Chinese medicated diet is not a simple combination of food and Chinese drugs, but a special highly finished diet made from Chinese drugs, food and condiments under the theoretical guidance of diet preparation based on differentiation of symptoms and signs of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
It has not only the efficiency of medicine but also the delicacy of food, and can be used to prevent and cure diseases, build up one"s health and prolong one"s life.
Origin and Development
Chinese medicated diet has a long history. The ancient legend "Shennong Tastes a Hundred Grasses "shows that early in remote antiquity the Chinese nation began to explore the function of food and medicaments, hence the saying "Traditional Chinese medicine and diet both originate from the practice and experience in daily life."
In the Zhou Dynasty, one thousand or more years B. C. , royal doctors were divided into four kinds. One of them was dietetic doctors who were in charge of the emperor"s health care and health preservation, preparing diets for him.
In The Yellow Emperor"s Internal Classic, a medical classic in TCM which appeared approximately in the Warring States period, several medicated diet prescriptions were recorded. In Shennong"s Herbal Classic, which was published approximately in about the Qin and Han Periods and is the extant earliest monograph on materia medica, many sorts of medicaments which are both drugs and food were recorded, such as Chinese-date (Fructus Ziziphi Jujubae),sesame seed (Semen Sesami), Chinese yam (Rhizoma Dioscoreae), grape (Vitis), walnut kernel (Semen Fuglandis), lily bulb (Bulbus Lilii) , fresh ginger (Rhizoma Zingiberis Recens), Job"s-tears seed (Semen Coicis), etc. In the book Treatise on febrile and Miscellaneous Diseases written by Zhang Zhongjing, a noted medical man, in the East Han dynasty, some noted medicated diet recipes were recorded, such as Soup of Chinese Angelica root, Fresh ginger and Mutton (Danggui Shengjiang Yangrou Tang ), Decoction of Pig-skin(Zhufu Tang), etc., all of which now still have important values. Sun simiao, a well-known doctor in the Tang Dynasty, listed and discussed such questions as dietetic treatment, dietetic treatment for senile health care and health preservation, etc. in his books Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold for Emergencies and A Supplement to Essential Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold for Emergencies. These two books were substantial in medicated diet prescriptions.
According to history books, up to the period of the Sui and Tang Dynasties about more than sixty kinds of books on dietetic treatment had been published. But unfortunately most of them are lost. The book Dietotherapy of Materia Medica by Meng Xian in the Tang Dynasty has a great influence on later generations. It is the extant and earliest monograph on dietetic treatment.
In the Song Dynasty, Wang Huaiyin and some others wrote Peaceful Holy Benevolent Prescriptions, in which they discussed medicated diet treatment for many diseases. A Book on How to Help the Old to Preserve Health and Your Kith and Kin to Prolong their Lives by Chen Zhi is an extant early monograph on gerontology in China. Of all the prescriptions recorded in it, 70% are about medicated diet. it is emphasized in this book that "dietetic therapy should go first for any senile diseases, and then followed by medicine if they are not cured. " In the book Principles of Correct Diet, a monograph on medicated diet, by Hu Sihui, a royal doctor in the Yuan Dynasty, oceans of medicated diet prescriptions and dietetic drugs were recorded; in addition, some questions, such as diet contraindication in pregnancy, diet contraindication for wet nurse, contraindication for drinking, etc. were also discussed in this book. In the Ming Dynasty, Li Shizhen collected and recorded in his Compendium of Materia Medica many medicated diet prescriptions, dozens of which were about medicated gruel alone, and another dozens of which touched on nothing other than medicated wine. InEight Essays on Life preservation, a monograph on health preserving in the Ming Dynasty, many medicated diets on health preserving and health care were recorded too. Monographs on medicated diet treatment in the Qing Dynasty varied in characteristics: in Recipe of Suixiju by Wang Shixiong, over 300 species belonging to 7 phyla of medicated food and drink were introduced; in Analysis of Food and Drink for Treatment of Diseases by Zhang Mu, more medicated foods were touched upon; in Cookbook of Suiyuan cooking principles and methods were dealt with; while in Common Saying for Senile Health Preservation, also known as Jottings on Health Preservation, by Cao Tingdong, about 100 medicated gruel prescriptions for gerocomy were listed.