your nearest Chinatown. Use under medical supervision.

Another reported to be effective herbal for treating or preventing cirrhosis is milk thistle.

Reference: -Yamamoto; et al. Prospective Study of chemoprevention of hepatocellular carcinoma with Sho-saiko-to , Cancer. 76(5)743-749.

-Herbalgram, Number 36 page 15.

Codonopsis pilosula (dangshen) (dang shen)


USE: Root used grind, cut, powdered...(Photo, more)

Builds immunity, cardiotonic, raises resistance, lowers blood pressure, raises blood sugar,

Tonifies (tonic) spleen and lungs (more energy), nourishes blood and energy.

Used for chronic fatigue, hypertension, loss of appetite, hyperacidity indigestion, loose bowels, exhaustion after child birth, immune deficiency, low blood sugar, energy

Acts similarly to ginseng, cheaper, weaker, more for chronic conditions. Cook in stew, soups, boiled with chicken or vegetable bullion...Brown rice and Codonopsis tea for long term strengthening. Affinity for spleen and lungs two major organ energy systems, responsible for extraction of energy from food and air through digestion and respiration. Produces true human energy jeng chee.


Elettaria cardomomum, (seed)

USE FOR: Diarrhea due to virus infection, warming spleen and kidney, impotence, indigestion, nausea, bronchial and digestive complaints, too much phlegm (Ayurvedic).

Powdered seed as an infusion, used in curries, pickles ,milk based desserts, baked goods, cooked fruit dishes, tea.

3 to 9 grams powdered seed in infusion. Do not use if have stomach ulcers.

Ginseng (red she)

Panax Ginseng

More detail see:  PLR


Root, tonic stimulant, aphrodisiac, enhances immune response, improves cerebral circulation and function, regulates blood pressure and blood sugar, tonifies primordial energy tonic for spleen and lungs

Stress, treat cold extremities, short term memory loss, impotence, diabetes, hypertension, adrenal deficiency considered closest thing to a cure all found in Nature. both elevates and lowers blood pressure depending on need.

Typical dose 5 to 10 grams in decoction, steam decoct for 30 minutes 60 grams in 1 liter of spirits for 3 or 4 months

Don't use with colds , pneumonia and other lung infections



 Glycyrrhiza glabra (gan tsao or gan cao)

(Photo)      PLR link

Also similar Ayurvedic uses. Synergistic when compounded with other medicinal and nutritional herbs.

Most frequently employed herb, highly prized, improves taste, harmonizes and prolongs effects of other herbs, sweet taste four times stronger than sugarcane.

Stimulates production of interferon, treat hepatitis B and potent tumor growth inhibitor, expectorant demulcent to lungs and bronchi, emollient to stomach ulcers, tonic, antipyretic, laxative, sedative, reduces cholesterol and blood sugar, inhibits tumor growth. TIM tonifies spleen and stomach energy, quells heart fire, tonifies triple burner and primordial energy, scatters external cold, detoxifier, balance and regulate life functions., similar to hormones secreted by adrenal glands thus effect on endocrine system because of the adrenal endocrine regulating role.

Use for colds, fever, sore throat, lung and bronchial congestion, stomach ulcers, gastritis, acid indigestion, diabetes, blood and liver toxicity, gallbladder inflammation, irritability, hepatitis, cirrhosis, damp, itchy scrotum, and other skin rashes.

Dose 2-8 grams in two doses, on an empty stomach, for colds and other respiratory ailments., add 2-5 grams of ginger root. infusion pour 1 liter of boiling water over 8-10 grams root, cover and steep for at least 20 minutes, repeat 3 or 4 times. You can add chrysanthemum, use decoction for external wash on skin rashes, let soak for 5 minutes then wash with clean water.

Chinese wolfberry

Lycium chinense (gou ji dze) (gou ji azi) 


Use fruit, skin of the root for Yin deficiencies

Skin of the root and fresh root: cooling (for Yin deficiencies) lower blood pressure and blood sugar; used to treat heat excess of lungs...also asthma, bloody urine, fever, coughs....

Fruit:  Corrects blurry vision, tonic, nutrient, emollient to lungs, relieves chronic thirst, TIM nourishes kidney yin tonifies liver

Longevity, health tonic, improves vision, spermatorrhea (frequent involuntary loss of semen without orgasm), weak knees, lumbago( non specific, dull aching pain in lumbar region of back), dizziness, headache, blurry or weak vision, fatigue, thirst, combine with Rehmannia glutinosa for sexual vitality. May be effective in osme adult onset diabetes (type 2).

Dose decoction 6-12 grams in two doses on empty stomach, eat berries and broth. liquor: 80 grams in one liter of spirits for 2 months, take 1 ounce, twice daily

Cooking: 20 grams to stewed meat, chicken, seafood. I use this in any stir fry. Use the berry and crushed seed to make the broth then strain.

