The Oldest Medicine is New Again

Today, I’m going to share some truly exciting and groundbreaking information I learned from an article in National Geographic magazine.  Peter Gwin’s (2019) article, entitled “Unlocking the Emperor’s Medicine Chest,” tells us about Chinese traditional medicine and how some of the oldest remedies known to man are being researched and used today.

chinese medicine

Writings from and about Chinese healers date back to the 3rd Century B.C., and this wealth of information has been added to and refined for over two thousand years.  In fact, President Xi Jinping has made traditional medicine an important part of China’s national health policy and most Chinese hospitals have wards in which patients are treated with ancient cures.  The National Geographic article includes information about acupuncture, herbal remedies, and medicines made from animal-derived products.  Since Botanichl is all about plant-based stuff, I’m going to happily skip over the controversial animal aspect of Eastern medicine and focus instead on something modern medicine is doing with herbs and plants that has its origins in ancient China.

Yale University professor Yung-Chi Cheng researches ancient Chinese formulas.  His team found an effective remedy for the side effects of chemotherapy that is showing both promising and completely unexpected (in a good way) results for cancer patients!  Cheng’s research group found an 1,800-year-old remedy for gastrointestinal problems that is a mixture of peony, skullcap, licorice, and Chinese date.  The group tried various blends of these ingredients during the past 20 years and have been in clinical trials overseen by the National Cancer Institute.  Their hopes were realized – most of the cancer patients who took the herbal remedy in the clinical trials did experience significant relief from chemotherapy’s side effects.  Something unexpected also happened:  “Their tumors shrank faster than those of patients who hadn’t taken the herbal formula” (Gwin, 2019, p. 115).  So now, they are working to find out why.  For those science nuts out there, it appears the herbs are correlated with a significant increase in a specific type of macrophage (tumor-killing white blood cell).

I am excited and newly-optimistic about the therapeutic potential of plant-derived substances, whether in the form of essential oils, teas, tinctures, etc., etc., etc.  Stay tuned to in 2019 for more fundamental, researched, evidence-based, and accurate information!

Article Reference:

Gwin, P. (2019, January). Unlocking the emperor’s medicine chest. National Geographic, The Future of Medicine Issue.  pp. 96-121.


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