The Herb and Formula Archetypes: The Inner Circle

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This course is the instruction of specialized Materia Medica and formula studies in the service of canonical Chinese medicine as practiced by Zhang Zhongjing in the Shanghan Lun and the Jingui Yaolue.

The Treatise on Cold Damage shanghan lun and the Essentials of the Golden Cabinet jingui yaolue are considered the ancestral books on formulaic science in Chinese medicine. The books written in Han dynasty (approx. 200 CE) by Zhang Zhongjing are the foundation of Chinese herbal medicine and the first clinical handbooks in the history of human medicine.

Canonical herbal medicine is practiced according the rules of the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic huangdi neijing, the Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica Classic shennong bencao jing and the Yiyin Decoction Classic yiyin tangye jing. They still function to this day as the foundation of all herbal formulas. It is widely considered that every herbal prescription to date can be traced back to its roots in one of these classics. As such, the importance of these single herb ingredients and the formulaic science of these prescriptions are to this day unrivalled.

Zhang Zhongjing did not use large amounts of different ingredients but rather employed a core selection of very simple and plain herbs, combined with the greatest scientific perfection to design the most efficacious and safe herbal prescriptions existing. The herbs used were all based on profound insights into the nature of our cosmos and showed explicit and implicit correlations with both nature and the universe. Both single herbs and formulas were seen as stars and constellations in an imaginary firmament and were often even named as such, thus producing the famous names of prescriptions such as the Black Warrior Decoction, or the Blue-green Dragon Decoction, to name but a few.

This is the authoritative introduction to the inner circle of Zhang Zhongjing’s herbal world and introduces the participant to the core cabinet of the archetypical twenty-five single herbs and their representative prescriptions. The herbs and prescriptions will be introduced in a format of canonical monographs presenting much more than the conventional pieces of information of actions and indications. A monograph will instruct on the symbolism and star constellations related to the herb, the signature of the plant, its qi and flavors and their respective density, movement directionality and organ and channel affinity, herb actions and dosages, possible acupuncture point equivalents, disease indications and lastly representative formulas with their common modifications.

Sources referenced include the commanding Han dynasty Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica shennong bencao jing, the Jin dynasty Records by Famous Physicians mingyi bielu, and Japanese Shanghan Lun and Kampo master Yoshimasu Todo’s Herb Types yakucho, to name but a few.

Both for beginners of herbal medicine as for advanced and seasoned practitioners, this seminar is the gateway into herbal medicine practiced along the tenets of the Han dynasty classics and doorway into canonical Chinese herbal medicine as practiced by Zhang Zhongjing in the Shanghan Lun and Jingui Yaolue. The seminar introduces the participant to Zhang Zhongjing’s inner circle of herbs.