Nomenclature

Many herbs earn their names from their unique physical appearance. Examples of such names include Niu Xi (Radix Cyathulae seu Achyranthis), "cow's knees," which has big joints that might look like cow knees; Bai Mu Er (Fructificatio Tremellae Fuciformis), white wood ear,' which is white and resembles an ear; Gou Ji (Rhizoma Cibotii), 'dog spine,' which resembles the spine of a dog. [edit]Color Color is not only a valuable means of identifying herbs, but in many cases also provides information about the therapeutic attributes of the herb. For example, yellow herbs are referred to as 'huang' (yellow) or 'jin' (gold). Huang Bai (Cortex Phellodendri) means 'yellow fir," and Jin Yin Hua (Flos Lonicerae) has the label 'golden silver flower." [edit]Smell and Taste Unique flavors define specific names for some substances. "Gan" means 'sweet,' so Gan Cao (Radix Glycyrrhizae) is 'sweet herb," an adequate description for the licorice root. "Ku" means bitter, thus Ku Shen (Sophorae Flavescentis) translates as 'bitter herb.' [edit]Geographic Location The locations or provinces in which herbs are grown oft n figure into herb names. For example Bei Sha Shen (Radix Glehniae) is grown and harvested in northern China, whereas Nan Sha Shen (Radix Adenophorae) originated in southern China. And the Chinese words for north and south are respectively "bei" and "nan." Chuan Bei Mu (Bulbus Fritillariae Cirrhosae) and Chuan Niu Xi (Radix Cyathulae) are both found in Sichuan province, as the character "chuan" indicates in their names. [edit]Function Some herbs, like Fang Feng (Radix Saposhnikoviae), literally 'prevent wind," prevents or treats wind-related illnesses. Xu Duan (Radix Dipsaci), literally 'restore the broken,' effectively treats torn soft tissues and broken bones. [edit]Country of Origin Many herbs indigenous to other countries have been incorporated into the Chinese materia medica. Xi Yang Shen (Radix Panacis Quinquefolii), imported from North American crops, translates as 'western ginseng," while Dong Yang Shen (Radix Ginseng Japonica), grown in and imported from North Asian countries, is 'eastern ginseng.' Similar examples are noted in the text whenever geography matters in herb selection.