Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tao of Love And Sex: Taoist Herbs For Strengthening Sexuality

The oldest Taoist alchemical texts sometimes refer to the three treasures as the "three herbs," expressing the notion that Taoist alchemy works in ways similar to the actions of natural plants. The ancient Taoists' medical expertise included the use of external elixirs (wei dan) derived from plants and sometimes from animal and mineral substances. Here is how the Taoist Wang Che described the action of medicinal herbs: ''Medicinal plants are the energy essence of the mountains and rivers, the pure energy of the grasses and the trees.. . . Those who study the Tao must become competent in this subject."

Apart from their medicinal action, Taoist formulas were also used in spiritual exercises, as part of military training, and to strengthen natural vitality. Those used for the latter purpose and for regulating sexuality generally belong to the family of therapeutic agents known as tonics.

Traditional Chinese medicine classifies herbal formulas into eight basic families:
1. Plants that promote sudation (sweating). Plants of this category encourage perspiration and help to eliminate the kind of superficial symptoms that are caused by atmospheric influences (colds, sunstroke, etc.).
2. Plants that promote vomiting. These are the emetic plants that induce vomiting and help rid the body of toxic substances that stagnate in the stomach.
3. Plants that promote purgation. The purgative plants in this category cleanse the digestive system and thus the blood.
4. Plants that encourage the harmonization of the energies. This category includes the harmonizing plants that regularize certain imbalances among two or more vital organs.
5. Plants that induce warming. These plants warm the organs or the energy channels.
6. Plants that induce toning. These plants supplement deficiencies in the organs and the energy channels.
7. Plants that induce purification. These plants rid the energy channels of toxic heat.
8. Plants that induce elimination. These plants eliminate congestion, intestinal stases, or accumulated toxins.
A more recent classification system groups plants and formulas into twenty-one families, as follows:
1. Medicinal plants for fighting superficial symptoms.
2. Medicinal plants for purifying energy of toxic heat, which are useful in treating certain sexual inflammations.
3. Medicinal plants for dispelling wind and removing dampness, which are useful in treating rheumatism.
4. Medicinal plants for dispelling cold and heat from internal zones, which are useful in treating serious internal cold and for encouraging the circulation of cji in patients of advanced years.
5. Medicinal plants for dispersing dampness.
7. Medicinal plants for inducing vomiting.
8. Medicinal plants for combating constipation.
9. Medicinal plants for stimulating digestion.
10. Medicinal plants for eliminating sputum and mucus.
11. Medicinal plants for regulating energy.
12. Medicinal plants for regulating blood.
13. Medicinal plants for fighting symptoms of congestion and obstruction.
14. Medicinal plants for calming the spirit, which are useful in certain sexual ailments.
15. Medicinal plants for calming the liver and stopping internal wind.
16. Medicinal plants for toning. This family is divided into plants that tone yin, those that tone yang, those that tone blood, and those that tone energy (qi).
17. Medicinal plants with an astringent action.
18. Medicinal plants with vermifuge action (i.e., those that eliminate or destroy intestinal worms).
19. Medicinal plants for fighting ulcers and tumors.
20. Medicinal plants for external application.
21. Medicinal plants with antitussive and antiasthmatic action.
In both this system and the earlier one, the most commonly used remedies for sexual deficiencies are found in the category of plants called tonics. This category is further divided into four main subcategories: energy (qi) tonics, such as ginseng and astragalus; blood tonics, such as Chinese angelica (Angelica sinensis); yin tonics, such as sesame and lily bulb; and yang tonics, such as deer antler.
Certain plants are known for their stimulating effect on male sexuality. Here are some of them, beginning with one that is known the world over.

For centuries ginseng has been regarded in the Chinese world as a universal panacea and an aid to longevity. Its ability to balance the circulatory system, stimulate metabolism, and prolong life is widely recognized. Mention of ginseng can be found in the oldest treatises on herbal therapy, including the Ben Cao of the "herbalist" emperor Shen Hong, which describes its effects in detail:

Ginseng fortifies the five vital organs: the liver, the heart, the spleen, the lungs, and the kidneys; it harmonizes yin and yang energies. In other words, it tones energy and blood. Ginseng calms the spirit and dispels fears: it has a sedating effect on the mind (shen). Long-term use fortifies the body and prolongs life: this tonic can be used by both men and women.

