Short history of the Chinese term for ‘nerve’

I originally wrote this in response to a colleague who suggested that the Chinese term for ‘nerve’, 神經 [shénjīng], implied that the Chinese conceived of this concept as meaning: ‘links of transmission () of spirit ()’. Over the years I have shared it with students and in some discussion groups as well. The feedback I received has encouraged me to correct, expand, and polish it. I also added some illustrations in this new version. I hope you will enjoy it.

I am greatly and gratefully indebted to Hugh Shapiro for his thorough research on this topic.


Can we say that the nerves are ‘the links for the transmission of spirit within us’? Is that the way the Chinese saw it when they began to use the term 神經 [shénjīng] for ‘nerve’? When I heard that I had serious doubts, mostly because the Chinese already had an elaborate system of transportation in the body, consisting of channels, vessels, and a network of smaller conduits. I simply could not imagine that when descriptions of the nerve and the nervous system reached China, they thought: “Ah, that’s what was missing, that could be the vehicle for spirit transmission!”

I was prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt, though, and decided to see if there was any evidence for it. The combination of the two characters and by itself (be it very interesting) is not enough for me to believe that it became part of Chinese medical philosophy in the way that my colleague had put it.

I specialize in the Chinese-English terminology of Chinese medicine, a medicine that I have practised as well. Besides my studies in Chinese languages and cultures I have done studies in lexicology and terminology. A brief introduction to what terminology is and how it works in our field of knowledge can be found here.

Of importance for the following is: A term is only a term when it has a definition. A definition describes the concept that is conveyed by the term. When a term is translated into another language, the definition does not change. This principle is a prerequisite for adequate translation and communication in any specific subject field. There is nothing special about it; it is the way knowledge is communicated in this world. Nevertheless, it often is overlooked in one particular field of knowledge, namely Chinese medicine.


<Anatomiae amphitheatrvm, Robert Fludd, 1623>


So, it is the definition of ‘nerve’ that applies to 神經 and vice versa. There are many ways new terms are formed and for the Chinese terminologies of Chinese medicine and that of biomedicine (a.k.a. Western medicine) there are some specific problems. When the Chinese create new terms for concepts that they did not invent themselves, like ‘nerve’, what they are doing is trying to understand what the foreign term means (by investigating the definition of the concept) and then come up with a term for it in their own language.

If you translate that new word back into the foreign language without taking into account what definition is attached to it, you can come up with something different. And that is what happens when you translate 神經 as ‘spirit transmission’ or ‘lines for the transmission of spirit’, or ‘spirit channel’. Regardless of the problem that both characters have multiple meanings (an ignoramus could say that 神經 means ‘divine menstruation’), what you are doing when you follow this method, is giving a new and different definition to an existing term. And that makes communication in any discipline very difficult if not impossible.

The compound word 神經 [shénjīng] in the meaning ‘nerve’ is interesting because as a term it raises several questions. Imagine a doctor in China who comes into contact with Western anatomy for the first time in history. What would you say they will think? They see drawings of human bodies with lines, read the description of this new concept, and why o why don’t they come up with something like 腦經 ‘brain channel’, 腦氣經 ‘brain qì channel’ or another combination that fits what they read and see?


<De humani corporis fabrica, Andreas Vesalius, 1543, Basel>

As an aside:

The word [nǎo] in Chinese has the same definition as ‘brain’ – like many other anatomical words that were invented in different cultures without intercultural exchange. Think of ‘blood’, ‘heart’, ‘little toe’, ‘nose’, etcetera – all very straightforward terms, because they mean the same for everyone in all cultures and times.

Such questions occupied my brain when I was thinking about what my colleague brought forward, and they motivated me to search for references. And guess what? I found (at least part of) an answer to this intriguing issue that could make it even more intriguing. I have tried to summarize the story.


The history

The concept ‘nerve’ was first translated into Chinese by Johann Schreck (1576-1630), a member of the Society of Jesus who, before he sailed to China as a Jesuit missionary, had an impressive reputation in European courts as a gifted healer. Working with a Chinese scribe, he prepared a translation into Chinese of a Latin text in two parts, namely on anatomy & physiology and on perception, sensation, & movement (by Caspar Bauhin, first published in 1597 in Basel).


