Materia Medica

The ancient system of Chinese herbology is mysterious and complex. Formulations of this tradition rarely use a single plant for its action alone. Rather, complementary herbs are combined with exquisite care and sophistication, to offset and balance one another, maximizing intended benefits while neutralizing any unwanted effects. Every herb in a given combination has been carefully chosen, and has an essential reason for being there. Every one has its part in the unified whole. This creates perfect harmony in each formula, and allows it to exactingly target a specific dysharmony.

Myrrh (mo yao), commiphora myrrha

The resin of a small bush native to the Red Sea region, myrrh has been held as extremely precious... read more

Myrrh (mo yao), commiphora myrrha

The resin of a small bush native to the Red Sea region, myrrh has been held as extremely precious both for its spiritual associations and for its use in healing. 

Chinese Herbal Properties: calming, regenerating, transforming

SCIENCE

Known to have antiseptic properties, myrrh is recognized for its superior benefits on mature or tired skin, as well as skin prone to break-outs.

HISTORY

It is one of the few herbs in the Chinese Materia Medica specifically designated as a skin regenerator, and is also used to correct puffiness and for its calming qualities.

 

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Amber (hu po)

Amber is classified as a Chinese 'herb' although in its hardened, aromatic form it is no longer, strictly speaking,... read more

Amber (hu po)

Amber is classified as a Chinese 'herb' although in its hardened, aromatic form it is no longer, strictly speaking, a plant.

Chinese Medicine Properties: calming, regulating, transforming

SCIENCE

The fossilized resin of ancient forests, amber is more usually thought of as a gemstone, and prized for its spectrum of golden hues.  The yellow color and heaviness of amber imparts a centering quality, according to Eastern theory.  It is regarded as supremely calming.

HISTORY
In ancient China, amber was burned as an incense during festivities.   In many parts of the East it is still commonly used for this purpose, giving off a sweet, pine-like fragrance.  The classical name for amber was 'electrum', referring to its electrical properties and its association with the sun.

 

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Coix seed (yi yi ren)

Coix seed is actually a grain, another example of a Chinese Medicinal which balances on the border between food... read more

Coix seed (yi yi ren)

Coix seed is actually a grain, another example of a Chinese Medicinal which balances on the border between food and herb.

Chinese Herbal Properties: cooling, transforming, supplementing

SCIENCE

The exquisite specialty of coix is in relieving pore congestion by both balancing skin's water content and cooling the inflammation that can contribute to acne.  It is rare for an herb with these qualities to be also supplementing; but coix, like most nutritious grains, has this ability as well.

 

HISTORY

The Chinese have long recognized coix in particular among grains as a skin-enhancing herb, both when eaten and topically applied.

Ground coix is the main ingredient in Chinese Herbal Exfoliating Grains.

 

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Sandalwood (tan xiang)

Sandalwood has a long history as an herb sacred to many traditions, and is held precious for its many... read more

Sandalwood (tan xiang)

Sandalwood has a long history as an herb sacred to many traditions, and is held precious for its many healing and skin-enhancing benefits.

Chinese Herbal Properties: regulating, harmonizing, calming, clearing

SCIENCE

Sandalwood is known to calm itching and inflammation, and ongoing studies point to a promising use in tumor prevention, which makes it perfect for daily treatment of sun-exposed skin.

 

HISTORY

Its regulating and harmonizing effects help achieve and maintain ideal moisture balance and even tone, supporting collagen production as well.  The scent of sandalwood is regarded as profoundly calming and centering.  It is used widely in the East as incense for this reason.

 

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Frankincense (ru xiang)

Frankincense is the aromatic resin of the evergreen Boswellia tree. It has been traded in the East for over... read more

Frankincense (ru xiang)

Frankincense is the aromatic resin of the evergreen Boswellia tree. It has been traded in the East for over 5000 years.

Chinese Herbal Properties: regulating, regenerating, transforming

SCIENCE

One of the few herbs in the Chinese Materia Medica specifically designated as a skin-regenerator, frankincense has been recognized for thousands of years for its ability to fade scars and heal damaged skin. 

