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4. Which characteristics exist in the combinations of the temperature and taste of herbs?

It often happens that there is more than one taste in one herb; combined with its temperature, they bring about the specific functions of the herb. If more tastes and temperature of herbs are combined, the range of applications is extended. The specific combination of temperature and tastes may lead to the following functions.

4.1 Pungent-hot herbs can strongly disperse Cold and Dampness, warm the Yang and activate the Qi

 Heat can warm Cold and possesses the ability to move; pungency has a moving and dispersing ability, and it may accelerate the action of hot herbs. Therefore a hot-pungent herb can strongly expel Cold and Dampness, warm the Yang and activate the Qi. For instance, Ma Huang (Ephedrae herba) can activate the Lung-Qi, and strengthen the dispersing and descending function of the Lung; Fu Zi (Aconiti radix lateralis preparata) can warm the Kidney-Yang and Gan Jiang (Zingiberis rhizoma) can warm the Spleen-Yang and both of them can expel Cold. As Cold may freeze water, a pungent-hot herb can also dissolve Damp-Cold.

 4.2 Sweet-warm herbs can tonify the essential substances and their function in the body

Sweetness has a tonifying, moderating and harmonizing quality; warmth is the source and essential condition for growth, not only in nature but also in the human body. Therefore a sweet-warm herb can tonify the essential substances of the body as well as strengthening the functions of the internal organs. For instance, Huang Qi (Astragali radix) and Ren Shen (Ginseng radix) can tonify the Qi; Shu Di Huang (Rehmanniae radix praeparata) and Gou Qi Zi (Lycii fructus) can tonify the Essence and Blood.

4.3 Pungent-sweet-warm herbs can generate the Yang and strengthen the functions of the internal organs

 Sweetness has a tonifying ability; warmth offers a condition of growth for the essential substances; pungency is able to spread and carry out the action from sweetness and warmth. Therefore, from a sweet-pungent-warm herb the Yang of the body and the functions of the internal organs can be generated. For instance, Dang Gui (Angelicae sinensis radix) can warm the body, tonify the Blood and promote the Blood circulation; Rou Gui (Cinnamomi cassiae cortex) and Ba Ji Tian (Morindae radix) can generate the Kidney-Yang.

 4.4 Pungent-bitter herbs can disperse and descend the Qi and Blood

 Since pungency moves outwards and upwards and bitterness moves downwards, a pungent-bitter herb can move the Qi in two directions simultaneously to activate the Qi movement and Blood circulation as well as water metabolism. For instance, Xing Ren (Armeniacae semen) can regulate the Lung-Qi to relieve coughing; Ban Xia (Pinelliae rhizoma) can regulate the Stomach-Qi and treat nausea and poor appetite; Lian Qiao (Forsythiae fructus) can regulate the Qi in the chest and relieve irritability; Xiang Fu (Cyperi rhizoma) can circulate the Liver-Qi and treat Liver-Qi stagnation; Chi Shao Yao (Paeoniae radix rubra), Mu Dan Pi (Moutan cortex) and Yan Hu Suo (Corydalidis rhizoma) can promote Blood circulation and treat Blood stagnation.

4.5 Pungent-bitter-warm herbs can dry Dampness

 Bitterness has drying properties, and pungency and warmth can disperse Dampness. Pungent-bitter warm herbs rather than pungent-hot herbs are often used to dry Dampness, because Dampness is a Yin, sticky pathogenic factor that results in a lingering pathological process and it cannot be removed quickly. The action of pungent-bitter-warm herbs is more steady and constant and is more suitable for this situation than a quickly moving pungent-hot herb. For example, Qiang Huo (Notopterygii rhizoma) and Cang Zhu (Atractylodis rhizoma) can expel Wind-Damp-Cold pathogenic factors; Hou Po (Magnoliae cortex) and Chen Pi (Citri reticulatae pericarpium) can dry Dampness in the Middle Jiao and transform Phlegm in the Lung as well as promote Qi movement.

4.6 Sweet-cold herbs can generate Yin

Since sweetness can tonify the substantial aspect of the body, and Cold can clear Heat and protect the Yin, a sweet-cold herb is able to nourish the Yin of the body and is commonly used for different kinds of Yin deficiency syndromes. For instance, Mai Men

Dong (Ophiopogonis radix) can generate the Heart-Yin and Stomach-Yin; Lu Gen (Phragmitis rhizoma) and Bai He (Lilii bulbus) can nourish the Lung-Yin; Yu Zhu (Polygonati odorati rhizoma) can nourish the Stomach-Yin; Bai Shao Yao (Paeoniae radix lactiflora) can nourish the Liver-Yin; Sang Shen (Mori fructus) can nourish the Kidney-Yin.

