Classical Chinese Herbal Medicine eBooks

Here you will find my course material in PDF for purchase.

I promote a Classical approach to learning classical Chinese herbal formulas.

Classical in the sense that all herbal formulas can be placed in the six division format. The six divisions are mentioned in the Huang Di Neijing and it gives us a way to organize formulas according to location.

Each location and pattern has unique signs and symptoms which makes identification in clinic easier. Learning herbal formulas is actually learning the unique Chinese Medicine identification of patterns of disease while at the same time learning the physiology, pathology and treatment.

Most diagnostic methods stop at the five elements. Going further gives even more insight into treatment solutions. The six division diagnostic model offers this insight. The six divisions are born of the five elements but offer more clarity into the relationships of organ systems that work together to keep us healthy.

The six divisions can best be seen as three pairs of four organs that work together. These couples are tai yang and shao yin, yang ming and tai yin, shao yang and jue yin. These pairs work so intimately together that it impossible to treat them separately. Yet each herbal formula does work specifically on one or more of the divisions.

This series of lessons builds on the basic structure we all learned in our first educations.

All herbs and formulas are subject to the basic diagnostic models used to apply Chinese Medicine in clinic.

For each division we learn the unique characteristics. We learn the most popular herbs needed to build the most popular classic formulas. We learn the use of modern formulas and how they relate to the division being discussed.

Using this approach reduces the amount of herbs and formulas needed in clinic while increasing the knowledge and understanding. Your understanding of Chinese Medicine will improve along with your clinical results.


Introduction to the Shang Han Lun

All herbs and herbal formulas are based on the concepts found in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic or Huang Di Neijing. A deeper understanding of these basic concepts will improve your diagnostics and treatments.

There is a life time’s worth of studying needed to fully understand the Shang Han Lun,
which is also known in English as The Treatise on Cold Damage. Still we should make an
attempt to understand the basics because it is very useful in a clinical setting.
The Shang Han Lun teaches us the key symptoms associated with each disease and the
therapeutic approach needed to treat them. This makes recognizing patterns of disease
easier and adds confidence in different treatment strategies.
The problem with studying the classic text Shang Han Lun is that the author Zhang Ji
assumes that you have the necessary background information. Very few Chinese
Medicine educations spend much time teaching the classics. Which makes studying on
your own difficult.
The background information needed is contained in the Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen which
is known in English as The Yellow Emperor’s Classic. In my course material I use
examples from the Yellow Emperor’s Classic to explain the Treatise on Cold Damage.
What makes Chinese Herbal Medicine therapists different from other naturopathic practitioner?
System! We use a system in treatment and diagnosis and this system is based on the
yin yang theory. We use the yin yang theory to classify diseases and patterns of
This is illustrated very well in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic. Zhang Ji’s work is rooted in
this classic.
In the Yellow Emperor’s Classic we are told to seek the root of disease in yin and yang.
It says that we should seek the appropriate qi. The appropriate qi is one of the six qi.
The six qi is also known as the six climatic influences, which are cold, dryness, fire,
dampness, heat, and wind. These are also the six divisions used by Zhang Ji.
The six climatic influences are the cause of all disease. In the Shang Han Lun we are
given the signs and symptoms to find this appropriate qi. We are then advised in how to
treat it.
In studying the Treatise on Cold Damage and the Yellow Emperor’s Classic I discovered
that there is a unifying theory in Chinese Medicine and this is based on yin and yang.

This course assumes a basic background in Chinese Medicine.

Formulas Based on Gui Zhi Tang

The formula gui zhi tang has three distinct aspects. One is the tonification of the bodies yang qi.  The second is the nourishing of the bodies yin qi. The last aspect is the tonification and nourishing of earth.

Gui zhi tang contains the formulas gui zhi gan cao tang and shao yao gan cao tang. Many Classic formulas can be defined according to these aspects and combinations.

In this course the concepts of yang qi, yin qi, and earth will be looked at very broadly and also more specific.

The formulas will be explained in terms of yang qi, yin qi, and earth. Each formula will be discussed with its associated line from the Shang Han Lun. The formula lines are the key signs and symptoms that lead us to treat the appropriate qi.  

The classic herbal formula gui zhi tang is one of the most popular and represents the basic treatment strategies. The formula is built using five common herbs. Three of these herbs represent treatment principals.

Gui zhi represents tonifying yang qi.

Bai shao represents nourishing yin.

Zhi gan cao represents tonifying and nourishing yin earth.

Herb Pairs of the Shang Han Lun and Jin Gui Yao Lue

The biggest challenge in using herbs and herbal formulas in the treatment of disease is in choosing.

The vast amount of formulas can be overwhelming, which can cause uncertainty and insecurity.

Studying Chinese Classical formulas offers structure in application and learning. These formulas are based on Chinese Medical thought and represent normal physiology, pathology, and treatment all at the same time.

