The History of Medicine






2000-1500 B.C.

  • In the era of the Xia Dynasty, the process of wine making was discovered. This made a significant impact on the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), as practitioners realized a small amount provided stimulation, and larger amounts anesthetic purposes.

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1700-1027 B.C.

  • In Western medicine, Asclepius, the Greek God of Healing, was represented as the symbol of the serpent wrapped around a staff.

  • In China, records of illnesses, medicines and treatment methods were inscribed on tortoise shells and flat cattle bones.

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1027-221 B.C.

  • Hippocrates, known as the father of medicine, lived during this time. His followers wrote more than 60 books covering a wide range of medical topics.

  • In China, the earliest record of herbs was written in the Shi Jing (Poem Classic). The theory of Six Pathogenic Factors was developed during this time to explain diseases, eliminating the theory of supernatural causes as a source for disease.

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221 B.C.-9 A.D.

  • Claudius Galen, the most famous doctor in the Roman empire, realized the importance of taking pulses, a practice that is still used today. His books were used in medical schools until the Renaissance.

  • In China, the first emperor Qin unified China and started building the Great Wall. The Silk Road thrived with the trade of herbs amongst different countries. It was during this time that the earliest record of formularies, Wu Shi Er Bing Fang (Prescriptions for Fifty-two Ailments) was found on silk manuscripts.

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9-220 A.D.

  • While no significant breakthroughs were recorded for Western medicine, several significant TCM books were written in China during this time.

    • The first is the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Divine Husbandman's Classic of the Materia Medica) by Shen Nong, covering more than 365 herbs, one for each day of the year. Medicinal functions were described according to symptoms. Principles of taste, property, and herbal prescription such as hierarchy of ingredients (chief, deputy, assistant, and envoy) were also described.

    • The second significant text during this time was the Shan Han Lun (Discussion of Cold-induced Disorders) written by Zhang Zhong Jing. Dr. Zhang stated that his family originally had over 200 members and in the matter of 10 years, half of them died from cold-induced disorders. This text still serves as the source of all prescription manuals.

    • Also written were the Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essentials from the Golden Cabinet) and Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic) which established the theoretical and philosophical foundation of TCM.

  • Two of the most famous doctors in the history of Chinese medicine lived during this time, Bian Xu and Hua Tou.

    • Bian Xu wrote Bian's Classic (9 volumes) and Bian's Extra Classic (12 volumes), all of which were later lost. He specialized in herbs, acupuncture, and tui-na, but was most famous for his pulse and facial diagnosis. Bian Xu was assassinated by an imperial doctor who feared Bian Xu would take over his imperial position.

    • Hua Tou lived during the Han Dynasty. He was most famous for surgery and his anesthetic formula, Ma Fei Tang. Abdominal and back surgeries were recorded to have been performed on patients 1,700 years ago. The Han Dynasty Emperor learned of Hua Tou's expertise and wanted him to become an imperial doctor but Hua Tou refused. As a result, he was locked in prison. Hua Tou spent the time in prison writing down his life-long experience, then asked a prison guard to keep the scrolls and pass them down to the next generation. In fear, the prison guard refused. Furious and disappointed, Hua Tou burned his own books and died in prison.

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618-907 A.D.

  • Rhazes translated works of Greek doctors and wrote 'al-Hawi' (the comprehensive book) which later became one of the most widely read medical books in medieval Europe. He also discovered the difference between smallpox and measles.

  • In China, block printing was invented, making written words more available to a greater audience. Trading of herbs between countries became more prominent during this time. Herbs such as yu jin (curcuma) was imported from India; chen xiang (aquilaria) and hou po (magnolia) were imported from Vietnam. Ru xiang (mastic), mo yao (myrrh), xue jie (dragon's blood) and mu xiang (saussurea) were imported from Arabia. The very famous Qian Jin Yao Fang (Thousand Ducat Formulas) was written by Sun Si-Miao during this era. The Xin Xiu Ben Cao (Newly Revised Materia Medica), the official Materia Medica of the Tang Dynasty was also written. It contained over 844 entries and was the first illustrated materia medica in the history of China.

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1038-1234 A.D.

  • Avicenna wrote over 200 books including the famous Canon (Medical Code).

