The Physician commonly known in the West as Mesue (Yuhanna ibn Masawaih, circa 777–857), was a Persian Christian Nestorian Physician and director of the Bhagdad School of Medicine. He wrote prolifically in Arabic and Syriac, and was especially knowledgable in the areas of Ophthalmology, Gynecology, Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Anatomy.
His medical works were held in high regard, and were translated into Latin perhaps 1000 years ago (or more), where they would become some of the cornerstone texts in European Medicine for the next 8 or so centuries.
The early European Pharmacopoeias were composed largely of his formulas. Culpeper noted that he was called 'The Physician's Evangelist' for the reliability of his writings, and the certainly of his formulas.
Mesue often used powdered medicines, and had elaborate formulas, often combining herbal, animal and mineral medicines. While some of his formulas are impractical for modern use due to cost or unavailability of some of the medicines, many are still very usable, with slight modification.
I must say, whenever I have made one of his formulas, I've always been impressed at how 'well-rounded' they are. The compositions are always elegant, they are generally pleasant to take, and usually there is no one outstanding or overpowering taste. The formulas always appear to be very well refined–to have been created numerous times with slight changes until the right balance has been achieved.
Using his formulas is a whole other story, as the following story may illustrate:
A few years ago, a young Chinese woman came to see me. She had profuse and severely heavy menstrual bleeding, lasting for about 10 days each cycle, and being so heavy that no pad or tampon could suffice. She literally had to use toddler diapers during menstruation to absorb the flow. She was 24, had no real signs of deficiency (Chinese doctors were constantly astounded that her hemoglobin remained constant despite such heavy bleeding). She also had no real signs of heat, or any other pathology for that matter. Digestion, sleep, energy were all good. By all accounts, she was a healthy young woman, except she had the most severe case of heavy bleeding I'd ever seen.
In the year before seeing me, she had seen three different TCM doctors in Chengdu, Sichuan. They were all highly praised gynecology specialists of TCM, and treatment wasn't cheap. In fact, in the year before seeing me, her family had spent over 100,000 rmb (around US$15,000) on treatment, most of the cost being on herbal medicine.
I asked to see some of the formulas. They were all large and expensive compounds (some containing Donkey-hide gelatin–E Jiao, which has become very expensive in recent years, and is really only indicated in cases of blood deficiency).
After seeing three separate specialists, I felt that using more Chinese herbs wouldn't be appropriate as that avenue had probably been all but exhausted. So I turned to Mesue. and found his Troches of Sealed Earth (aka Troches of Earth of Lemnos). This compound was used specifically for all types of Bleeding, and although containing many cold medicines, was generally viewed to be balanced,
The basic formula is:
Red and White Earth
Gum Arabic, Tragacanth
Click here to see the whole formula.
This formula, made into a powder, was taken in a dose of half a level teaspoonful morning and night ONLY DURING MENSTRUATION.
Within three cycles, the blood volume had decreased, and the menstruation was lasting 7 days. Another 3 months of taking the medicine only during menstruation, and she was cured. She contacted me about a year after I last saw her confirming that her menstruation had stayed regular, and bleeding was normal, and lasting around 5-6 days.
She emphasized how much it had changed her life and was so very grateful. Of course, I had to pretend that what happened was what I expected to happen, but in reality I was so impressed with the effectiveness of this formula that it has become a regular treatment in such circumstances.
Despite the fact that the powder is a little expensive to make, it is certainly far cheaper per day than large bags of expensive herbs in tea form, and is far easier to take.
Suggested Treatments of Mesue
Authors and Sources
MedicineTraditions has dozens of the best formulas of Mesue, and many other references to him, his writings, and treatments.
A quick crash course in how to get the most from MedicineTraditions.
MedicineTraditions has become huge ... so huge, its difficult to know where to start! So here are a few pointers:
1. STUDY A HERB
If you're studying a herb or other traditional medicine, most likely you'll find a monograph on that medicine. Many Monographs have both a free and paid (subscription) version. The free version has reduced content, and links to formulas won't work. The full version, available with subscription, will have far greater detail, with a number of herbal combinations, and active links to formulas containing the medicine.
You may also want to do a site search for the medicine to see if there are other pages, articles, illustrations etc. related to the medicine.
The monograph will contain knowledge from the various medicine traditions that used the medicine. So for example, you may discover that Licorice has been used for Cough and Lung conditions in the European tradition, Unani, Ayurveda, Tibetan and Chinese Medicines, and then be able to see how these different traditions combined it with other herbs.
2. STUDY COMBINATIONS AND FORMULAS
You can't become a good herbalist without understanding how to combine a medicine with other medicines. And with herbal medicine, you really need to study traditional formulas to fully appreciate this. All the Traditions, from Unani and Tibetan Medicine to Ayurveda and TCM, study traditional formulas as a necessary part of learning herbal medicine.
MedicineTraditions takes this a step further by giving you access to formulas from multiple systems, so you can really explore how different masters from different systems have used and combined medicines to achieve better results.
Sadly, it is evident that very few modern western herbalists know how to write a good formula, when compared to the formulas of the masters. Treating Asthma with a combination of 4 herbs that have been shown in modern research to have some benefit in that disease is simply not good practice, but the standards of Traditional Medicine. What about the root cause? Is there heat, cold, excess phlegm, or Lung weakness? Each of these pathologies require different treatment and different formulas.
3. EXPANDING YOUR ARSENAL
All of us who have studied Traditional Medicine have a large number of traditional formulas at our disposal. But no system is perfect, and all physicians have cases that don't respond to standard treatment.
This is when it's good to have other options.
In many instances, a formula from another system might take a radically different approach, being unlike any formula you have studied, yet composed primarily of herbs you are familiar with!
1000 years ago, Arab physicians were found in most large Chinese cities, and were noted to treat diseases that the local doctors couldn't. Today, in Sichuan, West China, locals often try Tibetan Medicine when TCM has failed. Why? Is it because Unani and Tibetan Medicine are better than TCM? Certainly not. It's simply because they use different strategies with different formulas.
In reality, their cure rate is probably no better or worse than that of TCM. It's just that when the tactics of one methodology haven't succeeded, it's possible another way may work.
And that's what you get with MedicineTraditions. An almost endless and ever-increasing arsenal of combinations and formulas, written by some of the greatest masters in the history of medicine, for treating some of the most stubborn and difficult cases to affect humanity.
Over the past few years, MedicineTraditions has grown huge ... with the most detailed Materia Medica of vegetable, animal and mineral medicines derived from the medicine traditions along the Silk Road, 1000's of traditional herbal combinations and traditional formula, and a huge disease database, it is a truly awesome and unique resource.
It has become the largest English-language online portal for the study of Traditional Medicine.
But why is this necessary, I hear you ask?
The great Medicine Traditions were developed gradually over 1000's of years. A combination of trial and error, observation of nature, natural events (like famines), and empirical use led to a body of knowledge that could be expanded and refined. Perhaps most importantly was the cross exchange of this information. When one group made an advance in treatment, this could be shared with traders who could then take this knowledge back to their homeland.
Around the world, every culture on every continent has a medicine tradition. This ancient and sacred knowledge is being re-discovered in the modern world as an effective way to help humanity, relieve sickness, to give a greater sense of well-being, and in some cases, effectively treating diseases that are poorly treated by modern medicine.
Thus, MedicineTraditions has been born ... to bring this knowledge into one coherent format to be studied and shared.