Contraindications: weak digestion, fever, arthritis, do not prepare with metal utensils.

Chemistry: essential fatty acids; melissic acid, Beta-sitosterol, betaine, 5 alpha stigmastan-3; 6-dione, cinnamic acid.


 Zingiber officinale (Root fresh or dried)


Phytochemistry: volatile oils: zingerone, phellandrene, camphene, cineal borneol, citral. More below...

Rhizome used: warming, affinity for stomach spleen heart lungs kidneys.

Digestive aid, stimulates yang energy, warms lung energy, warms stomach energy, anti-emetic, salivant, stimulant, digestive aid, cold hands and feet, ulcers, colds with chills, high cholesterol,

seafood poisoning, always served with raw fish, motion sickness, nausea, ulcers, colds coughs , influenza, peripheral circulation problems warming, diarrhea, vomiting, uterine bleeding blood in urine. Helps remove toxins from stomach as it warms and improves tone of bowels. Increases and thins mucus flow, moving out disease.

Traditional Chinese therapy is 10 grams with brown or raw sugar to taste in two doses on empty stomach.

Cooking: Synergistic when cooked with other healthful herbs. My favorite recipes include carrot, citrus ginger soup (see recipe section of this disk). I use ginger almost daily. Orientals believe this to be a system strengthening herb used in the same way Native Americans use peppers. Mince ginger before putting in a stir fry. Add ginger to cold infusions of mint teas: one of my favorites is lemon balm; mountain mint, thyme and ginger, with a shot of lime juice. I make this a gallon at a time. Put fresh herbs in a gallon of water, with lime juice and ginger. Let infuse in refrigerator overnight. Cold infusion makes a clear aromatic tea full of essential oils.

Contraindication: high fever pregnancy.

NOTES: This is a great health protecting food in damp and cold areas such as the Northwest, Michigan, Northeast. Use at least every other day in some form. When I get up in the middle of the night and have to spit or urinate, and my sputum sticks to my tongue, or lip, it is too thick...Then I know I am getting sick and need my ginger, Astragalus and brown rice mix (see disk on Herbal Preparations and Nutritional Therapies).

Pets: may be given to animals who are vomiting; especially if they have eaten herbicide with copper sulfate.

Chemistry: shogaol; zingerone; gingerol represent pungent properties. Essential oils include: cineol, myrcene, Beta phellandrene, alpha pinene, camphene, cineol, bisabolene, and zingiberene. Gingerone and shogaol are antibacterial....Zingerone is hypotensive in lab animals. Essential oils may prevent gastroenteritis by reflex action that stimulates gastroenteric function.

Lotus seeds and seed receptacles

 Nelumbium nucifera


Use seed and receptacle as food. Seed is used as food to treat insomnia...Soak until soft and cook in stir fry.

Energy neutral, flavor sweet; affinity spleen, kidney and heart.

Activity: tonic, nutrient; aphrodisiac; hemostatic (stops bleeding); nervine. TIM: tonic to heart and spleen energy; nourishes semen-essence.

Use: insomnia; impotence; menorrhagia(excessive bleeding as opposed to menorrhalgia=painful menstruation or pain in pelvic region during menstruation); leukorrhea( white or yellow mucus discharge from vagina, some discharge normal); neurasthenia(chronic fatigue, lassitude, anxiety neurosis etc.); venereal diseases; weak heart; pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas symptoms: sudden intense pain in epigastric region, vomiting, belching of gas, nausea, collapse).

Traditional Chinese therapy 6-12 grams of seed in decoction; in three doses on empty stomach.

Seed as a powder; grind to powder first; 4-8 grams in three doses on empty stomach

Contraindications: constipation, indigestion, abdominal bloating.

Lotus seed: soup, soak seeds for a few hours, drain, boil in fresh water, add honey, lycium

Chinese Jujube

 Ziziphus vulgaris (Chinese date; da dzao (da zao)


Use fruit as food and medicine.

Energy neutral; flavor sweet; affinity spleen.

Tonic, nutrient, sedative, anti-tussive, emollient to lungs, promotes secretions of vital fluid, retards aging; TIM tonifies spleen and stomach energy; nourishes blood and warming.

For fatigue, insomnia, hypertension, physical exhaustion; malnutrition; TIM empty spleen and stomach symptoms; deficient energy.

Dose: decoction: six to twelve fruits, crushed use pliers to crush seeds, in two doses on empty stomach.

CAUTION:  Many resources suggest preparing the fruit as described above.  But my Chinese authorities always discard the seed and just cook the fruit.  I believe this is a safer way to take the food, as many pits have secondary metabolites that may be toxic.

