Qin Bo-Wei (1901-1970) created one of the most important collections of core formulas, especially suited for our modern patient population. Qin's formulas do not follow the modern Western trend and treat diseases, such as fibromyalgia, MS, arthritis, or cancer. In contrast, they represent the core concepts in Chinese medicine, which can then be applied to treat a large range of complaints and diseases (Western). His approach has some fairly large advantages when it comes to clinical practice, the least of which is that it represents (and teaches) a more traditional manner of practice than what we often see in today's clinics.
- They are especially effective for our modern patients.
- They teach a thinking method, aiding in the development of the practitioner's skills over time.
- They are a true synthesis of Chinese medicine. That is, Qin's formulas incorporates essential ideas from the Inner Classic (Nei Jing), Discussion of Cold Damage (Shang Han Lun), Warm Disease School (wen bing), Spleen School (pi wei lun), etc.
- They represent a cohesive thought process from one of the most important physicians of the 20th century and lineages from the last 400 years. That is in contrast to a collection of somewhat disconnected formulas.
1. Effective and well suited for our patient population
Qin's formulas are effective as is, as are a large number of other formulas we find throughout Chinese medicine's history. There are though reasons, mentioned below, that we feel (as did Qin) that his formulas are more effective than many classic formulas.
A common inquiry among modern practitioners is how applicable are classic formulas in modern times. We live in a time that is imaginable different than for example Han dynasty China. Consequently, our modern patients differ from Chinese patients 1800-2000 years ago. They are more sensitive due to 'better' living conditions, less physical labour, a more toxic environment etc. Actually many famous doctors throughout history have expressed a dissatisfaction with methods of the past. For example it was written almost 1000 years ago,
“The movements of qi are not uniform. Past and present do not move on the same track. Old formulas are not suitable for new disorders.”
- Zhang Yuansu (1151–1234)
Qin spent around 30 years developing his formulas, which are based on classic formulas and ideas from the past. That is, he modified, or updated classical formulas with knowledge that has come after the original inception. For example, the Shang Han Lun written around 1800 years ago only used a handful of herbs. Qin though takes these traditional ideas and incorporates herb knowledge that was developed in later centuries. Thus he makes more refined choices enabling the formulas to better treat our modern population.
Our more sensitive patients are actually very similar to Qin's patient population. He practiced in the Zhejiang region in China in the mid 1900's. This southern population was known for their sensitivity. Thus, his lineage developed a style of practice to suit them. These physicians became very refined in their approach using smaller dosages with smaller number of ingredients. In addition, they (and Qin) were especially adapt at using various herbal preparation methods (pao zhi) to better fine tune there prescriptions, making them more precise and having less side-effects.
This is not to say that classical formulas are not valuable and should not be used. There is a time and place for everything. We just feel that many classical options are not as useful as they were in the past. However for those that really love certain classic formulas we offer a handful of them for your convinence.
3. From one single lineage:
Most collection of formulas are made up of prescriptions from different authors, different time periods, and different patient populations. As we know different physicians throughout the ages had different theoretical ideas and understandings, different ideas on dosing, and even different opinions about what an individual herb's function was. Therefore there is often little consistency between 'their' formulas and today's physician must have a deep knowledge of all the intricacies behind each formula.
In contrast Qin's formulas are taken from the ideas (treatment methods) from these classic formulas but are filtered through his lineage and clinical experience. Therefore each of Qin's formulas utilizes herbs in a similarly consistent manner in regard to function and dosage.
4. Simplify your approach
There is a trend in the West to diagnose 4-6 (or more) patterns. We often feel our patients are overly complex and they have multiple patterns that must be simultaneously addressed. Many times though this is just our inability to focus in on the core pathodynamic and diagnose clearly. Each of Qin's formulas represents one core treatment method. Striving to pick the most essential problem in the patient can help train one to diagnose clearly. It is like a key that unlocks the door.
This is not to deny that some patients require more complex formulas. In such situations if one is unable to write a formula from scratch one can combine multiple formulas together, utilizing Qin's formulas as a sort of building block method. However, we often find that in complex patients simplifying one's approach is the best thing for everyone. Not only do we strive for the underlying cause but we can see very quickly if our diagnosis in correct. If we are wrong, we change our approach to another method.
For example, yin deficiency and damp-heat patterns of look very similar. Instead of seeing a complex patient with multiple contradictory patterns occurring (which sometimes can happen), we strive for the simple solution picking one and if this fails pick the other. This helps us hone in on the real issue. Once this is discovered we can modify as needed.
5. A core set of formulas to start a bulk pharmacy.
In the end, one can start with about 40 of Qin's formulas and a few of other classic formulas and start a bulk pharmacy. Here is tutorial on setting up a your first bulk pharmacy, using Qin's methods.
This saying appears in Zhang Yuansu’s 張元素 biography in the Jin History 《金史》reprinted in Li Shutian 李書田 (2003, 263–264).