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— updated 2017-01-08

HerbalThink-TCM   4.5

Chinese herbal medicine software for Mac OS X, Windows, Linux

— Learn to think TCM (not just memorize it)

Latest release: version   Contents: Self-Study Reference vol.1-6 (including Traditional Chinese Herbal Sciences: The Language and Patterns of Life), TCM Herbal Tutor, TCM Pulse Simulator. Originally published as: Traditional Chinese Herbal Sciences CD-ROM, 2001
Version 4.5 now includes the new CaseQuery and AutoSage-TCM functionality.
HerbalThink-TCM software
  • Challenging, thorough, and fun — a revolutionary way to think about herbal medicine and to learn the principles and methods of clinical Chinese herbology (TCM herbology). Never again suffer the tedium of rote memorization.
  • Interactive learning, clinical reference databases, video simulation module for learning traditional pulse palpation, and self-guided lesson plans for individuals, students, physicians and health professionals.
  • Version 4.0 has been considerably expanded with many new features — about 4x the content of v3.0
Subtopics on this page…

Copyright ©2002-2017 by RMH-Publications Trust; all rights reserved.

Self-study software: clinical Chinese herbology

HerbalThink-TCM provides an interactive and engaging way to learn aspects of Chinese herbology not taught even at many TCM colleges. It is entirely self-explanatory, taking you step-by-step from the theory of Chinese herbology (traditional Chinese medicine or "TCM") to clinical applications. Topics include:

  • Reference and study guide for learning clinical Chinese herbology
    • Assessing patterns of disharmony (patterns of symptom and clinical signs)
    • Tongue inspection, pulse palpation, and body-type analysis
    • Using the materia medica (herbs)
    • Tailoring herbal formulas to individual needs
    • Detailed guidelines for clinical assessment and strategy
    • Integrating other aspects of health care, including counseling, diet, environmental toxicity
  • Self-testing software (TCM Herbal Tutor) that challenges you to think rather than merely regurgitate factoids memorized from textbooks — creates a series of realistic clinical puzzles, adapts to each user's readiness to learn, incrementally introduces new information, tracks performance, and embeds skills into long-term memory — transforms learning into a game that allows you to make as many mistakes as you like. As long as you eventually learn the material, your scores will reflect this, and your earlier mistakes will be forgiven and forgotten.
  • Video simulation software (TCM Pulse Simulator) that makes learning traditional pulse palpation easy by resolving confusion over ambiguous and conflicting terminology in much of the professional literature — with video image representations of the pulse in 3 dimensions and time
  • Expert-system software (CaseQuery and AutoSage-TCM) that makes thorough assessments of symptom-sign patterns available to even beginning users. AutoSage-TCM solves a problem that throughout traditional Chinese medicine's long history has been recognized as one of its most difficult challenges: accurate analysis of an individual's symptom-sign patterns.
    [More information about CaseQuery and AutoSage-TCM…]
  • Databases that facilitate complex searches (multiple criteria, Boolean searches, adjustable ranking criteria)
  • Pharmacology, chemistry (with molecular structure data), toxicology, and antimicrobial data for over 430 herbs
  • Supplementary material useful in clinical practice: diet and nutrition, environmental toxicity, legal information, office procedures, herb storage and inventory, practical politics of health care
  • Use of music to improve health, from both traditional Chinese and modern scientific perspectives emerging within the past two decades

How interactive learning helps you build clinical skills

A unique feature of HerbalThink-TCM is its interactive game module, TCM Herbal Tutor, which interactively monitors and displays your progress, progressively introducing and recommending new material as you demonstrate readiness.

TCM Herbal Tutor engages your mind and your curiosity in interactive activities that closely simulate the cognitive and reasoning skills crucial in clinical practice. Interactive computer-aided learning, when intelligently designed, is far superior to learning the old-fashioned way (passively listening to lectures, watching videos, and simplistic multiple choice exams). Many medical schools have figured this out over a decade ago, and modern medical education increasingly involves clinical-case-oriented learning and use of simulators and computer-aided instruction before students are allowed to "practice" on real people. The following article explores how computer-aided learning can enhance understanding of TCM theory and practice:

Students and practitioners who use TCM Herbal Tutor regularly will learn to "think TCM", not merely memorize it. The following table summarizes how well designed problem-based learning differs from rote memorization and why it is superior:

Rote memorization Problem-based learning
Reinforces bad habits in memory retrieval (esoterica, TV game-show mindset, "factoids"). Encourages habits of memory retrieval that closely match real life problem-solution mode.
Facts are learned as disconnected bits of information. Isolated facts are seen as less important than the relationships between clusters and categories of information.
Memorization is disconnected from comprehension of meaning, leading to the "idiot-savant" phenomenon. Comprehension of meaning is an essential requirement of successful memory retrieval.
Memorization for its own sake, lacks motivation. Memory recall is immediately tied to goal-oriented motivations that reflect realistic clinical priorities.
Because rote memorization is not linked with real-life problem-solving motivation, it tends to be boring and tedious. The end result is that memory fades quickly after the final exam. Problem-solving mode is the foundation of any good game — motivation is kept high by rewards inherent in solving optimally challenging puzzles that are tailored to the user's ability and skill level, which is crucial to enhancing long-term memory.

