Shennong, whose name means “the divine farmer,” lived around 6,000 years ago and was credited for teaching China the practice of agriculture. He taught people how to cultivate grains as food and is said to have tasted hundreds of herbs to carefully test and record their therapeutic properties. The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica,or Shennong Ben Cao, first compiled around 206 B.C., considered the earliest Chinese pharmacopoeia, contained 365 herbs. In this classic, herbs are categorized into three groups. The first group is called food herbs which are eaten as part of one’s diet for health maintenance, longevity and illness prevention. The other two groups are called medicinal herbs that are dispensed to each patient as an individual formula based on one’s unique constitution, environment, and medical condition.
From 206 B.C. to the late 16th century, many more herbs were added to what became known as the Chinese Materia Medica, the book of Chinese herbal medicines. This increased the total to 1,892 distinct herbs and more than 10,000 formulas. Over several millennia many Chinese physicians made new discoveries, theories, and classifications, often writing or compiling books that have become classics of Chinese medical literature and are still referenced today. New entries are continuously being added and the current edition of Chinese Materia Medica contains over 10,000 herbs and natural substances.
Students of Traditional Chinese medicine learn Chinese herbal therapy from a Materia Medica that is 8.5 inches wide, 11 inches long, 2 1/2 inches thick, and weighs 8 pounds. Because of a 5,000-year history, your acupuncturist can make an herbal prescription that addresses most any known disease to help you restore your health and wellbeing. An herbal formula contains plant elements—leaf, stem, flower, root or seed—and perhaps minerals or other natural ingredients. Chinese herbal medicine works in tandem with acupuncture by providing the nourishing support for the energetic reprogramming efforts of acupuncture. The herbal labs at the Tao of Wellness clinics contain some 500 varieties of high quality individual raw, concentrated powder and liquid extract herbs as well as prepared herbal formulas in capsules and tablets.