Fresh Ideas – Herb Pairs

I’ve been back home for a full week now and my Herb Nerd mind does not want to slow down.  Too many moving parts.  Too much momentum.

Classes have started in San Francisco: Practice Management, Public Health, Case Review…BUT NO HERBAL MEDICINE.

Where am I going to get my fix?

Well, guess if you want to get anything done, you have to do it yourself.

This has prompted me to fiddle with the ol’ Herb Nerd page and start translating my new Bible: Shi Jinmo’s (施今墨)book on herb pairs.

Briefly, what are herb pairs?  Chinese herbs are rarely used as a single herb.  It happens, but the medicine isn’t about that.  The medicine is a all about combinations.  Something – dare I say? – magical happens when these roots, leaves, nuts, and berries get all boiled together.  Parts break down and parts re-align, creating something new, amorphous, complex, and unidentifiable.

Lab research may be able to find that Dang Gui has high levels of iron for treating anemia or that Shu Di can stimulate estrogen receptors, but they can’t begin to figure out what kind of effect the two have in combination.  And imagine if you added three more herbs – as is common with most formulas.  That’s even more difficult to micro-analyze what’s happening physiologically.

But the Chinese have their own language for describing these physiological changes, and it just so happens to be the language of holistic medicine.

So where do we start?


Calm the Spirit / Insomnia Pairs

Suan Zao Ren + Ye Jiao Teng

You’re tired but you can’t go to sleep.  You go to sleep and you have nightmares.  Maybe you’re itchy.  Can’t get comfortable.  Something on your skin.

Together these two herbs can treat a kind of deficient, irritable insomnia.

Suan Zao Ren is the seed from a jujube fruit.   It’s sweet and sour in flavor and neutral in temperature.  Neutral meaning that it’s not too hot and not too cold.  It enters the Heart, Spleen, Liver, and Gallbladder meridians, meaning that – how do I say this? – it’s a stress reliever with some qualities that benefit digestion.

Ye Jiao Teng is a vine.  It’s also sweet and neutral.  It enters the Heart and Liver meridians.  No talk of Spleen means no direct digestive connection.  Much more specific.

Both herbs are sweet, meaning that they have building, harmonizing energy.  What are they building?  Yin.

Think about it like this: Fire is Yang, Water is Yin.  Day is Yang, Night is Yin.

This patient needs more Yin.  They’re running on fumes.  My herb pair book describes ” 阳不入阴 ” or Yang not entering Yin.

My interpretation of this is that Yin is a soft, California king-sized mattress that Yang needs after working an intense day at his downtown, pull-my-hair-out job.  But what does he get when he gets home?  A busted bed.

The fix is Yin tonifying herbs such as the ones listed here.  There are other fixes – this is just the famous Beijing doctor’s favorite two.  15-30g of each will do.

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