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.