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Bencao Gangmu -- Ming materia medica, Trifoliate orange, etc.

Li Jianyuan (Ming period, 1368-1644)

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Credit: Bencao Gangmu -- Ming materia medica, Trifoliate orange, etc. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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Description

Li Shizhen's monumental pharmaceutical encyclopedia Bencao gangmu (Systematic Materia Medica) contains entries on 1892 medicinal substances and 1109 illustrations. The illustrations in the first edition (shown here) are credited to his son Li Jianyuan. Gouju (trifoliate orange), suanzao (spine date), shanzhuyu (dogwood), zhizi (cape jasmine, Gardenia jasminoides Ellis), ruihe (Prinsepia uniflora Batal.) and hu tuizi (Thorny Elaeagnus/Elaegnus pungens) are grouped together on the same page. According to the text: The leaves of the trifoliate orange are similar to those of the tangerine. It has thorny branches and bears white blossom. The fruits, which are rather small, resemble citrus aurantium. The leaves are pungent in sapor and warm in thermostatic character. They can harmonize the centre and regulate Qi, and are used to treat purulent and bloody diarrhoea, painful straining at stool (liji houzhong), etc. The spine date plant resembles the common date. The bark is thin and soft and the wood is red. The fruits are purplish red, rounded and sharp-tasting. The stones are used in medicine: they are sweet in sapor and neutral in thermostatic character. They have the medicinal propertiesof replenishing and nourishing the heart and liver, calming the mind and arresting sweating, and can be used to treat debilitation-type distress (xufan) and insomnia, physical debility and excess sweating, etc. The dogwood bears red fruits, which resemble spine jujube. They are acid in sapor, neutral in thermostatic character, and have the medicinal properties of replenishing essence/semen (jing) and marrow, and warming the small of the back and the knees. They can be used to treat physical debility and excess sweating, frequent micturition and urinary incontinence, impotence and involuntary ejaculation, etc. The cape jasmine (also known as yuetao, Canton peach) is round and thin-skinned. Those with seven to nine sides are preferred for medicine. They are gathered after frost. They are bitter in sapor and cold in thermostatic character, and have the medicinal properties of clearing heat and dispelling poisons, purging fire and relieving restlessness. They can be used to treat heat pain in the stomach, redness of the face and eyes, abscesses and ulcers, distress and oppression in the heart and chest (xinfan xiongbi), etc. The prinsepia nut is round and flat, and the size of a black soya bean. The kernels are used in medicine. They are sweet in sapor, neutral in thermostatic character, and have the medicinal propertiesof dispelling wind and clearing heat, improving vision and removing nebula from the eye. They can be used to treat redness, pain and swelling of the eye, inflammation of the canthus and watering eyes, dim vision and photophobia. Thorny Elaeagnus (hu tuizi, also known as ludouzi) bears a small, elongated fruit similar in appearance to dogwood, with a speckled surface. It is acid in sapor and neutral in thermostatic character. The roots and leaves are used in medicine. This drug stops coughing and bleeding, soothes the throat and relieves pain. It can be used to treat coughs, asthma, coughing or vomiting blood, sore throats, etc.

Lettering

Gouju (trifoliate orange); suanzao (spine date); shanzhuyu (dogwood); zhizi (cape jasmine, Gardenia jasminoides Ellis); ruihe (Prinsepia uniflora Batal.); hu tuizi; ludouzi; known as baiji

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