The Changing Qualities of Chinese Herbal Medicines

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In Chinese, the character 性 xing represents the complete character of a substance, which is not synonymous
with plant name, genus, species or previously documented medicinal action or indication. Rather, 性 xing is the
totality of what an individual herb actually is and therefore does in a patient’s body at the moment of its use. It
is important to recognise that the 性 xing of a natural substance is not static, but changes through location and
climate, and continues to shift as a plant dries, ages, becomes mouldy, loses essential oils due to storage, is ground
into powder, prepared into pills, steeped for minutes or cooked for hours. This article explores these aspects of
Chinese herbal medicines, particularly in relation to clinical practice.
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Author JulieAnn Nugent-Head
JCM Issue JCM 117-19
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