4.7 Sweet-bitter-cold herbs can clear Heat and generate Yin and Body Fluids

 Since sweetness has a tonifying ability, and bitterness and Cold can clear Heat and direct it to descend, sweet-bitter-cold herbs can reduce Fire and nourish the Yin. They are used for syndromes of Yin deficiency with Excessive-Heat and when the Heat has consumed the Yin of the body. For instance, Sheng Di Huang (Rehmanniae radix) can reduce Heat from the Heart, Liver and Kidney and nourish the Yin of the three organs; Tian Men Dong (Asparagi radix) can reduce Fire from the Lung and Kidney and nourish the Yin there; Sang Ye (Mori folium) can clear Lung-Heat and moisten the Dryness there; Ju Hua (Chrysanthemi flos) can clear Liver-Heat, nourish the Yin and brighten the eyes.

 4.8 Sour-cold herbs can generate and stabilize the Yin

 Sourness can hold and stabilize the essential substances of the body and Cold can clear Heat and protect the Yin. A sour-cold substance can thus generate and stabilize the Yin of the body. For instance, Bai Shao Yao (Paeoniae radix lactiflora) and Han Lian Cao (Ecliptae herba) are able to clear Heat and nourish and stabilize the Liver-Yin; Tian Hua Fen (Trichosanthis radix), also called Gua Lou Gen, can clear Heat and nourish the Lung-Yin and Stomach-Yin.

 4.9 Bitter-cold herbs can clear Heat, reduce Fire and eliminate Damp-Heat

 Bitterness and Cold both have a clearing ability and both move downwards; Cold can clear Heat and bitterness enhances this action. Therefore a bittercold combination is widely found in herbs that clear Excessive-Heat, reduce Fire, relieve Heat toxicity and drain downward. Since bitterness can dry Dampness and Cold can reduce Heat, a bitter-cold herb can also clear and dry Damp-Heat. Bitter-cold herbs are especially used in situations where strong Excessive-Fire flares up and must be reduced strongly and quickly in order to stop the development of the disease. For instance, Huang Lian (Coptidis rhizoma), Huang Qin (Scutellariae radix) and Huang Bai (Phellodendri cortex) can clear Heat and dry Dampness in the Upper Jiao, Middle Jiao and Lower Jiao respectively; Long Dan Cao (Gentianae radix) can reduce Liver-Fire and eliminate Damp-Heat from the Liver meridian; Da Huang (Rhei rhizoma) can reduce Heat and promote bowel movement; Zhi Zi (Gardeniae fructus) can drain Damp-Heat and promote urination. Bitter-cold herbs are usually not used for a long period of time as they can injure the Yin and Qi, especially that of the Stomach. They strongly suppress Fire downwards, but this action works against the up-flaring nature of Fire and therefore may cause constraint of Fire and lead to the development of a chronic hidden Fire syndrome.

 4.10 Pungent-cold herbs can disperse and reduce constraint of Fire

 Since pungency has a moving and dispersing ability, and Cold can clear Heat, a pungent-cold herb can disperse and clear Heat which is caused by accumulation of Qi, Blood, Dampness or food. Following the nature of Fire, which always flares upwards and outwards, pungency disperses Heat, separates the strength of Heat and Cold, clears Heat and reduces Fire. Pungent-cold herbs can clear Heat completely. For instance, Shi Gao (Gypsum) can disperse and reduce the Heat from the Lung and Stomach; Ci Shi (Magnetitum) can disperse Heat from the Heart and direct it to descend; Xia Ku Cao (Prunellae spica) can disperse and clear Liver-Fire; Lian Qiao (Forsythiae fructus) can disperse and clear Heat in the chest; Bo He (Menthae herba) and Man Jing Zi (Viticis fructus) can clear Heat in the head; Yu Xing Cao (Houttuyniae herba cum radice) and Bai Jiang Cao (Patriniae herba) can treat abscesses and relieve Heat toxicity; Mu Dan Pi (Moutan cortex) and Chi Shao Yao (Paeoniae radix rubra) can disperse and remove congealed Blood and promote Blood circulation.

 4.11 Salty-cold substances can clear heat and soften and eliminate hardness

Since Cold clears Heat and moves downward, and saltiness can soften hardness, salty-cold substances are often used to loosen Phlegm, soften stools and treat tumors. For instance, Hai Ge Ke (Meretricis/Cyclinae concha) and Hai Fu Shi (Pumex) can be used for Phlegm-Heat syndromes when the Phlegm is very thick and sticky; Mang Xiao (Natrii sulfas) is used to soften the stools and treat constipation; Hai Zao (Sargassum), Xuan Shen (Scrophulariae radix) and Mu Li (Ostrea concha) can soften hardness and treat tumors.

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