<Theatrum Anatomicum, C. Bauhin, 1605, Frankfurt>

After Schreck had served the Chinese rulers with his knowledge of astronomy (medicine and medical translation were private occupations) for a while he died, and Adam Schall (1592-1666), who had traveled on the same boat as Schreck, found a Chinese scholar, Bi Gongchen, whom Schall asked to translate the text into (more polished) literary Chinese. It was published in a single volume together with a text by Matteo Ricci, one year before the collapse of the Ming dynasty (1644).

In the text, entitled ‘Western Views of the Human Body, an Abbreviated Treatise’ (Taixi renshen shuogai ), ‘nerve’ is translated as 細筋 [xìjīn], which literally translates as ‘fine sinew’. The choice for ‘sinew’ reflects the understanding of nerves in Europe at that time. ‘Nerve’ and ‘sinew’ were, for instance, used interchangeably in early 17th century texts on anatomy. Also, the Latin ‘nervus’ means ‘bow-string, tendon, sinew’.


<Taixi renshen shuogai>

In Schreck’s text nervous function is explained by using the concept of qi circulation. The ‘fine sinews’ contain qi and no blood, and when they are cut, people lose their ability to move, etc.. The book did not give the Chinese much reason to become interested in an alternate method of healing, and the concept of nerves did not take hold in China until much later.

In Wang Qingren’s Yilin gaicuo (‘Corrections of Errors in the Forest of Medicine’), which after publication in 1830 became one of the most widely read medical texts in China (as it still is today), we find no mention of a term for ‘nerve’. Dr. Wang, however, recorded several anatomical notions that were revolutionary for Chinese medicine and in several ways heralded a period of modernization. For our story it is relevant that he presented anatomical ‘proof’ for what Li Shizhen had claimed in the Bencao gangmu, namely that the brain, and not the heart, was the mansion of the original spirit.


<Yilin gaicuo, Wang Qingren>

It was Benjamin Hobson (1816-1873), a medical missionary from England, who instigated renewed attention for the concept of nerve in China. With his text ‘A New Theory of the Body’ (Quanti xinlun, published in 1851) he had considerably more influence than Schreck. In the chapter on the brain and the nervous system, he introduced the term 腦氣筋 [nǎoqìjīn], which literally translates as ‘brain – qi – sinew’, that is, the sinew through which brain qi travels.


<Quanti xinlun>

Although China was in the middle of a modernization movement, in the beginning of the 20th century, the concept of the nerve was still not easy for the Chinese to digest. Of the twelve different words that had been invented for ‘nerve’ since the beginning of the 17th century, five made it to the shortlist of a terminology committee meeting held in Shanghai in 1916. The purpose of that meeting was to standardize Chinese terms for numerous scientific concepts coming from the West and biomedicine was the most important subject. The term for ‘nerve’ was debated for over two hours before 腦經 ‘brain channel’ or ‘brain tract’ topped 神經 ‘spirit channel’ by eight votes to seven.

Why did it take 300 years for the concept of nerves to take hold in China?

1. It was not particularly relevant for Chinese medicine.

2. It was associated with the Western notion of ‘volition’. The Greek term for ‘motor nerves’ was, translated literally, ‘capable of choosing, purposive’. The action of nerves was inseparable from exercise of will. In the West, volitional action was a crucial defining feature of identity. For the Chinese, who did not hold such a view of identity, the idea of incorporating nerves into medical theory was not attractive.


<Theatrum Anatomicum>

The term 神經 came to China via a different route. It was introduced in 1902 as a translation of the Japanese shinkei, which is written with the same characters. In 1774 it was coined by a Japanese doctor trained in Chinese medicine. He came up with the word after studying a post-Vesalian Dutch text on anatomy.

The story of the Japanese doctor resembles that of Wang Qingren. He went to an execution ground to observe the dissection of a cadaver in order to see whether the illustrations in the Dutch text made sense. When he was convinced that they did, he formed a translation group to study and translate the text, and that text is seen as the seed of biomedicine in Japan. He judged that the Dutch term zenuw (nerve) corresponded with keimyako經脈 [jīngmài], channels and vessels, and the term zenuw-vogt (nervous fluid), he argued, pointed to shinki神氣 [shénqì].

神氣 in Chinese medicine can mean several things: 1. spirit, vigor 2. In the Neijing, ‘spirit qì’ refers to the spirit, channel qì, right qì, the blood, and the yáng qì of the bowels and viscera. < Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine>. It is interesting to note that the Dutch word ‘zenuw’ (nerve) is directly related to the English word ‘sinew’.

