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5. What are the applications of the concept that herbs enter meridians?

All herbs enter meridians; some enter one, some enter two or three, some even enter all the meridians.

According to the meridian-entering concept, each herb works on its specific meridian as well as the organ which it enters. For instance, Ma Huang (Ephedrae herba) enters the Lung and Bladder meridians, activates the dispersing function of the Lung-Qi and excites the movement of the Yang-Qi in the Bladder meridian, and therefore expels Wind-Cold in the superficial region of the body; Rou Gui (Cinnamomi cassiae cortex) enters the Kidney meridian and warms and tonifies the Kidney-Yang; Fu Zi (Aconiti radix lateralis preparata) is so hot and pungent that it is able to enter all the meridians and expels Cold there; Zhi Gan Cao (Glycyrrhizae radix preparata) is sweet and moderate and also enters all the meridians and harmonizes their functions.

In most cases, each herb enters one main meridian and enters other meridians secondarily. For instance, Huang Qi (Astragali radix) mainly enters the Spleen meridian and enters the Lung meridian secondarily; Shu Di Huang (Rehmanniae radix praeparata) mainly enters the Kidney meridian and enters the Liver meridian secondarily; Dang Gui (Angelicae sinensis radix) mainly enters the Liver meridian and enters the Spleen meridian secondarily.

Although most of the herbs enter two or three meridians, their functions focus on only one meridian, through which the other functions are carried out in the secondary meridians. For instance, Huang Qi (Astragali radix) mainly enters the Spleen meridian, while it secondarily enters the Lung meridian. It can strongly tonify the Spleen-Qi, and strengthen the transportation and transformation function of the Spleen. When the Spleen-Qi is sufficient, it can generate and support the Lung-Qi as well as the Defensive Qi; however, the main function of Huang Qi is to tonify the Spleen. In clinical practice, Huang Qi treats poor appetite, lassitude and loose stools, as well as shortness of breath and a tendency to catch cold from a weak constitution.

In clinical practice, the concept of herbs entering specific meridians is very important for achieving good therapeutic results. Take treating headache as an example, how do you select the appropriatem herbs? One method is to choose the herbs that enter the specific meridian which passes through the region of pain. For instance, Chuan Xiong   (Chuanxiong rhizoma) enters the San Jiao (Triple Jiao) and Gall Bladder meridians and is particularly effective for treating headache on the sides of the head; Qiang Huo (Notopterygii rhizoma) enters the Bladder meridian and is effective for treating pain in the neck and occipital area; Bai Zhi (Angelicae dahuricae radix) enters the Stomach meridian and is effective for treating pain in the forehead; Wu Zhu Yu (Evodiae fructus) enters the Liver meridian and treats pain on the top of the head.

Some herbs especially enter one meridian and are used as envoy herbs. For instance, Jie Geng (Platycodi radix) enters the Lung meridian and is often used as an envoy to guide the other herbs into the Lung; it can also guide the Spleen-Qi upwards so that it enters the Lung to strengthen the Lung-Qi. Another example is Zhi Gan Cao (Glycyrrhizae radix preparata), which mainly enters the Spleen meridian.Because the Spleen is the source of Qi and Blood, the foundation of life, Zhi Gan Cao (Glycyrrhizae radix preparata) is considered as an agent that can enter all meridians and tonifies and harmonizes the functions of all the meridians and organs. For the same reason, it often plays a role of harmonizing the function of herbs which enter different meridians in one formula.

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