Ginseng is native to Manchuria, South Korea, and Japan. A number of species are commercially available, including cultivated, semi-wild, and wild varieties; these latter are the best but also the rarest and most costly. The semi-wild roots from China and Korea are quite acceptable alternatives. Probably more has been written about ginseng than-about any other plant in existence. A wild thirteen-year-old root will fetch its weight in gold in the shops of Hong Kong.

Ginseng belongs to the family Araliaceae; its scientific name is Panax schinseng. Traditional prescriptions usually specify radix ginseng, since it is principally the roots of this plant that are used in medicinal preparations. For over two millennia, the ginseng root has been the most highly regarded tonic plant in the Chinese pharmacopoeia. Here is the classical description of ginseng's tonic properties from the Ben Cao:

The root has a sweet taste and mildly cooling properties. It grows in mountain gorges. It is used to restore the five viscera, harmonize yin and yang, calm the spirit, dispel fears and toxic substances from the body, give brilliance to the eyes, open the vessels of the heart, and bring clarity to the thoughts. Used regularly, it fortifies the body and bestows longevity.

For Taoists, however, these simple definitions are only part of the story: Taoist hermits say that ginseng contains the sap and essence of the earth and the five elements. It develops man's center, his dantian, and his spleen. It naturally enhances the three treasures (son bao)—jing, qi, and shen. Ginseng is thus considered a spiritual aid, and many Taoist and Buddhist monks believe it has spiritual effects. Because ginseng increases a person's control over his mind and breathing, many meditators use it regularly as a tonic.

In the human body, yin represents blood and yang represents energy; accordingly, as modern works on the Chinese pharmacopoeia tell us, ginseng tones energy and blood, which means that this root increases the metabolism and has a measurable effect on the blood corpuscles. That is why ginseng has long been used in China in the treatment of sexual fatigues and deficiencies, lack of appetite, and respiratory problems.

Ginseng can be used by both men and women, and, while in no sense an aphrodisiac, it can help a person maximize his or her sexual energy. Its beneficial, tonic effects are in no way reserved for men. Ginseng does not stimulate the production of male hormones and cause women to grow beards! In fact, in China, herbalists advise ginseng-root preparations for their female patients to alleviate problems associated with menopause.

Herbalists prescribe ginseng to relieve chronic fatigue, whether physical or nervous in origin; stimulate appetite; harmonize menopause; stimulate sexual functions in both men and women; increase virility in older men; and combat senility.

Brief summary of the action of ginseng Botanical reference: Radix ginseng (Panax schinseng) Chinese name: Renshen. Part used: Dried roots. Energy: Warm.
Taste: Sweet and slightly bitter.
Dosage: 1 to 9 grams or 60 drops of extract per day.
Actions: Tones energy and blood; calms the mind (shen); promotes the production of organic secretions and blood; acts on the spleen, kidney, and lung channels.
Traditional indications: Lack of appetite, chronic fatigue, deficiency of vital energy, sexual fatigue, palpitations, neurasthenia, excessive perspiration, convalescence, anxiety, poor memory, infantile spasms, chronic nausea and vomiting, coughs and chronic respiratory ailments, cardiac problems, kidney, urinary, and uterine ailments, nervous fatigue.
Ginseng should be taken a half hour before meals for treatment of sexual fatigue.

Surely one of the strangest aspects of traditional Chinese medicine, from the Western perspective, is the use of animal products to treat illness and stimulate the body's energies. The Chinese therapeutic arsenal sometimes seems infused with elements of sorcery, maldng use as it does of such things as gall bladder of bear, lizard skin, and snake blood. Taoists have always been very careful, however, about taking the lives of animals for medical purposes, and many Taoists have been vegetarians.

The animal world can provide hormones and other complex organic substances (tissues, fluids) that are rich in natural energizers, and as long as you are not a vegetarian you can gain much from these age-old remedies, whose effectiveness in recent years has been verified by Soviet scientists who devoted several volumes of research studies to pantocrine, the liquid preparation made from deer antlers.
Cornus cervi: deer antlers may be used medicinally.

The antlers of young deer (Cervus nippon) are removed before they attain a hard, bony consistency and are then prepared as a liquid elixir. This product is now manufactured under state control in both China and parts of the former Soviet Union. The modern preparation is called pantocrine or pantocrin; it is obtained from deer antlers that have been pulverized and then boiled.

