Ben Cao Gang Mu

An Overview of Its Use in Modern Clinical Practice

This ancient book is a unique document based on literal quotes from more than 1000 literary sources from the preceding two millennia. The physician Li Shizhen, circa 1518-1593, took his knowledge from all echelons of Chinese historical society.

Paul Unschuld
Paul Unschuld

Course Overview

Paul Unschul has translated the Pharmacoipiea from the 1500s and made it accessible to modern practitioners. Beggars, convicts, monks, priests, physicians, scholars, dukes and emperors were equally acknowledged as contributors to the Ben Cao Gang Mu.


One of the most impressive features of the Ben cao gang mu is the detailed style of the discussion presented by author Li Shizhen. Nowhere else in pre-modern Chinese literature can you find citations of numerous different views and voices in a way that illustrates the development of knowledge about specific substances. In this way, the texts guide readers to definite judgment about the item's therapeutic potential and possible dangers.


The English translation of the Ben cao gang mu will open a new era in the Western reception of Chinese Medicine. As valuable and indispensable as the many books on Chinese materia medica written in Western languages are, their content has been sifted through the sieves of modern knowledge, worldviews, and expectations. This Ben cao gang mu translation offers direct access to a vast accumulation of Chinese knowledge, a unique and valuable window into the past and culture of China.


  • Understand the long history of the Chinese pharmaceutical wisdom of natural products for therapeutic effect.

  • Learn the volumes on herbal medicine that were published prior to the Ben Cao Gang Mu. Describing the best-known titles of the centuries. Get to know the author Li Shizhen 1518-1593 & his lineage.

  • Understand the difficulties found in prior English translations.

  • Meet the team of Chinese experts in history of materia medica, history of dieases and geographical history of China presented. Understand why they were needed to put the translation into context.

  • Understand what can be found in Chapters 1-4 that is profoundly clinically useful.


  • 0 hrs - 15 min

    Introductions & Overview of the of the Chinese pharmaceutical wisdom of using natural products for therapeutic effect since 200 BCE & still found in markets today. List some of the famous herbal volumes developed before the Ben Cao Gang Mu.

  • 15 min - 30 min

    Describing the best-known titles prior. The Ben Cao Gang Mu is the apex of knowledge. Information about the author Li Shizhen 1518-1593 and his lineage. An overview of previous translations is presented with their usefulness and difficulties given.

  • 30 min - 45 min

    Introduction of the team of Chinese experts to help with history of material medica literature, history of diseases and geographical history of China. Gives outline of chapters. Describes methods used to collect the information for the original book.

  • 45 min - 1 hrs

    Chapters 1-4 include general introductions on how to use pharmaceutical substances for a therapeutic end. Overview of Chapters 3&4 contain hundreds of recipes for specific illnesses. Instructions on how to use the dictionary with the volumes.


Paul Unschuld

Dr. Paul U. Unschuld is professor and director of the Horst-Goertz Endowment Institute for the Theory, History, and Ethics of Chinese Life Sciences at Charité-Medical University Berlin and author of several influential books on Chinese medicine.


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More Details
  • CEUs:

    Approved By: Standard Certificate (1), NCCAOM (1), Florida (1)

    Pending: California [Upon Request]*

  • Language: English

  • Course Type: Recorded Webinar

  • Course Length: 1 h

  • Course Notes: Notes are provided with this course.

  • Access Period: Lifetime


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