Bencao Gangmu -- C.16 Chinese materia medica, Bezoars, etc.

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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. Illustrations of the donkey, the (Bactrian) camel, donkey-hide glue, horse bezoar (zhada), cow bezoar (niuhuang) and dog bezoar (goubao) are grouped together on the same page. According to the text: The donkey has a long muzzle, a broad forehead, large ears and a thin tail. There are three colour varieties: black, brown and white. The black donkey is superior for medicine. Donkey meat is sweet in sapor, neutral in thermostatic character, and non-poisonous. It has the medicinal properties of relieving distress, replenishing Qi and tonifying the blood. It is used in the treatment of overexertion damage (laosun) accumulated over a long period of time, stroke (zhongfeng, wind stroke) and dizziness, distress and agitation in the heart (xin fan bu an), etc. The head and fat of the donkey have the same sapor and thermostatic character as the flesh. The donkey's head dispels wind, relieves thirst and alleviates jaundice. It is used to treat stroke (zhongfeng, wind stroke) and dizziness, chronic wasting thirst (xiao ke, diabetes) of many years standing, and jaundice that has failed for a long time to respond to treatment. Donkey fat can dispel poisons and heal wounds, relieve ague and stop coughing. It is used to treat malignant ulcers (echuang), scabies, malaria (nüebing) and coughs. Donkey milk is sweet in sapor, cold in thermostatic character and non-poisonous. It has the medicinal properties of clearing heat and relieving thirst, dispelling wind and improving the vision, and alleviating jaundice. It is used to treat heat disease (fever) with tormenting thirst, infantile convulsions (jingfeng, wind fright), wind-fire conjunctivitis, acute jaundice, etc. Donkey's penis is sweet in sapor, cold in thermostatic character, and non-poisonous. It replenishes the kidney and is a sexual tonic. It is used to treat impotence and inability to achieve erection, aches and stiffness in the bones and sinews, kidney insufficiency and physical debility, etc. Ejiao (donkey hide glue) is so called because it was made by simmering donkey hide in the water of the 'E Well' in Dong'e, Shandong. The best kind is a deep amber colour or lustrous black like lacquer. It is sweet in sapor, neutral in thermostatic character and non-poisonous. It has the medicinal properties of nourishing Yin and purifying the blood, arresting bleeding and stabilising the foetus (i.e. preventing miscarriage). It is used to treat various kinds of insufficiency and overexertion damage, bring up blood and nosebleeds, menstrual irregularities, threatened miscarriage (tai dong bu an, restless movement of the foetus), post partum insufficiency and depression (chanhou xumen), etc. Horse bezoar (zhada or mabao) is a solid mass formed in the digestive tract of a horse. It may range from the size of a pea to the size of a chicken's egg. It is off-white in colour, hard and heavy, and similar though not identical to stone or bone. In section, it can be seen to have hollow veins. It is sweet and salty in sapor, neutral in thermostatic character, and non-poisonous. It has the medicinal properties of settling fright and resolving phlegm, clearing heat and dispelling poisons. It is used to treat internal proliferation of phlegm-heat, manic depression (diankuang) and fright epilepsy (jingxian), malign poisons, ulcers and swellings, disturbances of consciousness, etc. The (Bactrian) camel (tuo or luotuo) is similar to a horse. It has a head like a goat's, a rather long neck, and two fleshy lumps in a saddle shape on its back. It may be blueish, brown, yellowish or purplish in colour. The domesticated camel is distinguished from the wild camel. Both have substantially the same medicinal properties, though the effects of the wild camel are somewhat more potent. Camel fat -- the fatty tissue in the hump - is sweet in sapor, cold in thermostatic character, and non-poisonous. It has the medicinal properties of moistening dryness and getting rid of wind, enlivening the blood and reducing swellings. It is used to treat wind-cold damp impediment (feng han shibi), skin itches, malignant ulcers and septic swellings, muscle contraction, etc. Camel flesh is sweet in sapor, cold in thermostatic character, and non-poisonous. It has the medicinal properties of replenishing Qi and nourishing blood. It is used to treat physical debility and emaciation, flaccidity and paralysis of the bones and sinews, dry, dull skin, etc. Camel's milk is sweet in sapor, cold in thermostatic character, and non-poisonous. It has the medicinal properties of tonifying the centre and replenishing Qi, strengthening the bones and sinews. It is used to treat physical debility in consequence of long illness, and weakness and frailty of the bones and sinews. Camel hair is salty in sapor, neutral in thermostatic character, and poisonous. Calcined and ground to a powder, it settles fright and calms the mind, exercises an astringent effect and arrests vaginal discharge. It is used to treat epilepsy and mental confusion, profuse or bloody vaginal discharge, etc. Cow bezoar is generally found in the cow's gallbladder. It is round and light with a loose, brittle texture. It is bitter in sapor, cool in thermostatic character, and slightly poisonous. It has the medicinal properties of clearing heat and dispelling poisons, draining bile and resolving phlegm. It is used to treat epilepsy and mental confusion, infantile convulsions (jingfeng, wind fright), seasonal epidemics and heat malignity, poxes and toxic boils, etc. Dog bezoar is a round, heavy mass formed in a dog's stomach, which can be extracted after killing the dog and opening the abdomen. It is sweet in sapor, neutral in thermostatic character, and slightly poisonous. It has the medicinal properties of lowering retrograde Qi, releasing stagnant accumulations and dispelling heat toxins. It is used to treat difficulty in swallowing and gastric reflux, abscesses, swellings and septic wounds.

Lettering

Donkey, donkey hide glue (ejiao), E Well, horse bezoar (zhada), camel (tuo), like the wild camel, cow bezoar (niuhuang), dog bezoar (goubao)

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Bencao Gangmu -- C.16 Chinese materia medica, Bezoars, etc.. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

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