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8. What are the specific functions of the specific parts of a plant?

The commonly used herbs are usually the roots, leaves, barks, stems, flowers, fruits and seeds of the plants. Sometimes, different parts of plants give specific functions to the herbs. In TCM theory, similes and allegories are used to explain the links between plants and the human body. The details are as follows.

• The peel of fruits and the bark of plants (in Chinese called ‘Pi’) enter the superficial layer of the human body. For instance, Chen Pi (Citri reticulatae pericarpium), Sheng Jiang Pi (Zingiberis rhizoma recens cortex), Da Fu Pi  (Arecae pericarpium), Fu Ling Pi (Poriae cocos cortex) and Sang Bai Pi (Mori cortex) can eliminate Dampness in the superficial layer of the body and treat edema.

• The twigs of tree (in Chinese called ‘Zhi’) enter the limbs and the meridians. For  instance, GuiZhi (Cinnamomi cassiae ramulus) can warm the meridians, promote the movement of Yang-Qi in the meridians and treat cold limbs; Sang Zhi (Mori ramulus) can expel Wind-Dampness from the meridians, relax tendons and treat Bi syndrome; Gou Teng (Uncariae ramulus cum uncis) can reduce Heat from the Liver, extinguish Wind and control convulsions.

• The vines (in Chinese called ‘Teng’) enter the collaterals. For instance, Ji Xue Teng (Spatholobi caulis et radix) can tonify the Blood, promote the Blood circulation and relieve pain, numbness of the limbs and tingling sensations in the muscles; Ye Jiao Teng (Polygoni multiflori caulis) can tonify the Blood, relieve uneasy feelings in the body due to Blood deficiency and improve sleep; Hai Feng Teng (Piperis caulis) and Luo Shi Teng (Trachelospermi caulis) can expel Wind-Dampness from the collaterals and treat Bi syndrome.

• The sprout enters the Heart and promotes the function of the internal organs. For instance, Lian Zi Xin (Nelumbinis plumula) clears Heat from the Heart; Mai Ya (Hordei fructus germinatus) generates and lifts clear Qi of the Spleen and Stomach, thus it can promote digestion.

• Some seeds (in Chinese called ‘Zi’ or ‘Ren’) enter the Kidney. For instance, Jiu Cai Zi

(Allii tuberosi semen), Tu Si Zi (Cuscutae semen), Fu Pen Zi (Rubi fructus), Yi Zhi Ren

(Alpiniae oxyphyllae fructus) and Sha Yuan Zi (Astragali complanati semen) can tonify the Kidney-Essence and strengthen the Kidney-Yang.

There are also the following regular patterns.

• Most of the flowers (in Chinese called ‘Hua’) are light in weight and nature and have an ascending tendency. For instance, Ju Hua (Chrysanthemi flos) and Mi Meng Hua (Buddlejae flos) can expel Wind-Heat from the Liver meridian and benefit the vision; He Huan Hua (Albiziae flos) calms the Mind and disperses constrained Qi in the chest, so is often used for depression; Jin Yin Hua (Lonicerae flos) can disperse and clear Heat from the Upper Jiao; Hou Po Hua (Magnoliae officinalis flos) can disperse stagnation of Qi, spread the accumulation of water in the Middle Jiao and promote digestion.

• Many seeds or fruits are heavy in weight and nature and have a descending tendency. For instance, Xing Ren (Armeniacae semen), Ting Li Zi (Lepidii/Descurainiae semen) and Su Zi (Perillae fructus) can direct the Lung-Qi to descend and treat wheezing and cough; Zhi Shi (Aurantii fructus immaturus), Bing Lang (Arecae semen) and Sha Ren (Amomi xanthioidis fructus) can bring down Qi in the Large Intestine and promote bowel movement.

• Many seeds contain lipids and can moisten the intestine and treat constipation. For instance, Huo Ma Ren (Cannabis semen), Yu Li Ren (Pruni semen), Xing Ren (Armeniacae semen), Tao Ren (Persicae semen) and Hei Zhi Ma (Sesami semen nigricum) can moisten the intestines and promote bowel movement.

• Mineral substances are heavy in weight and nature and have a descending tendency. For instance, Zhen Zhu Mu (Concha margaritifera usta) and Ci Shi (Magnetitum) can calm the Mind; Long Gu (Mastodi fossilium ossis), Mu Li (Ostrea concha) and Shi Jue Ming (Haliotidis concha) can direct the Liver-Yang to descend; Dai Zhe Shi (Haematitum) can subdue rebellious Stomach-Qi.

This relationship holds not only between humans and plants, but also between human and animal products. For instance, Chan Tui (Cicadae periostracum) can treat skin disorders; Sang Piao Xiao (Mantidis oötheca) can tonify the Kidney; worms and snakes are able to unblock the collaterals as they have the habit of drilling holes, for instance Di Long (Pheretima), Jiang Can (Bombyx batrycatus), Bai Hua She (Agkistrodon acutus) and Wu Shao She (Zaocys).

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