 

HISTORY

Frankincense is an herb of timeless use, long prized for its spiritual associations as well as for its therapeutic and skin-beautifying benefits.


 

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Camellia sinensis, Green tea (lu cha)

Green tea is one of the most universally known and used botanicals from the Chinese Materia Medica.  Chinese Medicine Properties:... read more

Camellia sinensis, Green tea (lu cha)

Green tea is one of the most universally known and used botanicals from the Chinese Materia Medica. 

Chinese Medicine Properties: cooling, tonifying, regulating

SCIENCE

Particular tea polyphenols called catechins, have been widely identified as some of the most powerful skin-protective antioxidants.  Recent research shows its value particularly as a defender against sun damage, both topically and when taken internally. 

HISTORY
Since ancient times green tea has been regarded as a tonic for long life and good health.  It also has a long tradition of use for skincare, prized for its tonifying, decongesting and anti-inflammatory actions.

 

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Cucumber (huang gua)

Cucumber is one of those Chinese 'herbs' that is also a well-known vegetable. Chinese Medicine properties: cooling, clearing, transforming SCIENCE Cucumber transforms edema,... read more

Cucumber (huang gua)

Cucumber is one of those Chinese 'herbs' that is also a well-known vegetable.

Chinese Medicine properties: cooling, clearing, transforming

SCIENCE

Cucumber transforms edema, helping to keep puffiness at bay by draining it from beneath the skin.

HISTORY
The nature of cucumber is very Yin, which makes it a superior agent for cooling skin and clearing redness.

 

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Licorice (gan cao)

Licorice is a harmonizer and general tonic in Eastern tradition.  It tones, moisturizes and boosts the qi of the complexion, contributing... read more

Licorice (gan cao)

Licorice is a harmonizer and general tonic in Eastern tradition.  It tones, moisturizes and boosts the qi of the complexion, contributing to a soft, even glow.

Chinese Medicine Properties: tonifying, harmonizing, qi-boosting

SCIENCE

The acid in licorice helps to balance skin pH, and is well-recognized as a skin-brightener, anti-inflammatory and collagen-preserver.

HISTORY
Although it is highly valued as a botanical on its own, one of the main uses for licorice is to harmonize (smooth together) the other herbs in a formula.

 

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Honey (feng mi)

Honey is a food that is treated as a medicinal in Chinese medicine, and well-recognized as a natural beauty enhancer... read more

Honey (feng mi)

Honey is a food that is treated as a medicinal in Chinese medicine, and well-recognized as a natural beauty enhancer in Western tradition. 

Chinese Medicine properties: tonifying, nourishing, calming

SCIENCE

With its well-known antibacterial properties, honey is helpful to acne-prone skin, and its high levels of antioxidants and amino acids have made it a favorite since antiquity for imparting a deep healthy glow to skin.

HISTORY
The Chinese attribute to honey the power to 'moderate tension', which translates in skincare to softening, moisturizing and calming.  Honey is reputed to have been Cleopatra's most-guarded beauty secret. 

 

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Aloe vera (lu hui)

Aloe, with its many antioxidants, nutrients and vitamins, is an ancient herb with a long history of use for skin... read more

Aloe vera (lu hui)

Aloe, with its many antioxidants, nutrients and vitamins, is an ancient herb with a long history of use for skin beauty.

Chinese Medicine properties: purifying, cooling, regenerating

SCIENCE

With its cooling anti-inflammatory action, it is well known for healing sunburned or damaged skin.  Aloe's value in treating acne comes from this quality as well, along with its antiseptic properties.

HISTORY
Aloe has an ancient tradition of use as a beauty and medicinal herb.  The ancient Egyptians called it "the plant of immortality".   Eastern and Western herbalists have cherished it since antiquity for its skin-regenerating properties and soothing coolness.

