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Ming herbal (painting): Tricosanthes

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Credit: Ming herbal (painting): Tricosanthes. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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Monochrome painting of tricosanthes (jieducao, lit. lit. Poison-Dispelling Herb) from Diannan bencao tushuo (The Illustrated Yunnan Pharmacopoeia). Diannan bencao tushuo was compiled by the Ming (1368-1644) writer Lan Mao in the 14th-15th century. The word 'Dian' in the title refers to the Yunnan region, in the Southwest of China. It provides a record of the plants and other substances commonly used for medicinal purposes in Yunnan in the Ming period. Most of the entries are illustrated with ink and wash paintings. This manuscript copy was executed in 1773 (38th year of the Qianlong reign period of the Qing dynasty, Gui Si year) by Zhu Jingyang. In the text, Lan Mao states: Tricosanthes is also called tianhuafen (lit. Heavenly Pollen). The root tubers are thick and fleshy, and the stalks and branches are climbers. The root is used in medicine; it is a panacea for external use. It is bitter in sapor, and cold in thermostatic character. It has the properties of clearing heat and dispelling poisons; reducing swelling and promoting the healing of wounds and lesions.It is used to treat all kinds of tianhuafen conditions, inflammations, suppurating ulcers, etc.

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Tricosanthes root (jieducao, lit. Poison-Dispelling Herb) is also called tianhuafen (lit. Heavenly Pollen). It is a panacea for external use. The mode of use varies in different herbals(?). To treat syphilis that has attacked the nose, causing inflammation and collapse, it should be applied frequently; it is able to dispel the poisons and reduce the redness and swelling. It can be applied to all kinds of lesions, and is marvellously efficacious in all cases.

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