Thursday, 26 May 2016

Chinese vegetative materia medica in a venereological treatise by Jean Astruc from 1740 (Article)

Volume 187, 1 July 2016, Pages 293-301

Department of Pharmaceutical Botany, School of Pharmacy, Division of Laboratory Medicine in Sosnowiec, Medical University of Silesia in Katowice, ul. Ostrogórska 30, Sosnowiec, Poland


Ethnopharmacological relevance Historical medical sources can be still queried for forgotten cures and remedies. Traditional Chinese medicine has dealt with lues venerea (syphilis) since the Five Dynasties period (10th century). Chinese indigenous materia medica and remedies recorded, studied or imported by the Europeans can reveal known or quite unknown medicinal plants. The studied Jean Astruc's work is a published ethnopharmacological survey carried out in Beijing in the 1730s and it deserves a modern interpretation. Aim of the study This is the first proposal to identify historical Chinese medicinal plants listed in a scarcely known medical treatise De Morbis venereis... ('On venereal diseases...') by Jean Astruc from 1740. I searched for the current uses and position of the taxonomically identified herbal stock in both traditional Chinese and official medical knowledge, with special attention to syphilis. Material and methods Chinese names of drugs and their botanical identities (originally expressed by means of pre-Linnaean polynomials, and now interpreted as accepted binomials) were independently cross-checked with younger till most recent taxonomical and ethnopharmacological sources. Plants and drugs identified this way were queried for their modern applications in traditional Chinese and official medicine with special attention to sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and other uses which are similar to the 18th-century understanding of venereology. Results For 24 items of medicinal stock, 34 medicinal plants have been identified or suspected: Acacia catechu, Achyranthes bidentata, Akebia quinata, Angelica dahurica, A. sinensis, Aquilaria sinensis, Aralia cordata, Aristolochia fangchi, Chaenomeles sinensis, Ch. speciosa, Clematis vitalba, Coix lacryma-jobi, Commiphora myrrha, Cydonia oblonga, Daemonorops draco, D. jenkinsiana, Dictamnus dasycarpus, Dryobalanops sumatrensis, Forsythia suspensa, Glycyrrhiza uralensis, Lonicera confusa, L. hypoglauca, L. japonica, Ligusticum striatum (=L. chuanxiong), Piper kadsura, Pterocarpus officinalis, Saposhnikovia divaricata, Sassafras tzumu, Smilax China, S. glabra, Stephania tetrandra, Styphnolobium japonicum, Trichosanthes japonica, T. kirilowii; China wax is also mentioned. Out of them, only Lonicera japonica is being used in China in late syphilis, Achyranthes bidentata in gonorrhoea, and Dictamnus dasycarpus in gynaecological problems. In the Astruc's study, 3 medicinal plant species and 5 further plant genera are correctly determined; other plant parts were misidentified. Conclusions Antisyphilitic actions ascribed to the Chinese medical formulas and their constituents studied by Astruc, seem to have come from Hg or As compounds rather than from vegetative materia medica. The formulas contained only one species still known in TCM as a remedy for syphilis. © 2016 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author keywords

18th Century; Antisyphilitic action; China; De Jussieu; Plants; Syphilis
ISSN: 03788741 CODEN: JOETDSource Type: Journal Original language: English
DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2016.04.055Document Type: Article
Publisher: Elsevier Ireland Ltd

  Drobnik, J.; Department of Pharmaceutical Botany, School of Pharmacy, Division of Laboratory Medicine in Sosnowiec, Medical University of Silesia in Katowice, ul. Ostrogórska 30, Poland;
© Copyright 2016 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.