A Walk Through the Apricot Forest: Tianma


PureInsight | April 21, 2003

[In Chinese, "Apricot Forest" is another term for the medical community. For more details see: http://www.pureinsight.org/pi/articles/2003/1/23/1368.html]


Tianma plant and tubers

[PureInsight.org] Tianma (Gastiodia elata) is a rare herb that grows in remote mountains and valleys. There are two types of Tianma. If the plant only produces one tuber, it is called single Tianma. Otherwise, the plant is called a nested Tianma.

Many interesting legends surround the Tianma plant. According to one legend, in ancient times, in a village in Sichuan Province of China, a strange disease broke out and spread very quickly. People who had this disease suffered terrible headaches, as if one's head was splitting in two. Their hands and legs would twitch, and one side of their bodies would become paralyzed soon thereafter. The villagers visited doctors all around the region and sought out any possible medicinal treatment, but nothing worked.

There was a young man in the village named Tian Sheng who felt very sad about the suffering of the villagers. He decided to search for a medicine to cure the disease no matter how far he had to travel. While on his search, Tian Sheng heard that in a place called Dicui Valley a highly skilled doctor knew how to cure the strange disease. He thus set out to find the valley, traveling day and night to find it. In the forest of the Dicui Valley, Tian Sheng met an old man who was cutting wood and asked him where the famous doctor lived. The old man told Tian Sheng that the doctor had gone to the Tieguan Valley, and directed him to look for the doctor there.

Tian Sheng said goodbye to the old man and went to the Tieguan Valley. The mountain road was bumpy and the mountains were very high. After enduring countless hardships, Tian Sheng finally arrived in the Tieguan Valley. When he reached the top of the mountain, Tian Sheng felt dizzy, and fell to the ground with his hands and legs twitching. He then lost consciousness. When Tian Sheng woke up, he found himself in a hut. His headache was gone and the twitch had ceased. He got up and looked around. On a table at a corner of the room he found some tubers that looked like potatoes. Then, an old man came in from outside carrying a bowl of medicine. The old man asked Tian Sheng to drink the medicine. Tian Sheng recognized him – he was the old man Tian Sheng met in Dicui Valley. The old man told Tian Sheng that his disease was the same one that afflicted the villagers. According to the old man, the disease could only be cured by using this one particular herb. Then the old man prepared a large quantity of medicine for Tian Sheng to take back to the village. He also said that the leftover tubers could be put in fallen leaves where the herb would then be able to grow. Then, the old man disappeared.

Tian Sheng put the herbs in his bag. Carrying the bag over his shoulder, he set out return home. When Tian Sheng arrived back at the village, he made a big pot of herb decoction and asked the sick villagers to take the medicine. Gradually, the villagers recovered. Tian Sheng put the rest of the medicine in fallen leaves in the shade. Ever since then the medicinal herbs grew each year.
The villagers then said that deities gave this herb to them. Since it was good for dizziness, numbness, and paralysis on one side of the body, it was called Tianma (Celestial Numbness).

Tianma is a perennial herb. The dried tuber of Tianma was medicine. Tianma grows in the mountains and valleys over 1000 meters above sea level. The plant stands straight up like an arrow. A medical proverb says, "The red arrow goes to the sky. It does not move in the wind, so it can fix the wind. It moves automatically without wind, so it can drive the wind. " Therefore, Tianma is also called Chijian (Red Arrow), Wind-fixing Grass, Only-swaying, and Divine Grass.

According to Shennong Bencao Jing, Tianma is sweet and mild. It can cure infantile convulsion, soothe the liver, and improve energy. Tianma is good for dizziness, blurred vision, near-sightedness, numbness, neurasthenia, cold, infantile convulsion, epileptic pain, hypertension, auditory vertigo, and many other diseases.
According to legends, Tianma was given to people by deities. A Chinese saying says, "Tianma, Tianma, created in the heaven. Immortals sow it, and people collect it." Another ancient saying says, "Tianma from the deep mountains is really wonderful. Immortals sow it and it grows in the soil. People see it when it is ripe. However, people cannot grow it."

Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2003/3/24/20922p.html

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