by Heiko Lade
After nearly twenty years of practice I found that there is still room to adjust and bend some of the ingrained ideas that I have learnt about Chinese herbs. It came about as I was researching Man Jing Zi (Fructus Viticis) in its relation to treating dampness in the limbs as outlined in Bensky and Gamble (p60).Thinking it may be useful for multiple sclerosis as an adjunct herb to address symptoms such as stiffness and heaviness I wanted to refer to what Li Shi Zhen had to say about it. Following then, is a direct translation of Man Jing Zi from Li Shi Zhen's Ben Cao Gang Mu provided by John Black a New Zealand based TCM practitioner .
After reading it I was intrigued about the statements such as:
Having spent most of my career working in Chinese herb dispensaries in Sydneyís Chinatown, I was wondering why no one had ever told me about these uses. Either no one knew about it or if they had read about it didnít believe the claims. Perhaps it was because He Shou Wu (Radix Polygoni Multiflori) could fetch a better retail price than Man Zing Zi so He Shou Wu remained the herb of choice for blackening the hair!
So naturally I would have to investigate this further. Experimenting on myself and taking it as a single herb in the vicinity of 9 grams once per day I first noticed that it made my beard grow stronger and faster. This happened only after two days of taking it. The fact that it made the beard grow made me think back to a discussion of the chong mai in Extraordinary Vessels by Matsumoto and Birch. Their quote from the Ling Shu reads:
If women do not have enough blood to grow a beard and Man Jing Zi made my beard grow, could Man Jing Zi influence the blood and the chong mai?
A little further reading in the Zhong Yao Da Ci Dian confirmed my experience as this book referred to another book, the Yao Xing Lun which stated that Man Jing Zi does in fact make the beard grow (p5309). If this herb causes the beard grow more strongly, surely then, it must be influencing the chong mai.
Peter Borten, a member of the Chinese herb Academy(USA) provided me with some interesting data on a cousin of Man Jing Zi, the Agnus Castus species, commonly known as "Chaste Berry". He referred to three books on western herbalism, The New Age Herbalist by Richard Mabey, Botanical Medicine by Kenner and Requena and Herbal Medicine by Rudolf Weiss which gave a summarized overview as follows. It treats:
So we have a western cousin, Agnus Castus having quite clear chong mai (and probably ren mai) influence. And we have our little forgotten acrid cooling herb Man Jing Zi treating hair and beard growth, blackening hair and strengthening teeth.
Could Man Jing Zi have other uses apart from wind heat headaches for which it is more well known for?
Li Shi Zhen has informed us that Man Jing Zi does cool menstrual blood and treat mastitis so it confirms some kind of gynecological use. I endeavored to start using this herb in a new light and waited for a clinical opportunity to present itself.
One patient had come to me, recently menopausal and inquired whether Chinese herbs could offer anything for her hair which had lost its "life force" and grew so slowly. Without going into and writing up an in-depth case analysis of her presenting picture I will briefly give an overview. Her main complaint was a frozen shoulder for which she was concurrently getting physiotherapy and acupuncture for and overall presented a pretty fair bill of health without any major zang fu imbalances. I simply prescribed a one month supply of a herb granulated mix containing
Dang Gui (Radix Angelica Sinenis)
Chuan Xiong (Radix Ligusti Wallichii)
Bai Shao (Radix Paeoniae Lactiflorae)
Man Jing Zi (Fructus Viticis)
Gou Qi Zi (Fructus Lycii Chinenis)
Tian Ma (Rhizoma Gastrodia Elatae)
Qiang Huo (Rhizoma et Radix Notoptergii)
Bai Zhu (Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae)
Mai Ya (Fructus Hordei Vulgaris Germinatus)
Chen Pi (Pericarpium Citri Reticulatae)
The prescription is straight forward with blood tonics, spleen and digestive herbs, Tian Ma and Qiang Huo for the hair as well as Man Jing Zi. She came back after a month to report a strange reaction. Her husband and friends had commented that the vertical wrinkle aging lines that extended upwards from her upper lip had improved.(Her hair had also improved)
My understanding of the reaction lies in the analysis of the chong mai and its function. The chong mai encircles the lips and at menopause the chong mai dries up and hence doesnít supply the area with blood which then contributes to a drying up and wrinkling especially above the top lip. The lips themselves lose their fullness because the liver blood also weakens and therefore doesnít traverse the inside of the lips where the liver vessel runs as part of its course. Man Jing Zi (in my opinion) is probably a tonic for the chong mai which then supplies blood to the surrounding lips area. I presume if really large amounts of the herb (if they could be tolerated) would cause a beard to grow in women. Common doses though of 3-9 grams may just be enough to keep the skin around the lips healthy and possibly more youthful.
Since then, I have started using Man Jing Zi in a variety of gynecological problems where I suspect a deficiency in the chong mai. Further use of Man Jing Zi in multiple sclerosis will be discussed in the December issue of PJOM.
A final note though. It is contraindicated for those with deficient stomach qi (Bensky and Gamble p61).The effect of Man Jing Zi in my experience is similar to He Shou Wu in that it can cause bloating, loose stools, sometimes explosive bowels with those people with a digestive insufficiency. Bai Zhu seems to counteract this well.
The journal of the ACMERC is a "research" journal and I hope that some of the readers may be adventurous enough to try and put Man Jing Zi to the test. Is it only just a humble acrid cooling herb or is it also a long forgotten tonic?
Acknowledgements: Many thanks
for the translation of Man Jing by John Black, a member of the
New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists Inc and graduate of Shandong University
of Traditional Chinese Medicine
: Thanks also to Steve Clavey for supplying the original of Man Jing from the Ben Cao Gang Mu
: Bensky,D and Gamble,A .(1986) Chinese Herbal Medicine, Materia Medica. Seattle, Eastland Press.
: Borten, P (2000) Member of the Chinese Herb Academy, personal communication.
: Matsumoto, K and Birch, S.(1986) Extraordinary Vessels, Brookline, Paradigm Publications.
: New TCM College of Jiang Su (year?) Zhong Yao Da Ci Dian, Shanghai Science Technology Publishing Company.
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