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— updated 1998-03-09


Test your knowledge of common herbs, clinical herbalism

Test your knowledge of common herbs. Discover how traditional Chinese (TCM) herbology reveals how to avoid common mistakes in herbal usage. Herbology education, clinical herbalism, introduction.

by Roger W. Wicke, Ph.D.

Copyright ©1995 by RMH-Publications Trust; all rights reserved.


Modern traditional Chinese (TCM) herbal methods represent the accumulated experience of many centuries in interpreting symptom patterns and sensitive health indicators such as tongue and radial pulse qualities. Take a few minutes to complete the following quiz, to discover how this knowledge provides insights in the use of commonly available herbs. The following questions illustrate common health problems that are often not handled ideally. More than one choice may be correct. Answers may be found by clicking link at bottom of this page.

1. Many women suffering from morning sickness during pregnancy experience relief after taking fresh ginger tea. However, for which of the following patterns is fresh ginger contraindicated?

  • A: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, subcostal pains; tongue tissue pale with white moist coating
  • B: nausea, vomiting, foul-smelling stools, complexion reddish, frequently irritable and angry; tongue tissue red with yellow, greasy coating
  • C: nausea, excessive salivation, distended headaches; tongue enlarged with scalloped edges and white, wet coating
  • D: nausea, vomiting, thirst for cold water yet prefers not to drink much, feels feverish in late afternoon; tongue tissue red with coating absent in patches; pulse thready and rapid

2. An elderly woman complains of poor circulation with symptoms of arthritic joint pains, tingling and numbness of extremities, dizziness, and frequent thirst. Her tongue tissue is very red with deep, randomly distributed fissures; coating is absent. Which of the following herb(s) would be good choice(s) for stimulating her circulation?

  • A: cayenne pepper (Capsicum frutescens, fruit)
  • B: dry ginger (Rhizoma Zingiberis Officinalis)
  • C: gingko leaf (Folium Gingko Biloba)
  • D: salvia root (Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae)

3. For problem #2 which herb(s) would be contraindicated?

4. Some individuals experience gradual relief from fatigue after taking red Chinese ginseng (Rx Panax Ginseng), yet a man complains of aggravated chronic fatigue and abdominal bloating after taking it. His other symptoms include edema, overweight, and high blood pressure. His tongue is pale, enlarged, with scalloped edges and a greasy, white, thick coating. His pulse has a slippery quality. What would be the best antidote for his overconsumption of ginseng?

  • A: rehmannia, cooked (Radix Rehmanniae Glutinosae Conquitae)
  • B: rhubarb root (Rhizoma Rhei)
  • C: ephedra twigs (Herba Ephedrae Sinica)
  • D: fresh daikon radish

5. For problem #4, which herb would also tend to aggravate the man's abdominal bloating and fatigue?

6. For problem #4, which herb would aggravate his chronic fatigue and high blood pressure and may result in excessive sweating and palpitations, even though used by many as an herbal stimulant similar to coffee?

7. Laxatives are among the most commonly used herbal remedies, yet many may become habituated to them, because underlying health imbalances remain unresolved. If one has symptoms of sluggish bowels along with fatigue, abdominal bloating, a pale tongue, and thick, white tongue coating, which of the following herbs would best relieve the overall condition including the constipation?

  • A: magnolia bark (Cortex Magnoliae Officinalis)
  • B: rhubarb root (Rhizoma Rhei)
  • C: senna (Folium Sennae, Cassia angustifolia)
  • D: prune juice

8. For problem #7, which herb(s) may have excessive purgative action and may lead to fatigue and lack of appetite?

9. For problem #7, which herb(s) might immediately aggravate the abdominal bloating, even though used by many people as a mild, pleasant-tasting laxative?

...ANSWERS (no peeking until you complete the quiz)