 

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Poria (fu ling)

A well-used herb from the Chinese Materia Medica, poria is less-known to Western traditions. Chinese Herbal Properties: transforming, calming, tonifying... read more

Poria (fu ling)

A well-used herb from the Chinese Materia Medica, poria is less-known to Western traditions.

Chinese Herbal Properties: transforming, calming, tonifying

SCIENCE

Poria is a kind of mushroom, with outstanding abilities to remove excess fluid from tissue.  Its luminous white color is regarded as signifying its value an anti-inflammatory and skin-brightener. Preliminary studies point to anti-tumor properties, making it a valuable botanical for topical skincare.

 

HISTORY

Poria is highly-regarded for its calming effect on both the mind and body. Native Americans ate the poria plant as food in times of need.  For this reason it is sometimes called "Indian Bread". 


 

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Pomegranate (shi liu), seed (shi liu zi)

The pomegranate fruit and seed are long-recognized astringents. Chinese Herbal Properties: astringing, cooling, tonifying SCIENCE Pomegranate seed oil has cooling properties and... read more

Pomegranate (shi liu), seed (shi liu zi)

The pomegranate fruit and seed are long-recognized astringents.

Chinese Herbal Properties: astringing, cooling, tonifying

SCIENCE

Pomegranate seed oil has cooling properties and was recently found to accelerate skin recovery from environmental stressors and daily cell regeneration. It has been shown in studies to prevent sun damage and to reverse its effects, both in the deeper layers of the skin and in the correction of hyperpigmentation.

 

HISTORY

Its tonifying action is aided by its cooling property, which addresses the inflammation that can interfere with the deep glow which comes from balanced, vital skin qi. In ancient China the pomegranate was a symbol of abundance. 


 

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Pumpkin (nan gua)

This well-known squash is regarded as being both supplementing - thanks to its dense content of nourishing vitamins and minerals... read more

Pumpkin (nan gua)

This well-known squash is regarded as being both supplementing - thanks to its dense content of nourishing vitamins and minerals - and Yang-fortifying.

Chinese Medicine properties: qi-supplementing, yang-tonifying, purifying

SCIENCE

Vitamins B and C, carotenoids and minerals are in abundance in the pumpkin,  making it a superior botanical for the treatment of dull or tired skin.

HISTORY

Pumpkin, like many squashes, is Qi-boosting, nourishing and brightening.  Its vibrant color reflects its life-giving qualities.  Orange is the color of the Earth, the central life-force; the Yin that supports and tonifies Yang.

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Almond (ba dan xing ren)

Almond is strictly speaking a food (xing ren, with a similar name, is apricot seed and is an herb). Chinese... read more

Almond (ba dan xing ren)

Almond is strictly speaking a food (xing ren, with a similar name, is apricot seed and is an herb).

Chinese Medicine properties: moistening, harmonizing, tonifying

SCIENCE

Almonds contain significant amounts of flavanoids, and vitamin E which are known to increase blood vessel strength.

HISTORY
As there is often an indistinct line between foods and medicinals in Chinese medicine it is still considered to have great therapeutic value in tonifying the essence (deep reserves) of the body as well as adding hydration and balance to the skin.

 

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Bitter Orange peel (chen pi) and fruit (zhi ke)

The particular gift of citrus peel in Chinese Medicine is its stellar ability to remove fluid, particularly below the skin... read more

Bitter Orange peel (chen pi) and fruit (zhi ke)

The particular gift of citrus peel in Chinese Medicine is its stellar ability to remove fluid, particularly below the skin of the face where it can accumulate and cause puffiness.

Chinese Herbal Properties: regulating, astringing, transforming

SCIENCE

The particular gift of citrus peel in Chinese Medicine is its stellar ability to remove fluid, particularly below the skin of the face where it can accumulate and cause puffiness.

HISTORY
That is because chen pi is a qi-moving herb, and it specializes in moving fluid downward, astringing it from below the skin; transforming it to its pure, useful state once again in the body.

