The alchemy of poisons in Chinese medicine

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Manage episode 335336800 series 3365587
Thông tin tác giả Igor Micunovic MD/Ph.D được phát hiện bởi Player FM và cộng đồng của chúng tôi - bản quyền thuộc sở hữu của nhà sản xuất (publisher), không thuộc về Player FM, và audio được phát trực tiếp từ máy chủ của họ. Bạn chỉ cần nhấn nút Theo dõi (Subscribe) để nhận thông tin cập nhật từ Player FM, hoặc dán URL feed vào các ứng dụng podcast khác.

At first glance, medicine and poisons seem to belong to opposite sides. However, in China’s pharmacology, poisons are widely used as healing properties. At some point, it emerged the idea that the usage of strong poisons can contribute to enhancing life or even regaining immortality. Chinese medicine doctors patented medical techniques in order to apply the right amount of poison for medical purposes. Chinese medicine classified poisons according to their healing power but not toxicity, which was second of importance.

A traditional saying in China express their fundamental view of poisons:

Use poison as an antidote.(Chin. yi du gong du以毒攻毒 )

In ancient China, it was popular using poison to cure poison. To accomplish that goal Chinese used to drink realgar wine which contains arsenic sulfide. A popular custom they practiced in order to protect themselves was wearing Five poisons amulets (Chin. wǔdú qián五毒錢), which contained pictures of the 5 poisonous animals (snakes, scorpions, centipedes, toads, and spiders).

Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides wrote De Materia Medica (50-70 CE) which is the foundation pharmacopeia of medicinal plants in Western pharmacology and contains more than sixty toxic drugs, such as opium poppy, mandrake, and hemlock, collected to treat diseases. Unlike Greek medicine which prescribed poisons regarding their toxicity, Chinese medicine, prescribed drugs because they contain poisons.

Du (Chin.毒) – historically has two equally important meanings in China, a healing toxic and a poison. It exists different concepts of well-being in ancient China and contemporary times. Chinese pharmacology in its foundation sees a completely materialistic world as useful in the scope of healing.

Chinese medicine incorporates mild procedures, e.g. food therapy, with the function to balance the body, mind and spirit, and connect it to the universe, and use toxic drugs that might brutally destroy or expel pathogenic agents.

Throughout history, Chinese medicine doctors have often used herbal and mineral substances containing du. Aconite (Chin. Fuzi 附子), for instance, is a very toxic herb grown in southwestern China and is in fact one of the most frequently prescribed drugs in Chinese medicine.

Chinese doctors in ancient times included many toxic substances in the drugs in order not only to cure but also to extend life. It was a popular belief that it's possible to shape the transformation of the body into higher states of being and achieve longevity. Such a process included purification of the body, and the highest goal to attain was immortality. Most of the drugs used for the higher purpose could be used regularly on a daily scale, such as minerals, cinnabar, arsenic, and sulfur.


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