These Classical formulas represent principals, which when understood can be applied to other herbs and formulas.

For example, the herb Chai hu,Bupleuri radix represents the free movement of the liver blood. Understanding how chai hu is used gives insight into the use of other herbs like Sheng ma, Cimicifugae rhizome.

Most classic formulas are built on principles and structure. This information gives you the building blocks of formulas in the form of simple herb formulas and the most common herbal pairings.

Thirty herb pairs found in the Shang Han Lun and Jin Gui Yao Lue are discussed.

These simple formulas are described in terms

of taste and temperature, yin yang, five elements, six climatic qi, and its associated key symptoms. Where possible herbal formulas are described showcasing the herbal formula.

The most common herb pairs are described in terms of their therapeutic effect.

Understanding simple herb combinations makes understanding more complex formulas easier.

Treating Tai Yang

Tai yang represents all the yang qi in the body. Learning to treat tai yang is to master the concepts of yin and yang. Yin and yang manifest as function and form, but also as fire and water.

Tai yang is connected internally and externally with shao yin. Together they represent the true fire and true water of the body. Is is yang fire that connects us to the heavens and Dao. It is yin water that represents the earth, which ensures the smooth harmonious transformation and growth of our body.

Together they ensure that the rising and falling, and the entering and exiting flow according to the laws of the five elements and six climatic qi.

In this course the Tai yang conformation of the cold water of the north is explained. Its relationship to shao yin, and how it manifests in nature and in our body. Further how tai yang manifests when diseased, and how to treat it.

Qian Heaven and Kun Earth

In Chinese Medicine we tend to look at the transformational aspect of the myriad beings. And with good reason, because this is how we treat disease. Yet, it is the functionality that brings Chinese Medicine diagnostic methods together and connects it to the past.

The concepts of Qian heaven and Kun earth represent the functionality of Qi. Qi can be defined as having two different aspects, namely yang and yin. Both yang and yin have two distinct aspects. One aspect is how it functions and the other is how it transforms and changes into living beings.

In Chinese Medicine we work with the concepts of fire and water. This emphasizes the importance of form. Form is the way fire and water manifest in the body. Yet, we must never forget the importance of function. Function is best represented by the concepts of Qian heaven and Kun earth.

Fire and water each have a direction that it associates with. Fire corresponds with the south, and water with the north. Both Qian heaven and Kun earth have no location of their own. Which means that they are constantly present in all of the theoretical models concerning yin and yang. In fact understanding Qian heaven and Kun earth will unify and connect the concepts of the five agents and the six conformations.  

Have you ever wondered why there are five agents and not six. If yin and yang give birth to the five elements, then why are there five and not an even number? This question has troubled me since I was a student. It always seemed unlikely that the two yin and yang images could make five subdivisions. Why are there two sorts of yang called heat and fire in the six qi? Why is the name of the shao yang ministerial fire conformation have no location? Tai yang cold water of the north has a location, the north. All these questions can be answered by Qian heaven and Kun earth having no location of their own.

The Union and Separation of the Conformations

The six conformations are sometime called the six divisions. A conformation is confirming the presence of something and it is conforming one of the six divisions. The divisions are referring to a yin or yang type. In the Yellow Emperor’s Classic it is referred to as the three yang and three yin.

The three yin and three yang are tai yang, yang ming, shao yang, tai yin, shao yin, and jue yin. The names of tai yang, and shao yang, and tai yin, and shao yin are not limited to Chinese Medicine, but are commonly used in all of Chinese areas of study. It is yang ming and jue yin that are unique to Chinese Medicine. They are the key to understanding Chinese Medicine. More about them later.

In order to understand the six conformations we need to go back to the birth of the four images. The four images are the first subdivision of utmost yin and utmost yang. The four images is a concept found in the I Ching. Using the I Ching to illustrate the energetic qualities of yin and yang makes it easy to understand the each of the six conformations.

I am going to describe each of the conformations according to its qualities, associations and connections. Most students of Chinese Medicine have a basic understanding of the conformations, especially if they know the acupuncture vessel system. I am going to deepen this knowledge by describing how the conformations came about, and what they represent. I only use one source for my writing and that is the Yellow Emperor’s Classic.

The starting point of our discussion is the eternal Dao. Chinese Medicine is connected to the Daoist theory of how nature exists, transforms, and changes. The Daoist idea of nature is applied to our body in Chinese Medicine. The yin and yang that we use in Chinese Medicine is born out of the movement of the eternal Dao. All subsequent models such as the five agents of transformation and six conformations reflect this movement. The five agents and six conformations are subdivisions of yin and yang. And each element of the five agents consists of a yin and yang aspect. This holds true for each of the conformations. There are three yin and three yang conformations. And each conformation has both a yin and yang quality.