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Figure 1. A mature Panax ginseng plant with red berries.

In China the Taoist philosophy (ca. sixth century B.C.) stated that good health and longevity depended on the quality of one's life, good quality being achieved by personal effort and high ethical standards. "Tao" literally means "The Way" and, in particular, the way of nature. The Yin and Yang theory was developed simultaneously with the Han Dynasty concepts of Confucianism (ca. 206 B.C.-24 A.D.). Confucius or K'ung Fu-tse, philosopher, social reformer and teacher, who lived 551-479 B.C., propagated a creed known as "The Way of Humanity" or "Confucianism", a code of ethics advocating exemplary moral standards based on filial piety and brotherly respect. It was during the Western Han Dynasty (ca. 298-238 B.C.) that Confucianism was adopted as state orthodoxy.

The Yin and Yang theory suggested that good health depended on the balance of Yin and Yang. Yin, meaning standstill, was passive and dark as the shady side of the hill and thus included death, the darker aspects of life, the moon, the earth, night and darkness, water and damp, cold, etc. as well as other negative and feminine subjects; Yang, on the other hand, meaning motion, was active and light as the sunny side of the hill, therefore embraced life as well as the sunnier aspects of life including the sun itself, heaven, day, fire, heat, light, dryness, creation and other positive and masculine aspects. As sure as light changed to darkness and winter changed to spring so, it was argued, the ever-changing balance of Yin and Yang controlled all natural phenomena. Hence excess Yin, being cold, caused chills and colds and excess Yang, being hot, promoted fevers.

In association with Yin/Yang balance the Chinese also believed in the doctrine of the five elements, wood, fire, earth, metal and water, the five viscera, the heart (controls pulse and spirit), the lungs (control skin and the animal spirit or ghost), the liver (controls muscles and soul), the kidneys (control the bones and the will) and the spleen (controls the flesh and ideas) and the five flavours, salty hardening the pulse, bitter withering the skin, pungent knotting the muscles, sour toughening the flesh and sweet causing aches in the bones. The five element theory or quinary (Table 1.1) was further extended to include the grains, fruits, vegetables, animals, odours, climates, musical notes, etc.

Against this complicated philosophical background the early Chinese medical schools considered ginseng as "Spirit of the Earth" or "Man-Essence", the essence or elixir of the earth crystallised in human form and responsible for the healing virtues of the plant. The underlying philosophy of Eastern medicine

Table 1.1. The Quinary

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