Combining 神氣 and 經脈, our Japanese doctor-translator formed the neologism shinkei 神經 which consists of the first part of these two terms. Historians have not found evidence that the Chinese of the early 20th century were aware of the history of the term (namely that qì was part of its original full version), and argue that that is one of the reasons they favoured 腦經 [nǎojīng] as translation of ‘nerve’ in 1916.

Another note is that the word 神經 [shénjīng] already existed in classical Chinese as a designation for a genre of esoteric books. The Japanese shinkei 神經 is a new construction, derived from words unrelated to that classical meaning.

In the text mentioned below Hugh Shapiro asks the important question: Why then, did they eventually adopt the term 神經 [shénjīng] for ‘nerve’? According to Shapiro the reason can be found in the fact that thousands of Chinese trained in Japan and came back to China with Japan’s analysis of biomedicine in their luggage – accompanied by the terminology the Japanese used. Biomedicine (a.k.a. Western medicine) rapidly gained ground as part of the movement in China to modernize and catch up with the West. But more importantly, the Chinese were interested in the pathology of the nerves – a thing that was never described by the Jesuits who introduced the anatomy. And the Japanese doctors instructed the Chinese in nerve pathology as they had translated it from biomedicine.


<brain dissection, Japan, 18th century>

The concept of nerves as such did not appeal to the Chinese medical professionals (they didn’t really need it) but when they studied the illness neurasthenia as described by the biomedical literature of that time, they connected it to their understanding of depletion. In fact, neurasthenia, in Japanese shinkei shuijaku and Chinese 神經衰弱 [shénjīng shuāiruò], became much more important in China than in the countries where the idea originated but soon was discarded. Also, the foreign idea of ‘nervousness’ became very common in 20th century China.

Shapiro further argues that this can inform us that the Chinese and Western concepts of emotional and corporeal depletion were rather close, and that this is often overlooked when the differences between the two medical systems are discussed.

I might add that the ideas about several pathologies as described by Wang Qingren in connection to his, for China, rather new and revolutionary ideas about the brain and other anatomical parts, have contributed to the development of a more open view in Chinese medicine towards ‘facts’ instead of rigidly adhering to ‘theories’ only.


<Utriusque Cosmi …, Robert Fludd, early 17th century>


– Hugh Shapiro’s contribution in: ‘Medicine Across Cultures: History and Practice of Medicine in Non-Western Cultures’, a collection of essays edited by Helaine Selin (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003)

– Bridie Andrews’ Introduction in Yi Lin Gai Cuo – Correcting the Errors in the Forest of Medicine, and the chapter ‘On Brain Marrow’ in that book (published by Blue Poppy Press, 2007)

see also:

– Marta Hanson’s keynote lecture: Jesuits and Medicine in the Kangxi Court (1662-1722).

Questions and Answers on Materia Medica

A Short Introduction to Tang Zonghai’s Běncǎo wèndá

In the vast corpus of the běncǎo or materia medica literature of China, Tang Zonghai’s (唐宗海, 1862-1918) Questions and Answers on Materia Medica (本草問答) occupies an exceptional place. Tang, also known by his style or courtesy name Rongchuan (容川), wrote it late in his career at the request of one of his followers who argued that, because of all the trees (the enormity of information in the existing literature), it had become impossible to see the forest. The ability of one drug to cure a hundred diseases, as described in the materia medica, had made it hard, if not impossible, to cure even one disease. Another point in his argument to convince Tang to write the book was Tang’s knowledge of Western medicine. Through an exposition of general principles, the nature and action of both Chinese and newly introduced Western drugs could be extrapolated.

Tang is recognized as one of the main proponents of the movement to integrate Western and Chinese medicine. This is extensively reflected in his oeuvre, first and foremost by his Quintessence of the Medical Classics in view of the Convergence of China and the West (中西匯通醫經精義). While he embraced new knowledge from the West, he also countered the ridicule of Chinese medicine by Western scientific circles with elaborate and astoundingly convincing arguments. In fact, he utilized Western anatomical drawings to give further evidence for concepts like qi transformation. In the first section of the Běncǎo wèndá, after explaining how the ancient Chinese arrived at their knowledge of the viscera and bowels, he wrote:


Moreover, the Western world’s anatomical observations only [lead to] knowledge of layers and broken up [fragments] but not of channels and vessels, and they [lead to] knowledge only of traces of forms but not of qi transformation. [Western medical science] and China’s contemporary medicine each have their strengths and weaknesses, but if we compare with the ancient sages, the [Huang Di] neijing and the [Shen Nong] benjing, [the knowledge of] the Western world does not come close!

