Pioneers of TCM - SunSimiao (581-682 AD)


Sun Simao is one of the most influential physicians in the history of Chinese medicine, and is distinguished by his application of medicine and his adherence to an ethical code. His interest in medicine came from his own fragile health whereby he treated himself as his first patient. His mastery of medicine, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism made Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty, and Emperors Tai-zong and Gao-zu of the Tang Dynasty seek him out as an imperial physician. However, Sun Simiao declined these posts and devoted his life to being a physician who served the common people. He believed the best way to care for a patient was to prevent an illness before it occurred. The worst care was to treat an illness that had already occurred because it meant that he was unable to keep his patient healthy.


Sun Simiao's best known works are Qianjin Yaofang (Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold for Emergencies or Precious Prescriptions for Emergencies) and the Qianjin Yifang (A Supplement to the Essential Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold or Supplement to Precious Prescriptions). The first book is comprised of 30 volumes and lists 5,300 prescriptions. The second book is also made up of 30 volumes and lists 2,571 prescriptions. Sun Simiao's observations about diseases and his prescribed treatments are noteworthy even today. For example, he knew cholera and diarrhea were caused by what people ate and drank and not by "evil spirits" as was commonly thought. He correctly identified tuberculosis as a lung disease, which was a new concept of this time. After successfully treating 600 cases of leprosy, he is considered the earliest expert on this disease in China.


Sun Simiao is also renowned for his identification and treatment of deficiency disorders. Even though he was not exactly sure of the cause of goiter (hypothyroidism caused by lack of iodine), he knew it occurred in people who lived in certain mountainous regions and drank unsanitary water. He prescribed medicine from the thyroid glands of deer and sheep because they are high in iodine content. Nyctalopia, which is night blindness caused by lack of vitamin A, was successfully treated with pig, calf and sheep livers that contain large amounts of this vitamin. He is the first person in the medical history to document the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of Beriberi, a deficiency disease caused by lack of vitamin B1. For this, he prescribed combinations of herbs that were high in Vitamin B1.


These and other Traditional Chinese practices all form part of TCM, each adding a little to the history and methodology of Acupuncture and Herbs.


Eca Brady is a fully licensed physician of Chinese Medicine BSc(Ac) MBAcC PGDip(CHM), practicing from Harley Street, London. Make an appointment for an Acupuncture or Herb treatment and we can discuss how we can help you, to read more about Eca click here.




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