  • In China, Zheng Lei Ben Cao (Materia Medica Arranged According to Pattern) was written. It contained over 1,558 entries and was the major materia medica of the Song Dynasty. Various schools of thought were starting to develop as to what is the best method of treating disorders. Bei Jin Zhou Hou Fang (Emergency Formulas to Keep Up One's Sleeve) was written by Ge Hong which included simple, inexpensive and effective formulas. Ten volumes of Mai Jing (Pulse Classic) were also written at this time by Wang Su He.

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1279-1644 A.D.

  • Western medicine started to develop rapidly, as in 1348, the Black Death in England wiped out more than 33% of the population. 10,000,000 people died in two years. Ambroise Pare started a breakthrough in wound treatment with a mixture of eggs, rose oil, and turpentine instead of a red-hot iron to stop bleeding. Thomas Linacre established the Royal College of Physicians in 1518 so that the requirement of becoming a physician was more uniform. Andreas Vesalius helped establish surgery as a separate medical profession. Thomas Sydenham wrote 'Medical Observations' which emphasized recording details in case studies.

  • In China, the most complete and significant herbal materia medica was written. Ben Cao Gang Mu (The Grand Materia Medica) by Li Shi-Zhen took over 27 years to complete. He started at age 34 and finished compiling the book at age 60. It included over 1,892 entries and 11,000 herbal formulas totaling 52 volumes. It is still published today in several languages.

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1644-1949 A.D.

  • Several significant advancements occurred during this time for Western medicine. Wilhelm Rontgen invented the use of x-ray. Pasteur developed the process of pasteurization in France. Lady Mary Wortley Montague discovered inoculation by accident. Edward Jenner discovered vaccination. Robert Montegue Koch discovered under the microscope that different germs existed. Joseph Lister was most famous for his efforts to ensure that germs in the air did not get into surgical wounds to prevent infection. Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin.

  • In China, various doctors who practiced integrative medicine started to emerge. A practitioner, Tang Zhong Hai, emphasized that both Chinese and Western medicine had pros and cons and should be used concurrently. Zhu Shi Wen published a study showing an overlay of Chinese channels and Zang Fu on a conventional Western anatomy chart. Three of his books explained the correlations between Western and Chinese medicine through Wei, Qi, Ying, Xue and Western anatomy and physiology. Zhang Yuan Shu was famous for his Zang-Fu differentiation. He wrote more than 30 volumes of books that included Zhen Zhu Nang (Bag of Pearl). Unfortunately, all his books were lost except for three.

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1928 A.D.

  • Establishment of the first integrative hospital in China: Jing Gang Shan Hospital.

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1911-1949 A.D.

  • This time was the darkest period of TCM, during which the Chinese government suppressed TCM and tried to eliminate it as a whole. TCM was viewed as being unscientific and non-innovative. Countless TCM doctors were exiled or killed and many manuscripts were lost during this time. Luckily because TCM is deeply rooted in the minds and culture of Chinese people, it was not eradicated completely. Small villages and rural areas were still dependent on TCM as the first line of treatment since Western medicine was not readily available. Furthermore, with the ratio of 20,000 medical doctors vs. 500,000 TCM doctors, TCM development suffered greatly but did not vanish.

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1953-1977 A.D.

  • DNA was discovered by James Watson and Francis Crick.

  • In China, Zhong Yao Da Ci Dian (The Encyclopedia of Traditional Chinese Medicinal Substances), containing 5,767 entries, was published.

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1980-1986 A.D.

  • Qinghaosu (Artemisia) extract was awarded the Albert Einstein World Science Award.

  • The Chinese government established the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology. Part of their mission is to promote the integration of TCM and Western Medicine.

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1993 A.D.

  • Statistics: 2,457 TCM hospitals, 39 integrated hospitals, 249,000 TCM doctors, and 7,100 doctors specialized in integration of Chinese and Western medicines were available in China.

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Today

  • In China, there are 77 national independent institutions on scientific research, more than 10,000 professional technicians, and about 100 research institutions affiliated with TCM universities.

  • In America , Evergreen Herbs is using the best of modern technology to make the essence of traditional Chinese herbology available to mainstream America. The Evergreen pharmaceutical-grade, full-spectrum extracts take the inconvenience out of decoction while providing the safety that traditional black pills or raw herbs tablets cannot offer.

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We, at Evergreen Herbs are committed to bringing the pearls of Chinese medicine to America through premium herbal products. Our life-long commitment to help the TCM profession stay ever green and eventually see integration is the role we hope to play in the history of medicine. We hope our passion for the medicine will serve as a catalyst for other companies in the industry to follow.