Know Your Remedies: Pharmacy and Culture in Early Modern China (Book Review)
In the 21st century, most patients and physicians leave the content of their medicines to the laboratories that produce them and the national agencies that regulate them. In China and Chinatowns around the world, you can go to a Chinese pharmacy to purchase gel caps filled with powdered substances after getting a prescription from a physician of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Yet many of these physicians will encourage patients to instead get the dried herbs, roots, and other materia medica in large paper packets, weighed quickly and expertly in handheld scales by the pharmacists. Multiple substances will then be boiled and decocted together to produce a thick and pungent medical "tea" to produce the desired medical effect. In her wonderfully researched and engagingly written book on early modern Chinese pharmaceutical culture, He Bian examines overlooked sources by and about physicians, pharmacists, medical writers, and patients from the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties that encouraged physicians and patients to take the time to fully understand the properties of the drugs they consumed and prescribed.
Luesink, D. (2021). [Review of the book Know your remedies: Pharmacy and culture in early modern China, by H. Bian]. Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, 38(S1), S187-S189. Doi: 10.3138/cbmh.484-112020