Practical Course on Chinese Herb Recognition

We just completed the 6th Practical Course on Chinese Herb Recognition with student-practitioners from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine. We covered 20 hours of CEUs over the span of 4 days.

“I really appreciated the breadth of the experience – seeing everything from field, to processing, to market and then final industrial scale processing and packaging. It’s a big missing piece in a college-based TCM education.”

Click to watch short clip #1!

“Great learning experience that is hands-on, making it easy to familiarize ourselves with the herbs. I appreciated the ability to compare the herbs and see the difference in quality from one supplier to another.”

Click to watch short clip #2!


The aim of this tour is to deepen your familiarity with Chinese herbal medicine. Many students of Chinese medicine learn the names of herbs and how these herbs work, but have not seen it before. Others might have seen the herb, but are not sure whether it is a root, stem, bark or how it has been processed.

“This is a great experience that i will never forget. The whole trip opened my eyes to the herbal manufacturing, selling and packing process. It is amazing how much effort goes into the whole herbal process from planting and harvesting to selling and packaging. Thank you for this one-in-a-lifetime experience!”

Many herbs arrive to our clinic pharmacy already cut or powdered and packed so we wouldn’t recognize the herb in its whole form. We would never distinguish a good quality herb from an inferior one, and certain will not recognize the herb if it is growing in our backyard!

The Practical Course on Chinese Herb Recognition will enrich your understanding of herbs:

  • We will visit the biggest Chinese herb market in China and learn from first-hand experience (see, touch, smell) about herbs.
  • We will visit a herb farm and see how farmer here in China live and how they manage their crops.
  • We will go to a local factory to learn how herbs are processed here.
  • We will learn how to differentiate herbs that look different. In fact, every participant will receive a booklet (usual price $50) for compliments of our team.
  • The overall experience will aid all participants in understanding the possible origin of herbs in their countries, from planting in the farm to its sale in the markets to processing in the factory to its final packed form.

We hope that after this course, you will have a much better understanding of Chinese herbal medicine.

“Great trip! Seeing the herb rush was great and very educational. Markov was an excellent guide and very fun. This 4-day trip was highly educational and a wonderful time! i learned a ton!”

“I don’t think I would have ENJOYED my Bozhou experience without MARKOV as our guide, and all his connections/friends. Really enjoyed & recommend this trip with Markov.” 

“Markov did an excellent job organizing a smooth and fun trip. He attended to the needs of the group and each individual with care and grace. I had a wonderful time and I learned a lot!” 

“Thank you for sharing your knowledge, I feel like this enriching experience has made me a better herbalist.”

“This experience was invaluable to deepening my understanding of herbs in China.”

“This is a wonderful way to learn about herbs from seed to patient! Markov is an excellent host and a natural bridge between  people and places of all kinds!” 

Mark Chern

Mark Chern practices Chinese Medicine in Singapore – see Before this, he was maintaining a busy TCM Fertility & Women’s Health practice in Indonesia. He is conversant with using Chinese medicine alone or in combination with modern drugs/technology. He also assists women in pregnancy as well as post-partum using Chinese medicine. For client testimonials, please look here.

Since 1998, Mark has trained in complementary modalities that include Shiatsu, Myofascial Release, Visceral Manipulation and Craniosacral Therapy. He started giving acupuncture in 2004, after learning and practising in a traditional setting at Lee Zheng Yu Medical Clinic (Taiwan). He had further training in China regarding the integration of Western medicine and herbal therapies at the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as several hospitals of integrated medicine like the Jiangsu State Hospital of Chinese Medicine, Qin Huai Hospital of Chinese Medicine and People’s Hospital of Chinese Medicine. Even now, he continues conducting advanced seminars in China: the Practical Course in Chinese Herb Recognition for the Oregon College of Chinese Medicine ( and the Advanced Fellowship on Oriental Reproductive Medicine for the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (, as well as short elective workshops for students from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia.

In addition to running the programs hosted at tcm-nanjing, Mark has produced a language CD for the TCM English textbook used nationwide by students in China. He is also a proponent of the integrated East-West approach, and has trained in this aspect in China. This approach entails understanding both modalities and using one or a combination of both in a sensible manner.

While in China, Mark has developed several Clinical Observation programs to assist practitioners and students of Chinese Medicine in enhancing the value of their China experience. Areas covered include:

  • Gastroenterology
  • Pulmonology
  • Oncology
  • Rheumatology and Autoimmune Diseases
  • Reproductive Medicine – both Women’s Health and Male Factor Infertility

Mark is a strong believer in using traditional medicines in a responsible way. As practitioners of traditional medicine, we have a responsibility to understand the advantages and limits of using the mainstream approach of today. Only then can we fulfil our role and provide the ‘integrated holism’ that can benefit the patient’s overall health.

Comparative Take on Bao He Wan

“保和丸,治一切食积。” (Bao He Wan, to treat all food stagnation.)

Bao He Wan is an herbal formula created by Zhu Dan Xi (朱丹溪). It is documented in his book 《丹溪心法》as treatment for what is termed food stagnation (食积). Especially useful if one feels a bloating sensation in the stomach after a meal, a sign of possible indigestion. We already have the TCM explanation for this formula make-up. It would hence be more useful for readers if we compare the ingredient of Bao He Wan with their biopharmaceutical peers.

The original formula is made up of three broad categories of herbs. The first are the digestives, akin to the enzymes e.g. protease, lipase, amylase that we use to aid digestion. Shan Zha (山楂), also known for helping weight loss and treating high blood lipids, is known traditionally to digest meats. Lai Fu Zi (莱菔子) is the seed of radish, and is known for breaking down wheat – remember, this is usually wheat in bread and noodles. Last of all, we have Shen Qu (神曲) which if simplified is a cocktail of enzymes.

In today’s formulations of Bao He Wan, we also see other herbs being included, most common of which is maiya (麦芽). Zhishi (枳实)and baishu (白术) are also wont to be thrown into the mix.

“人有食积,必生痰湿。” (He who is wrought with food stagnation, will produce phelgm and damp.)

In TCM, there is a saying that when there is food stagnation, phlegm-stagnation will appear. Which is why the second group of is erchen tang (二陈汤) but without licorice.

“食积日久则易生热。” (Food stagnation over time will generate heat.)

There is also another idea that the long-term result of food stagnation is heat generation. This is understandable, as in the case of chronic gastritis, where there is slight inflammation of the stomach lining. The original formula uses lian qiao (连翘) in response. These days, the solution would be the use of antacids like aluminium hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide.

That said, there is an obvious difference between the use of lian qiao as an anti-inflammatory and the use of antacids to neutralize excess acid production. One can read up on content by alternative medicine practitioners who believe that the problem is not excess acid production in the stomach; instead they believe it is the lack of acid production.

As mentioned above, qi regulators like houpu (厚朴) and zhishi (枳实) are thrown in to regulate qi and take away any bloating. While there is not clear connection, we can liken this to the use of anti-flatulent medications like simethicone (西甲硅油) or to gastroprokinetics like mosapride (莫沙必利) or cisapride (西沙必利).