 

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Rose (mei gui hua)

The rose blossom is long-revered for its value as a beauty-enhancing botanical, both in Western and Eastern traditions. Chinese Medicine... read more

Rose (mei gui hua)

The rose blossom is long-revered for its value as a beauty-enhancing botanical, both in Western and Eastern traditions.

Chinese Medicine properties: tonifying, harmonizing, regulating.

SCIENCE

The rose blossom is long-revered for its value as a beauty-enhancing botanical, both in Western and Eastern traditions.  Its essential oil is said to have the highest vibration (ie the most 'life' or qi) of any plant.

HISTORY
In the Chinese herbal tradition the tonifying and regulating properties of this beautiful flower means it acts on the skin to give a deep radiance by maximizing qi; its harmonizing effect contributes to overall balance.

 

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Goji Berry (gou qi)

In Chinese herbology, goji berry is an 'herb' that is also a food, and is classified as a 'Yin tonic'... read more

Goji Berry (gou qi)

In Chinese herbology, goji berry is an 'herb' that is also a food, and is classified as a 'Yin tonic' with a special affinity for the eyes.   

Chinese Herbal Properties: yin-tonifying, purifying, deeply supplementing

SCIENCE

Goji berries contain high amounts of vitamin C, well-recognized for its ability to promote a tighter, radiant complexion by boosting collagen production and brightening skin tone.  It also contains smoothing polysaccharides, amino acids, and 11 of the 22 essential dietary minerals.

HISTORY
Lately considered a 'superfood', it is full of protective anti-oxidants as well as skin-nourishing hydrators and collagen-supporters.   It has taditionally been eaten for centuries as a tonic in Chinese culture.

 

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Aurantium flower, Neroli (dai dai hua)

Neroli is the flower of the bitter orange tree; known for its exquisite aroma and skin-calming, supplementing qi.  Chinese Herbal... read more

Aurantium flower, Neroli (dai dai hua)

Neroli is the flower of the bitter orange tree; known for its exquisite aroma and skin-calming, supplementing qi. 

Chinese Herbal Properties: regulating, tonifying, astringing, quieting

SCIENCE

Its astringing and quieting effects make it perfect to maintain daily skin health, creating a  balanced glow by guarding against broken capillaries, dryness and unevenness

HISTORY
Western herbalism recognizes it as a skin-regenerator. It has a healing, correcting effect on scars and marks. The flower is named after the 17th century Italian Princess of Nerola, whose precious beauty secret it was. Neroli blossoms are traditionally added to tea.

 

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Ginger (sheng jiang)

Ginger moves qi - and with it fluid - to keep skin fresh and prevent stagnation. Chinese Medical Properties - regulating,... read more

Ginger (sheng jiang)

Ginger moves qi - and with it fluid - to keep skin fresh and prevent stagnation.

Chinese Medical Properties - regulating, yang-tonifying, protective

SCIENCE

Ginger is shown in western studies to have protective benefits due to its antioxidant effects, to promote skin healing and collagen production, and to inhibit tumor growth.  In the Chinese Materia Medica it is classified officially among herbs that 'release the exterior'.  This means that it is recognized for its immune-enhancing effects.

HISTORY
Its Yang-tonifying properties make it especially revitalizing of the complexion, since Yang is the source of radiance and life in Chinese herbal theory.   Its action is understood to have an affinity for the eyes and skin.

 

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Watermelon (xi gua), rind (xi gua pi)

Watermelon is another Chinese herb that is also a food. Chinese Herbal Properties: cooling, yin-tonifying, transforming SCIENCE With its high... read more

Watermelon (xi gua), rind (xi gua pi)

Watermelon is another Chinese herb that is also a food.

Chinese Herbal Properties: cooling, yin-tonifying, transforming

SCIENCE

With its high content of antioxidants, flavanoids, carotenoids and vitamin C, this superfruit is understood by modern science to have superior protective effects on DNA against skin damage from UV light and pollution.

HISTORY
It is cooling, hydrating,and tonifying particularly to the Yin, which makes it superior for maintaining moisture balance in the skin leading to improved elasticity and tone.

 

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