This book is about the art of combining Chinese medicinals. The study of such Chinese medicinal combinations is an intermediary step between memorizing the Chinese materia medica as single ingredients and memorizing formulas as a whole. By studying such two medicinal combinations, one can more easily understand and remember why formulas are composed as they are. In addition, such two medicinal combinations are very important when it comes to modifying standard formulas with additions and subtractions. In Chinese medicine, it is typical to add two medicinals to address any complicating patterns or any particular signs and symptoms. This allows such modifications to be more powerful and more precise. And lastly, the study of such combinations serves as a basis for creating new formulas from scratch. Therefore, the study of two medicinal combinations is an important part of studying so-called Chinese herbal medicine, a part which has previously been overlooked by the English language Chinese literature.
The combinations in this book have all been empirically tested, in many cases for at least two thousand years. It is these combinations that the practitioner can rest assured are the effective ones. When one looks at the temperatures, natures, functions, and indications of two medicinals, one may think that, theoretically, they should work well together for a certain purpose. However, in actual clinical fact, maybe they do and maybe they do not. Over not less than two hundred generations of literate, professional practitioners, Chinese doctors have identified those combinations which are, in fact, the most effective. By studying and using such a core repertoire of empirically effective combinations, one can more quickly make progress in their study and practice of Chinese herbal medicine.
Using this book
In attempting to use this book, the reader will see that the author emphasizes the very precise distinction between medicinals, varieties of medicinals, methods of preparation, and dosages. In particular, he often stipulates that for certain purposes, a certain prepared form of a medicinal should be used. For instance, he may specify uncooked or dry Jiang (Rhizoma Zingiberis) or uncooked or honey mix-fried Huang Qi (Radix Astragali Membranacei). In Chinese, the preparation of medicinals is called pao zhi and, in China, the study of such methods of preparation and their clinical use is a standard part of every Chinese medical practitioner's undergraduate training. Since this is also an aspect of Chinese medicine that has been largely overlooked in the West, the reader is referred to Philippe Sionneau's companion volume, Pao Zhi: An Introduction to the Use of Processed Chinese Medicinals also published by Blue Poppy Press, for information on the methods and indications of processed medicinals suggested in this book. When one combines the right medicinals which have been processed in the right way, one truly has a refined and clinically effective treatment.
The reader will also see that this book has been designed in tabular fashion to allow the quicker and easier comparison of the properties of individual medicinals within a pair. In the section titled "Major Indications of the Combination", the reader will find numbers in parentheses after some of these indications. These numbers then appear below in the section titled "Notes" where the author explains something further vis a vis these particular indications. Below these numbered notes, there may also be letters of the alphabet in parentheses as well. These alphabetized notes do not relate in a specific way to any of the previous indications. Rather, they are more generalized notes about different varieties of the same medicinal or discussions of dosages, special cautions, toxi"city", etc.