The design team (Roger Wicke, Ph.D., and Curtis Kruse, M.S.) has extensive background in computer science as well as Chinese herbology. The software has been used by students worldwide since the year 2000, and material included in the software has been through several major revisions to fine-tune its effectiveness.

Anyone may purchase HerbalThink-TCM  (you don't have to be an enrolled RMHI student)

HerbalThink-TCM provides a convenient way to learn a substantial portion of the course material without the inconvenience of travel and taking time away from work. Anyone is welcome to purchase the software; one does not have to enroll as a student at RMHI to purchase it.

How HerbalThink-TCM fits into our curriculum

Whether your interests are improving personal and family health or developing professional skills in healthcare, we make it easy for you to network with other users. V123 is a brainstorming network for individuals, students, and health professionals to share ideas and information about health and to apply the power of dedicated focus groups toward solving complex health problems. You can qualify for free Beginner membership in V123 after downloading a free trial version of the HerbalThink-TCM software and completing a series of simple, online tutorials.

RMHI's Levels 1-3 courses all use the HerbalThink-TCM software as their basic text and reference. If you wish to become certified by RMHI for your studies, you must enroll as a student and successfully complete our course requirements. Starting in 2017, we have greatly simplified our admissions process: it is now identical to the steps for becoming a member in V123, which is to complete all the Beginner tutorials (see especially the requirements of tutorial #3 — TCM Herbal Tutor).
To get started, simply follow the instructions in tutorial #1. You will be guided step-by-step through all the tutorials in sequence.

Because the interactive games of TCM Herbal Tutor in HerbalThink-TCM automatically keep track of your performance, give you feedback about areas in which you need additional work, and suggest games to remedy deficiencies in your skill set, this eliminates time-consuming development and grading of homework and exams for RMHI staff, whose time is available for more creative interaction with students. This also enables us to offer the Level-1 course at a mere fraction of the cost of conventional TCM college tuition. The Level-1 course presents material equivalent to that covered over a period of several years in courses at many TCM colleges — traditional health assessment methods, TCM theory and pathophysiology, herbal materia medica, herbal formulation — but in a way that is simultaneously more thorough and yet also more engaging than mere rote memorization.

Comments from users

"Roger has created a learning tool that goes far and above anything else I've seen in interactive learning for TCM. Working with the Herbal Tutor and games, the material almost 'learns itself' -- that is, I learn it faster and easier than I ever would have thought possible without the effort or tedium of memorizing long lists of material."   — Pauline Vaughan, MA, DAc; Upper Canada Centre for Oriental Medicine (Ontario)
"...traditionally, students of Chinese herbalism underwent rigorous memorization of their material in great detail, a rigor not engaged in today in North American training in herbalism. And that rigorous memorization was done in conjunction with case-based hands-on learning. This program replicates that approach and offers a great task-master for ongoing study of the art, for identifying areas where we have become lazy or imprecise. Overall I consider this program and the RMHI course to be the best and most rigorous training in Chinese herbalism available today."   — Paul Bergner, Director of North American Institute of Medical Herbalism; Boulder, Colorado

Read what other health professionals and students of TCM herbology have said about HerbalThink-TCM.


To download HerbalThink-TCM, subscribe/download here. Your "Welcome" email message will include instructions for requesting a free trial of the software.

The free Test version provides access to approximately 15% of the data, including all introductory material, and allows you to sample all major features. To unlock access to the Basic or Pro version requires purchasing a license.


Order a software license.


HerbalThink-TCMSystem requirements — features — audio-visual tutorials — complete instruction manual

  • Documentation (Help) v4.0   (opens in new window)
    • View the Audio-visual Tutorials in Help to see examples of how this software can help you learn the Chinese herbal sciences and improve your clinical skills.
    • The HerbalThink-TCM software download also includes a complete copy of the Help manual.

Archived Help for older versions:

Online tutorials

For a series of online tutorials that will help ensure your software is installed correctly and demonstrate how to use important features and modules:

HerbalThink-TCM User Group and Archive

Important notes on bugs and other problems are posted on our HerbalThink-TCM User Group Archive until they are incorporated into the updated official Help manual.

All HerbalThink-TCM users, including users of the Free version, are welcome to subscribe to the HerbalThink-TCM User Group (email discussion list).


RMHI acknowledges the following companies and organizations, which have contributed significant free products and/or services that we have used in the development of HerbalThink-TCM: