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Chinese Materia Medica in cartoons: Portulaca oleracea saving the sun
By:Wu Qiong  |  From:english.eastday.com  |  2021-06-02 08:59

(Video by Shanghai Changhai Hospital & Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine of the Second Military Medical University)

Legend says that once upon a time in ancient China, there were ten suns in the sky. Under the scorching suns, farmers worked strenuously only to have a small harvest and be barely able to feed their own family. To save the Chinese people, a hero named Hou Yi (also called simply Yi) decided to shoot the suns.

Thanks to Yi, nine suns fell down, but the last sun tried to escape. It hid under the leaves of a plant, called Portulaca oleracea, and Yi did not find it. At last, to pay back the plant’s favor, it bestowed on the plant a strong power, so that when the sun scorched the earth in summer, the plant could still stay vibrant. Portulaca oleracea is therefore not afraid of the sun, and people later called it “sungrass”.

Another name of Portulaca oleracea is “five elements grass”, as its features comprise five colors: green leaves, red stems, yellow flowers, white roots, and black seeds.

Each part of Portulaca oleracea can be used as medicine. Its Chinese name is Ma Chi Xian, as the leaves are shaped like a horse’s teeth. It has the effects of removing heat from the blood and detoxicating, and is often used clinically to treat various infectious diseases such as carbuncles, swellings and dysentery. Described as a natural antibiotic, it is proven to have strong effects against a variety of pathogenic bacteria.

The herb is also a good ingredient for food therapy. Regular consumption in summer can prevent and treat diseases, such as diarrhea and dysentery caused by an unclean diet, to a certain extent. It has a sweet, sour and smooth taste. After being scalded in hot water, fresh Portulaca oleracea can be served cold with sauce. A decoction of Ma Chi Xian can be consumed as a daily drink.

However, it is noteworthy that Ma Chi Xian has the effect of stimulating the smooth muscle of the uterus. Eating too much is not suggested for pregnant women.