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Chinese Materia medica, C17: Plant drugs, Cattail polle

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Credit: Chinese Materia medica, C17: Plant drugs, Cattail polle. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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Bencao yuanshi (Origins of Materia Medica) by Li Zhongli is a herbal in 12 volumes, containing 379 illustrations. It was first published in 1612. This illustration of puhuang (pollen of the cattail rush, typha angustata) is taken from the revised edition of Ge Ding, engraved in 1638 (11th year of the Chongwen reign period of the Ming dynasty, Wu Yi year). Li Zhongli writes: Puhuang grows in water. It produces tender leaves in early spring. In the summer it grows a pedicel, the tip of which is called puchui or pu'ehua. The pollen from this, referred to as puhuang, is sweet in sapor, neutral in thermostatic character, and non-poisonous. It has the medicinal properties of cooling the blood and arresting bleeding, promoting the movement of the blood and relieving stagnation. It is used to treat miscellaneous blood disorders, menstrual irregularities, bleeding during pregnancy and stagnation and pain following childbirth.


Cattail pollen (puhuang) belongs to the superior category in the [Divine Farmer's] Canon of Materia Medica (Benjing). It is the pollen of typha angustata (xiangpu). It can be collected in all four seasons. People in the south [of China] refer to the cattail plant as xiangpu (xiang = fragrant) and the bulrush as choupu (chou = malodorous). Nowadays, the pedicel (puchui, cattail hammer) is called pubang (cattail club. The leaves grow in a fan formation; they lubricate the bones and have a warming effect.


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