Contraindications: gastritis, bloating, and other stomach disorders.

May be crushed (seed too) and applied to wounds. Jujube may enhance actions of herbs combined with it, drawing out powers and energies of other herbs. They clear the nine openings to the external environment: eyes, ears, nose, throat, anus, urinary opening etc. Removes obstructions so chi can move through and out of body. Promotes proper distribution along meridians and throughout bloodstream.

Chinese Cornbind

 Polygonum multiflorum (ho shou wu or jiao teng)

Sold in flat irregular pieces, reddish brown, ligneous, crenated, non-toxic

Used: Roots, stems, leaves.

Energy warm; flavor bitter, sour; affinity livers, kidney.

Demulcent to bowels, anti rheumatic, strengthens tendons and bones; promotes fertility in both sexes; darkens gray hair; builds bone marrow; TIM nourishes semen and blood; tonifies liver and kidney energy; expels wind dampness.

For dizziness; insomnia; spermatorrhea, abdominal pain after childbirth; weak rubbery feeling in knees and lower back; anemia; constipation due to dry bowels; premature gray hair; abscesses colitis; TIM : deficient kidney yin and liver yin; empty blood; may lower high blood pressure; and treat arteriosclerosis.

Decoction 9-15 grams in two doses on an empty stomach.

Liquor: 70 grams in a liter of liquor for 2 months; take one ounce a day after that , long term rejuvenation.

Don't take with any blood product: blood sausage; chicken blood, pig blood; don't eat with scaleless fish; white turnips; onions; garlic; iron compounds or iron utensils.

Schisandra, Wuweizi

Schisandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill.


Chinese Traditonal medicine as an aphrodisiac,  also, to improve one's complexion.  Flavor of fruit is both sweet and sour.  A warming, tonic herb that is astringent.  Used to control coughing as in asthma, moistening to mucus membranes.  Considered a cure all for:  hyperacidity, allergic skin conditions (an external use), memory improvement, insomnia, hepatitis, diabetes, diarrhea, premature ejaculation night sweats.

Medicine:  The drug consist of the dried ripe fruits of S. chinensis.  They are steamed, then dried in the sun.  The fruit is prepared in a water decoction and used to increase immune response, increase energy, treat asthma and other coughs, as a tonic for the kidneys and-with the water-to replenish lost fluids.   Indicated for night sweats, liquid replacement with diarrhea and for neurasthenia.  

See our video Natural Health with Medicinal Herbs for more information and live video of plant.

Widely available at health food stores.

Chemistry:  sesquicarene, Beta 2-bisabolene, Beta 2-chamigrene, Alpha -ylangene, citric acid, tartaric acid, malic acid, schinzandrin, schizandrol, citral.

Shiitake mushrooms

Lentinus edodes


Immune enhancing polysaccharides. Buy dried or fresh. Available at all Oriental markets and many health conscious supermarkets. Use in stir fry, eggs, soups, etc.

Dried shiitake is best washed thoroughly, then soaked in water for several hours in refrigerator and cooked.

Siberian Ginseng

Eleutherococcus senticosus

Tonic herb available dried, cut and sifted in health food stores and Chinese drug stores and Oriental supermarkets.

Medicine: This is a health maintenance herb, a tonic. It stimulates resistance to stress, mental, physical and chemical stressors.

It is considered adaptagenic, assisting the body to fight whatever is exerting destructive pressure on it. According to Russian studies it is an ergogenic aid, increasing strength and endurance.

Some TCM practitioner's feel it is more stimulating than ginseng. Russians made it popular by making it a regular supplement for their athletes and cosmonauts. The root is harvested in the fall and dried. Plant is found in China, Korea, Siberia, Japan and is now cultivated in Oregon, United States.

Personal:  Incompatible with aconite, onions, fish; menispermaceae herbs. Note: Hippies as well as mal contents like myself used the herb to improve exam scores by reducing physical and mental stress of cramming for tests. It is effective for chronic conditions that exhaust a person. Slowly building back their strength and stamina.

Chemistry: Key biologically active constituents are eleutherosides, phenylpropanoids, lignans, polysaccharides, coumarins, triterpenoid saponins and glycans.

Preparation: I take two or three tablespoons of dried root to two cups of water in decoction, simmer the water down to one cup and drink. You may make larger batches by simmering multiples of this formula.

Polypore mushrooms

Notes: Dryad's saddle my favorite polypore smell's a bit like watermelon as it is broken in half when fresh. Like most of the shelf polypores it is found clinging to the sides of dead trees in marshy areas.

RECIPE: Slice off pieces of the mushroom into stir fry: best with watercress, stinging nettles, woodland violets and wild leeks.