Chun Pi and Di Yu from the viewpoint of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Chun Pi (Ailanthi Cortex, ailanthus bark) and Di Yu (Sanguisorbae Radix, burnet-bloodwort root) are the key ingredients of Body Cream Forte. The article by Sharon Rozenblat describes the scientific findings of the two herbs and their strong synergistic effect, while the current article presents the TCM perception of these herbs.

For centuries, the knowledge of Chinese herbs was gained empirically, systematized, and passed on from generation to generation. Each herb was classified according to its taste and temperature. The effects of these properties on the human body were observed and recorded. Eventually tastes and their functions were associated with yin organs and the five phases.

Today, most of this comprehensive knowledge is accessible in materia medica of various authors. Each author sets different priorities in the presentation of the herbs: Some materia medica are focused on the modern scientific findings attributed to herbs, while others relate more to the Chinese classics.

The Bonatics product line aims to bridge scientific research with Chinese classics. The description of Chun Pi and Di Yu in this article is based primarily on the materia medica of Bensky et al. [1].

 

Chun Pi and Di Yu as classified by Bensky

The herbs are grouped in specific categories and subcategories according to their properties and key characteristics.
 

Chun Pi:
Chun Pi is first mentioned in the Tang materia medica. It is categorised in Bensky's materia medica  as “herbs that stabilize and bind“. Stabilizing and binding herbs are used to treat disorders of leakage of body fluids and substances. Abnormal discharge usually occurs as a result of weakness due to chronic diseases or old age, and can be considered a form of excessive dispersion. The herbs in this category are mostly sour or astringent. Their astringent effect compensate for this immoderate dispersion.

Chun Pi's properties are bitter, astringent, and cold. Chun Pi enters the qi and the blood levels of the Stomach and the Large Intestine channels. According to some authors it also enters the Lung channel. Chun Pi is applied both internally (for example as a decoction) and externally. It is applied externally in the event of damp sores; its bitterness dries up the dampness, its coldness cools heat, and its astringency reduces loss of body fluids.

Di Yu:
Di Yu is first mentioned in the “Divine Husbandman's Classic“ materia medica. In Bensky's materia medica Di Yu belongs to the category “herbs that regulate the blood“, subcategory “herbs that stop bleeding“.
Di Yu's  properties are bitter, sour and cool. Its activity is balanced, so that “its ability to clear heat is not excessively draining and its sour restraint is not overly astringent“ [1]. It enters the Liver, the Stomach and the Large Intestine channels.

Di Yu is widely used for the external treatment of eczemas, toxic sores and burn injuries. It resolves toxicities, cools heat in the blood, reduces swelling and stops pain. “It both reduces the oozing by holding in the fluids and promotes the generation of new flesh“ [1].

The combination of Di Yu and Da Huang (another ingredient in Body Cream Forte) intensifies its wound-healing properties and reduces excessive wound exudate [2].

Conclusion: Though belonging to different categories, the principal mode of action of Chun Pi and Di Yu is similar: They both prevent excessive loss of fluids or blood, have a cooling effect, and dry dampness.

Five tastes and five phases, and the external application of Chun Pi and Di Yu
The external efficacy of Chun Pi and Di Yu is best explained by their tastes and temperatures. During the Han Dynasty the system of the five phases was used for describing relationships and interactions between phenomena in disparate fields including medicine. The article “The Classical Energetics of the Five Tastes“ by Jessica Atkins and Arnaud Versluys [3] provides an interesting insight on the relationship between tastes and the five phases. The article highlights the importance of the Classical Texts compiled during the Han Dynasty (circa 200 BCE-200 CE) for the purpose of gaining in-depth knowledge of herbs and their application according to the five phases.

The effect of an herb is determined by its taste and intensified by its temperature. Due to the relationship between tastes and the five phases the herbs may have a tonic or purging effect on a particular phase.

For example, Chun Pi is bitter and astringent while Di Yu has both a bitter and a sour taste. Applied externally, the sourness and astringency tonify the Metal phase. Metal is associated with the Lung, which controls the skin. Metal normally has an inward movement. As cited above, leakage of body fluids such as oozing skin can be regarded as excessive dispersion. Sourness and astringency counteract this outward movement. They prevent or reverse abnormal leakage of fluids. Furthermore, the bitter taste of Chun Pi and Di Yu dries dampness.

 

Dr. Med. Ulrike Schütz
Medical Director, SinoPhyto GmbH


 

Footnotes:[1] Bensky D., Clavey S., Stöger E.: Materia Medica , EASTland Press, Seattle, WA, USA 2004, third Edition, [2] Körfers A., Sun Y.: Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft mbH Stuttgart, 2009, [3] Atkins J., Versluys A.: The Classical Energetics of the Five Tastes, Journal of Chinese Medicine,80: 50-58, 2006, [4] Chen J.K., Chen T.T.: Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology, Art of Medicine Press, Inc., City of Industry, CA, USA, 200