Tang also contributed substantially to the theory and clinical treatment of diseases of blood, as reflected in the key work On Blood Patterns (血證論). His elaborate thinking about the formation of and relation between qi and blood is apparent in Questions and Answers on Materia Medica as well.

In the course of that latter text, we are guided from the general to the specific. Philosophical questions are raised in the first set of questions. Why are animal, mineral and herbal substances, being of different classes than humankind, able to treat illness in humans? How do substances achieve their nature? How do methods of observation inform medical theory, and why is the ancient method of observation and tasting of drugs not inferior to the Western method of proving efficacy? As the questions begin to focus on groups of, as well as individual medicinal substances, Tang manages to swiftly move back and forth from theory to practical implications. A recurring question is: Why do drugs do what they do, such as up- and downbearing, floating and sinking, attacking and harmonizing, supplementing and draining? In the answers, Tang demonstrates the relevancy of environment, growth patterns (form, color, qi, and flavor) and/or timing and method of both harvesting and processing. The writer manages to capture and hold the reader’s attention by avoiding dry facts, choosing instead an enjoyable style of informative story-telling. The thorough investigation of how the action and quality of huángqí (astragalus root) depend on where and how it grows, is a fascinating example of this. He also explains several aspects of medical theory in new ways and combines them directly with clinical applications.


flowering-astragalusflowering astragalus 黃芪

An interesting aspect of his answers to questions on why drugs with the same flavor can have different actions is that he proposes and illustrates a refinement of established theory. All the five flavors (sweet, bitter, acrid, sour, and salty) are true to their original nature when ‘normal’, but their action transforms when they are ‘extreme’. For instance, ‘slight bitterness’ has the original nature of fire and thus the ability to warm heart fire, but ‘great bitterness’ turns into the opposite and acquires the cold nature of water (established theory holds that ‘bitterness can drain’). He combines this with what Xu Lingtai (Xu Dachun) already noted about the actions of medicinals, namely that these can variously depend on their particular qi, flavor, color, form, substance, or time and location of growth.

With all these insights partially introduced and illustrated with examples in the 75 questions, the reader gains an understanding of many principles regarding the medicinal actions of some 340 medicinals and 35 formulas. The analyses offered by Tang have the potential of widening and deepening the foundation of the practice of Chinese medicinal therapy. The writer himself says: “Although this tome is not exclusively a běncǎo book, still all the essential meanings of the běncǎo are contained in it.”

Even though the text, rich in diversity as it is, ought to be read in its entirety to fully benefit from it, the following excerpts may serve to give a first impression:


問曰 入氣分入血分,其理未易明也,請再言之。

Question:  The principles of ‘entering the qi aspect’ and ‘entering the blood aspect’ are not easy to understand. Could you please elaborate on this?

秉於天水而生者入氣分,秉於地火而生者入血分。 氣本於天,味本於地,氣濃者入氣分,味濃者入血分。 入氣分者走清竅,入血分者走濁竅。 有如大蒜,氣之濃者也,故入氣分走清竅,上為目瞀而下為溺臭。 海椒味之濃者也,故入血分走濁竅,上為口舌糜爛而下為大便辣痛。 觀此二物,即知入氣分入血分之辨矣


That which grows by grasping from heaven and water, enters the qi aspect. That which grows by grasping from earth and fire, enters the blood aspect. Qi is rooted in heaven. Flavor is rooted in earth. Concentrated qi enters the qi aspect. Concentrated flavor enters the blood aspect. That which enters the qi aspect travels to the clear orifices. That which enters the blood aspect travels to the turbid orifices. Dàsuàn (garlic), for example, is concentrated qi, and thus enters the qi aspect and travels to the clear orifices. Ascending, it creates visual distortion, descending, it leads to fetid urine. Hǎijiāo (= làjiāo, hot pepper) is concentrated flavor; therefore, it enters the blood aspect and travels to the turbid orifices. Ascending, it causes ulceration of the mouth, and descending, it leads to hot painful stool. If you look at these two substances, you will understand the distinction between entering the qi aspect and entering the blood aspect.

