“Use herbs that are as light as the feathers of a bird for disease in the upper burner. Use herbs to lift the spleen qi and cause the stomach qi to descend in the middle burner, just like calibrating a scale that should always be in balance. Use heavy and cloying herbs to treat yin deficiency for the liver and kidney in the lower burner, like adding a heavy weight to a scale to tip the balance.
…The warm-heat pathogen attacks the body through the nose and mouth. The lung opens to the nose and the stomach to the mouth. Disease in the lung can progress to the pericardium. If untreated or treated improperly in the upper burner, the disease will progress to the middle burner. If untreated or treated improperly in the middle burner, the disease will progress to the lower burner. The progression of the disease is to begin in the upper burner and end in the lower burner.”
-Wu Tang (1758-1836) who wrote the Wenbing Tiaobian (Detailed Analysis of Warm Diseases, 1798)
This season we’re continuing our theme of exploring strategies for treating what in Chinese medicine is termed “Wind Invasion.” Earlier in the fall we looked at ways to prevent illness, through use of Jade Wind Screen (Yu Ping Feng San) and acupuncture. While prevention is always ideal, as mere mortals we’re all destined to fall ill. If a pathogen does defeat our outer line of defense and we do catch a cold or flu, we need look no further than Wu Tang’s herbal formulas.
Wu Tang’s quote exemplifies his philosophy as a physician and herbalist. He is credited with creating some of the most important (and still often used) formulas for infectious diseases in the Chinese Materia Medica. Sang Ju Yin is one of these formulas, another is Yin Qiao San. As recently as the SARS outbreak of 2003 and the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 these formulas have been officially recommended by the Chinese Ministry of Health for use by physicians to combat infections. We need not reserve them for the most serious illnesses, as they are perfectly matched for treating all sorts of upper respiratory infections in their early stages. One of the best formulas for stopping a cold with cough in its tracks is Mulberry and Chrysanthemum formula (Sang Ju Yin). To understand how this formulation is so effective, one need only look at some of the fine herbs it contains. As an accompaniment to this article, we are displaying the three herbs used in this formula in their raw form in our clinic lobby! We will rotate our herbal display seasonally in the hopes of sharing with the community some of our knowledge of herbal medicine.