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The Practical Herbalist

Dragon Bones

Scientists have always been interested in the chemicals found herbs that might be purified into pharmaceutical drugs. In one case however, the scientists that were interested in Chinese herbs, were not looking for a medical cure, they were looking for dinosaurs.

Traditional Chinese Herbal medicine uses many different substances as medicine. Many people think of herbs as simply plants, but in reality, "herbs" could be any naturally occurring substance, including animal and mineral, that has a medicinal effect on the body.

The story goes that many years ago a university professor of paleontology happened to find himself in a traditional herb shop in a chinatown neighborhood. Behind the counter were many jars of roots and leaves and powders on display. One particular jar caught his eye. In it were what looked like white rocks. The professor asked to see the jar and was astonished by what he saw. He recognized that this was part of a fossilized dinosaur bone.

The jar contained Long gu, which in Chinese translates as Dragon Bone. These were fossilized bones found in various parts of China. The bones were used in various herbal formulas to calm and relax the body and mind. Dragon bone is said to “calm the spirit”. Powdered long gu was also used topically to help heal ulcerated wounds.

The professor along with other scientists started to research where herb shops were getting their supplies of long gu. Eventually they were able to find pits in China that had been quarried for hundreds of years. In these pits they were able to find a treasure of dinosaur bones.

The Dragon is an important mythological creature in Chinese culture. Dragons were said to come in all sizes and held magical powers. It is not surprising that when ancient herbalists found odd bones that they could not identify, that those bones would be seen as coming from Dragons and would therefore hold magical healing powers. The real magic may be that these bones have helped us to understand the past as well as heal the problems of the present.

David Bock

This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"

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David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine

Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066