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Vegetables as Medicine

by: Chao-liang Chang
Cao Qing-rong & Li Bao-zhen

Kuranda Australia: Rams Skull Press 1989, $14.00, Paperback
ISBN: 0-909901-81-3

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 1997 Issue: 4(4) page(s): 17

This companion volume was also originally published in Nanning in China in 1995, but under the title: Yao Yong Shu Cai. It was written as a popular work for the rural population of Guangxi province where treatment of disease with vegetables is popular, and found in ancient Chinese medical and pharmacological books.

In the Foreword, the authors point out that vegetables play an important part in medicine, are familiar to all, and have the advantage of being found in kitchens. In addtion, they point out, they provide quick, economical, and effective results.

This paperback has two alphabetical indexes, one in English and one transliterated Pinyan Chinese, to initiate the reader to the one hundred sixrty-five foods. Not all are what we might call vegetables, but most are known to westerner readers. The book takes an anthropological look at many of the foods we eat, and the authors carefully advise that the "treatments used by country people in China"..."should be regarded as such;" and "if in doubt or in the case of any major ailment,"..."it is essential to seek medical help."

Each of the vegetables, as in the companion Fruit as Medicine volume, has a black and white drawing, common, botanical, Chinese and Pinyin transliterated names, general background and medical applications. There is no separate preparation section, advice on that is included in its medical applications. After discussing each vegetable, there is a list of ailments and the food(s) to see for each of them, a Latin index, and a repetition of the English names in alphabetical order.

The authors treat simple medical concerns such as a feeling constant cold, exhaustion, lack of strength, and anxiety by alleviating them with hot peppers, Chinese yam, sun beans, and/or Chinese ham. They also offer advice for serious medical conditions that need a doctor's attention such as acute conjunctivitis, tapeworm, and dysentery.

Both books use minimal medical terms, are easy to understand, and provide knowledge about what local people used for generations to treat a plethora of medical conditions. They were not written as nor are they recommended as self-help cures.

It may be comforting to know that some of the recommendations are currently being tested and evaluated by practitioners using western medical methods and will be subject to statistical analyses including controlled double blind samples. Your editor's recommendation is to enjoy them for their historical value and use them to compare fruit and vegetable restoratives and related cures in other cultures. As such, they provide excellent anthropologic and sociologic perspectives. Do remember to consult your doctor and get medical advice for every medical condition.

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