蓋得天水之氣而生者入氣分, 人參、黃芪最顯者也。 外如澤瀉、苡仁生於水而利水,二物同而不同。 苡仁生於莖上則化氣下行,引肺陽以達於下。澤瀉生於根則化氣上行引腎陰以達於上。百合花覆如天之下垂,旋覆花滴露而生,本天之清氣,故皆入氣分,以斂肺降氣。

As for those [medicinals] that grow by acquiring the qi from heaven and water and enter the qi aspect, rénshēn (ginseng) and huángqí (astragalus) are the most obvious [examples]. Other examples are zéxiè (alisma) and []yǐrén (coix), that grow in water and [have the ability to] disinhibit water. The two substances are similar yet different: []yǐrén grows on a stalk and so moves downward when it transforms qi. It draws lung yang to reach down to the lower body. Because zéxiè grows down at the root, the transforming qi moves upward, and [consequently] it draws kidney yang to reach to the upper body. Bǎihéhuā (flower of the tiger lily) is turned upside-down as if it droops down from heaven. Xuánfùhuā (inula flower) grows from dripping dew. They [express] clear qi rooted in heaven; therefore, both enter the qi aspect in order to constrain the lung and downbear qi.



百合花 flowering tiger lily

[… …]


The color of hónghuā (carthamus) is red. It naturally enters the blood aspect. Its flavor is bitter, so that it has the special ability to discharge blood. Moreover, the nature of all flowers is to govern lightness and buoyancy. They move upward and travel to the exterior. Thus, [the action of] hónghuā is to discharge blood in the skin, vessels and networks at the external and upper [body]. []dānpí (moutan)’s color and flavor is of the same category as hónghuā, but the nature of roots is to reach downward, which is different from flowers. Therefore, it governs the inner body and discharges blood of the center and lower burner.



紅花 carthamus, dried flowers


Táohuā (peachflower) is red and the flavor of the kernel (táorén) is bitter. They both acquire their nature and flavor from earth and fire. The kernel additionally has vital qi. That is why táorén has the ability to both break blood and engender blood. Qiàncǎo (madder)’s color is red, its flavor bitter, and its root is very long. Therefore, its power to move downward is rather strong, and its special ability is to downbear, discharge and move blood.

問曰 大黃苦寒之性自當下降,而巴豆辛熱之性,宜與大黃相反,何以亦主攻下? 而較大黃之性尤為迅速,此又何說?

Question:  The nature of dàhuáng (rhubarb) is bitter and cold, so it naturally should precipitate and downbear, whereas bādòu (croton), which has an acrid and hot nature, should do the opposite of dàhuáng. Why then does it also govern offensive precipitation, and how can it be explained that compared to dàhuáng‘s nature it is even more rapid?



大黃 rhubarb root



Here, as well, it is by its oily slipperiness that it governs downbearing. Its ability to downbear is singularly governed by that oily slipperiness and not by its acridity and heat. Whenever you eat máyóu (sesame oil) or dāngguī (Chinese angelica root), they are able to lubricate and precipitate the stool. Bādòu and bìmázǐ (castor bean) both contain oil, and both are lubricating and can precipitate stool. However, sesame oil is not hot, so its moving [action] is slow. It is not acrid, so its qi is not mobile and penetrating. Therefore, it is slow in its precipitation of stool. The flavor of castor bean is acrid and its qi is warm. This means that it has qi to move its oily-slippery nature; therefore, its movement is rapid. The slippery nature of bādòu oil is similar to that of máyóu and bìmá[], but it is highly acrid and thus harsh; highly hot and thus fierce. Because it carries out its lubricating and disinhibiting harshly and fiercely, it plunders without lingering.


[Huǒ]márén (cannabis seed) is also oily and slippery, but it does not have an acrid and harsh nature. Hence, it is only able to moisten and downbear and cannot rapidly precipitate. Tínglì[] (lepidium/descurainia seed) has oil as well, and naturally can lubricate. It also has an acrid flavor and is similar to acrid and oil-containing bādòu. Its flavor is bitter as well, so it also resembles bitter, lubricating, and moistening dàhuáng. In that way tínglì[] harbors the natures of bādòu and dàhuáng; therefore, it has the ability for major drainage of phlegm-rheum, pus, and blood from the lung. Its nature is extremely rapid downbearing. As it has the combined natures of dàhuáng and bādòu, it is a truly fierce medicinal. Out of fear of it being overly drastic [Zhang] Zhongjing insisted on ameliorating it with dàzǎo. Xìngrén (apricot kernel) contains oil as well, but it acquires a bitter flavor and lacks an acrid and harsh qi. Thus, it downbears but not urgently.