Deer antler preparations have been studied for the past fifty years at the Vladivostok Institute of Biological Substances in Siberia. Few Western scientists, however, are truly informed about the results of this research. The first studies, which took place in the Soviet Union well before World War II, were more concerned with verifying the effects of deer antler extract on the blood than with deepening our biochemical understanding of this substance. In 1969, Dr. Taneyeva of

Vladivostok observed a marked increase in muscle tonus. It would be safe to say that scientists in ancient China discovered the hormonal process and, in particular, the important role played by the adrenal glands, as the classic description of deer antler as "the yang root of the kidneys" would seem to indicate. The idea of "root" encompasses such notions as heredity, the parentally transmitted energy that is often referred to in Taoist medical works as "ancestral" energy. And as we now know, the yang root of the kidneys is closely linked to vigorous sexual activity.

Brief summary of the action of deer antler
Scientific name: Cornu cervi pantocrinum, Cervus nippon tem-minck.
Chinese name: Lou rong.
Part used: Pulverized antler of young deer.
Energy: Warm.
Taste: Sweet and salty.
Actions: Warms the kidneys, fortifies yang, produces sperm, fortifies the blood, stimulates marrow, fortifies bones and the yang root of the kidneys, strengthens male sexual capacity, acts on the liver and kidney channels and the Chong mai and Du mai channels.

Traditional indications: Weakness and fatigue, male sexual fatigue, intolerance of cold, deficiency of blood, anemia, dizziness, chronic lower-back pain, vaginal hemorrhage caused by weakness, hearing loss attributable to old age, weakness in the limbs and knee joints, impotence, nocturrial emissions, leukorrhea, convalescence, chronic illnesses accompanied by sensitivity to cold and asthenia.

Chinese experiments have shown that astragalus extends estrus in rats, cures acute nephritis in other animals, promotes diuresis, and combats certain types of bacteria. Astragalus preparations are frequently used in cases of suppuration (pus formation): astragalus brings pustules to a head and aids in their healing. It has a beneficial effect in cases of gangrene and noncancerous tumors. It is a yang-type/sexual tonic that bestows energy and prolongs virility.

Found in herbal formulas of all sorts, astragalus tones and enhances synergistic effects; for this reason people with hypertension or what used to be known as sanguine constitutions should avoid using it. Its tonic action, like that of ginseng, makes it an effective treatment for hemorrhoids and fistulas.

Brief summary of the action of astragalus
Botanical reference: Astragalus membranaceus, A. mongholicus,
A. hoantschy
Chinese name: Huang cji.
Energy: Neutral.
Taste: Sweet.
Actions: Tones all body functions, strengthens defenses, clears pus, stops abnormal sweating, works as a sexual tonic.
Properties: Stimulant, diuretic, tonic, healant, antiseptic. Energy profile: Astragalus root is an important remedy in the traditional Chinese phamacopoeia; it is available from certain Chinese grocery stores as dried roots or from Chinese herbalist pharmacies as astragalus extract. Less costly than the more widely known ginseng, this tonic plant stimulates yang energy. It is therefore recommended for the kidneys, lungs, energy, and blood. A powerful sexual tonic, it is used in combination with ginseng to help concentrate the sperm and increase its density.
Traditional indications: Fatigue, intolerance of cold, sweating with asthenia, loose stools or diarrhea, tendency to infection, pimples.

Use and preparation: Decoction of astragalus root can be prepared according to the following method, which Chinese therapists use. Place ten grams of huang cji root in an enamel pot. Add two cups of water and bring to a boil over a low flame. Continue boiling until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain. The decoction should be drunk hot in two doses: the first in the morning on waking, and the second before the noonday meal. This cure should be continued for two to three weeks and repeated if necessary. Do not begin this treatment if you have influenzal fever; if you have already begun the cure and then develop influenzal fever, you should discontinue it.
It is important to consider a plant's nature and energy before deciding whether or not to use it. Ginseng and astragalus are energy tonics and are effective for treating depletion of sexual energy in men (and in some cases in women). But whereas ginseng decreases micturation (urination), astragalus promotes it. A person suffering from edema would therefore do better to use astragalus root rather than ginseng.

Other Plants with Sexually Related Actions


Effect on Sexual Energies

Cassia tara

Tones yin

Rehmannia glutinosa

Tones yin

Cornus officinalis

retains substances, tones

and warms
kidney yang

Water plantain


Poria cocos




Monkey prostate (animal


Deer antler extract

Tones jing and marrows

Cinnamomum cassia

Tones and
warms kidney yang

Dioscorea opposita

Tones and
warms kidney yang

Lycium sinensis

blood, liver, and kidney


Eucommia ulminoides

Warms and
tones the liver and kid-

neys, strengthens the bones, sin-

ews, and muscles

Angelica sinensis

and mobilizes blood by

blood of the liver

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