King of Chinese Medicine
Sun Si Miao lived and practiced in China during the Tang Dynasty (619-907 A.D.). Born in 581 A.D. in Huayuan, he was a sickly child, and the cost of medical treatments that reduced his family to poverty, motivated him to enter into the study of medicine. He rapidly learned the wisdom of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, mastered the Chinese classics by age twenty, and quickly rose to renown for his apothecary skills.
So impressive were Sun’s teachings that in the 10th century, they were incorporated into the famous Japanese medical text, the Ishimpo. A fundamental underpinning of Chinese medicine revolves around the twin forces of nature, Yin and Yang, whose balance is believed to be integral to a person’s health. The legend of Sun Si Miao is a legend of commanding control of these forces. In paintings and other works of art, he is regularly featured showing a tiger (Yin) below at his feet, and a dragon (Yang) above in his outstretched hand.
One of the first physicians to recognise the health promoting role of good nutrition, herbs and natural supplements, Sun Si Miao once said that, “Anyone over forty years old should try to avoid laxatives which will weaken his body, and begin to take tonics. Anyone over fifty years old should take tonics all year round; such are the secrets of nourishing life to enjoy longevity.” To this day, as a Chinese Medicine doctor, I firmly believe laxatives should not be used in over 40's and if absolutely necessary, no more than 3 days on anyone younger as it can destroy a person.
Sun Si Miao preached the primary importance of a proper diet with the simple axiom that “living beings have always depended on food to maintain their life.” He wrote on the positive and negative aspects of foods, their benefits and harms. In words that ring true to the present day, he cautioned that “those who practice medicine must first recognise the origin of an illness; they must know which violations have caused the suffering. Then they must treat it with dietary means. If dietary therapy does not cure the illness, only then can they employ drugs.”