問曰 藥有以天時名者如夏枯草、款冬花,得無以時為治乎

Question:  There are medicinals that are named after the seasons, like xiàkūcǎo (prunella) and kuǎndōnghuā (coltsfoot). Isn’t it so that what they treat is in accordance with [those] seasons?

{translator’s note: [xià] = summer; [kū] = wither; [dōng] = winter; [huā] = flower}




Now, the [seasons or] heavenly periods [correspond to] the movements of the five phases and are observed as distinctions of yin and yang. Therefore, whenever we discuss medicinals, we also must discuss the seasons in which they grow and the periods in which they mature. Although it is not always so that the treatment [abilities of medicinals] are restricted by the [influences of] seasons, still there are those that derive them from the seasonal [influences]. Xiàkūcǎo grows at the end of the winter and matures during the three months of spring. This means that it principally acquires the qi of water and wood. Once summer arrives, it withers; when wood comes under the command of fire, the qi retreats and declines. That is why [xiàkūcǎo] is used to abate fire in the liver and gallbladder channel.

Kuǎndōnghuā grows in the icy and snowy winter months, and its flowers are also at the base of the root. As kan (water) contains the manifestation of yang (represented by the center line of the trigram), it therefore has the ability to draw yang qi from the lung downward and thus is a phlegm-disinhibiting and cough-suppressing medicinal. The two substances are named after the season [in which they grow] as both acquire the subtle effect of that season.

Questions and Answers on Materia Medica is full of little gems in between enlightening insights in the working of medicinals. Why do bones not rot after death, and what profundities are hidden in the relationship between blood and hair? How do you obtain bezoar from oxen, and why is it that you can treat disease with the product of a disease? What medicinals should be used for different kinds of phlegm and why? Master Tang’s explanations are sometimes surprising and do not fail to offer modern practitioners new ways of thinking about their pharmacies.



See the Appendix below for a list of discussed medicinals with their Chinese, pinyin, common English, and Latin pharmaceutical names.

Nicolaas Herman Oving is the author and translator of this introduction and he can be reached via This article was first published on Aowen Chinese Medicine, December 2016. Nicolaas wishes to thank Nadine Luchtman-Levie for her editorial work.

All photography, except for the flowering tiger lily, is by the author.  Please contact him if you want to use any of the photographic materials.

Sharing, copying, printing, etc. of the entire article is not allowed without permission of the author.  For citations, please add the author’s name, the title of the article, and the web address of publication.

For a printable version of this article, see pdf of intro bencao wenda

An annotated translation of the complete text of the Bencao wenda will be published in the near future.  



List of medicinals in order of appearance in the text

*note: Latin pharmaceutical names are chosen instead of botanical names because they indicate parts used and are thus more relevant for the practise of medicine.

Chinesepīnyīncommon EnglishLatin pharmaceutical*
黃芪huángqí astragalusAstragali Radix
大蒜dàsuàn garlicAllii Sativi Bulbus
海椒 = 辣椒hǎijiāo = làjiāohot pepperCapsici Fructus
人參rénshēnginsengGinseng Radix
澤瀉zéxiè alismaAlismatis Rhizoma
[薏]苡仁[yì]yǐréncoixCoicis Semen
百合花bǎihéhuālilyLilii Flos
旋覆花xuánfùhuāinulaInulae Flos
紅花hónghuācarthamusCarthami Flos
[牡]丹皮[mǔ]dānpímoutanMoutan Cortex
桃花táohuāpeachflowerPersicae Flos
[桃]仁[táo]rénpeach kernelPersicae Semen
茜草qiàncǎo madderRubiae Radix
大黃dàhuángrhubarbRhei Radix et Rhizoma
巴豆bādòucrotonCrotonis Fructus
麻油máyóusesame oilSesame Oleum
當歸 dāngguīChinese angelicaAngelicae Sinensis Radix
蓖麻子bìmázǐ castor beanRicini Semen
[火]麻仁[huǒ]máréncannabis seedCannabis Semen
葶藶[子]tínglì[zǐ] lepidium/descurainia Lepidii/Descurainiae Semen
大棗dàzǎojujubeJujubae Fructus
杏仁xìngrénapricot kernelArmeniacae Semen
夏枯草xiàkūcǎoprunellaPrunellae Spica
款冬花kuǎndōnghuācoltsfootFarfarae Flos