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— updated 2020-12-14


Herbalists' BootCamp
Tutorial #3:   Self-Study Reference

by Roger W. Wicke, Ph.D.
These BootCamp tutorials will help you get started using the HerbalThink-TCM software, ensure it is installed correctly, demonstrate how to use important features and modules, and teach you basic principles of Chinese herbology that you can begin applying practically. Successful completion of this series is required for admission to the RMHInet brainstorming network and to our professional courses.

Copyright ©2016-2020 by RMH-Publications Trust; all rights reserved.

Jump to another BootCamp tutorial:
#1: Introduction, Download #2: Setup and Documentation #3: Self-Study Reference #4: Herbal Tutor #5: Pulse Simulator #6: CaseQuery #7: AutoSage-TCM #8: Completing member/admission requirements

Subtopics on this page…


Tutorial #3:   Self-Study Reference

Estimated completion time:   18 hours


Questionnaire #3

Important note about tutorials #3-#8:   unlike in many school exams, my policy for grading/feedback to 'Herbalists' BootCamp' participants is to stress the importance of correcting your own mistakes. The single most important criterion I apply is whether you are interpreting data correctly so as to avoid serious errors potentially leading to harmful health decisions and herb choices. If you make such errors, I may give you hints and suggestions for going back and studying that question more carefully. If you show me that you are serious about following instructions carefully, I will try to give you every opportunity to get it right.

  • Download/Save questionnaire-03.txt
  • Most questions will require simple, short answers. These questions are designed primarily to ensure that you know how to access the correct material within each module.
  • Follow the instructions in the remainder of this tutorial; fill in your answers to the questionnaire when asked to do so.
  • Email your completed questionnaire to your assigned BootCamp tutor (the person who emailed you the original download instructions — Tutorial #1) and wait for a reply/feedback before continuing with the next tutorial.

Access to Test table of contents

All items in this tutorial may be accessed by clicking the  Self-Study Reference  button on the HerbalThinkTCM control panel . If you have activated the Test option of the software, you will then see the following after selecting  Table of contents for Test version-option  link at bottom of the left frame:



Lesson Plans

To qualify for Active Member status in RMHInet or for admission to the RMHI certification program, you will need to read Lessons #A-00 to A-05 in the  Lesson Plans . The purpose of these remaining tutorials is only to introduce you to this material, to make sure you know how to find specific information, and to practice certain procedures that you will be doing repeatedly in the future.


TCHS Vol.1: The Language and Patterns of Life

Lesson #A-01 requires you to read chapters 1-6 in TCHS vol.1. This is introduction to very basic theory of Chinese herbal medicine. In this tutorial, you will be browsing through this material just to familiarize yourself with how it is organized. Follow the instructions in Lesson #A-01 as far as scanning the "Subtopics" contents of each of chapters 1-6.

Examine the subtopics listed at the beginning of chapter 6. What are the 8 "combined patterns" of the fundamental qualities of Exterior/Interior, Heat/Cold, Excess/Deficiency? These 8 patterns form the foundation on which all other patterns may be classified. It is a relatively crude system, but it is fundamental because it is the key to understanding herbal contraindications and to avoiding serious mistakes. All 120 or so of the other defined patterns within TCM pathophysiology theory may be classified within this fundamental framework.

In a later tutorial for the Herbal Tutor, you will be studying chapter 6 more carefully before playing your first syndrome games within that module.

At this time, skim through the contents of chapters 1-6 and read any sections that capture your curiosity or that answer questions you may have about Chinese herbal medicine. We have had a wide variety of people, from lay people with no former knowledge of Chinese medicine to TCM professionals and graduates of degree programs enroll in and complete our courses. These introductory chapters ensure that everyone starts out with a scientific and philosophical perspective that is explicitly stated in plain language, avoiding unnecessary jargon.


—>>  Questionnaire — TCHS Vol.1

Please answer the question in section A of the questionnaire.


TCHS Database

Suppose that you determine that, based on symptoms and clinical signs, the syndrome-pattern Interior-Cold-Deficiency (Deficiency of Yang) accurately describes an individual's state of health — or at least is an accurate partial description if additional syndromes are also present.

In genuine traditional Chinese medicine, we do not consider the question "What herbs/formulas would be good for medical disease X?" to be an acceptable starting point. That perspective is to be strictly avoided. At some point, this information may be useful, but not at the beginning when we are formulating broad strategies that will hopefully relieve the chief complaint as well as resolve general systemic imbalances without side effects. To do this, we start with the syndrome-patterns. So first, we need to understand what the traditional herbalists say about Interior-Cold-Deficiency and the types of herbs that are considered appropriate for that general category of health conditions.

At this time, follow the instructions given in Lesson #A-03 (Using the TCHS Database). This lesson will help you understand how useful the TCHS Database feature is. You will be using this feature frequently. If you have followed the instructions for starting that lesson correctly, you should have the TCHS Database window on your computer screen along with a TCHS Database Help window, which contains 4 mini-tutorials that are solely devoted to explaining how the TCHS Database works:


Complete all those 4 TCHS Database tutorials now, which should take you about 2-3 hours to complete.

Using what you have learned in the preceding three TCHS Database tutorials, answer the questionnaire questions below. Note that the preceding tutorials use Deficiency of Yin in several of their examples. Note that the questions below are regarding Deficiency of Yang.


—>>  Questionnaire — TCHS Database

Please answer the questions in section B of the questionnaire.
Be sure to read any question "Hints", if provided, especially if you get stuck or are uncertain.

Regarding question B-5 (optional):
If you are curious about the Music and Health section of the TCHS Database, click on the link 'By primary category' and then in the middle frame find the Tonify Yang category and examine the Music Browser for that category. You will find there a list of classical music pieces that are classified in an analogous manner to herbs and herbal formulas. TCHS vol.4 in the Self-Study Reference is the textbook that explains this material.


TCHS Text Volumes 2-6

TCHS Text Volumes 1-6 can all be accessed via the  Main Table of Contents  link. Following is a screen shot of what you should be looking at:


Read  Introduction to HerbalThink-TCM  to get a quick explanation of the subject and contents of each text volume and software module contained within HerbalThink-TCM. At this time, scan the contents of each of these text volumes by examining the "Subtopics" listing at the beginning of each chapter available in the Test option. Accessible chapters will be highlighted in light blue-gray. (The only text volume without any Test-accessible chapters is volume 2, which formerly contained much of the information that has now been reorganized and reformatted into the TCHS Database.)

Later in this tutorial series, you will be reading Ch. 7 in TCHS Vol.6: User's Guide to AutoSage-TCM, which gives an introduction to the CaseQuery module, including screen shots. All of volume 6 is available in the Test option, because we want people to have the complete instructions for this. (We do charge a fee for each AutoSage-TCM case report that you order.)


—>>  Questionnaire — TCHS Vol. 2-6

Please answer the questions in section C of the questionnaire.


Summary of what you learned in this tutorial

Instead of the simplistic and often dangerously vague question "What herb or formula would be good for disease X?", in this tutorial we have shown you a much more effective alternative:

  1. Determine which symptom-pattern(s) most accurately describe an individual's total state of health.
  2. These symptom-patterns will point directly to specific herbs and formulas that are appropriate — and others that may be inappropriate, or "contraindicated".
  3. Choosing herbs and formulas that are matched to the total state of health reduces guesswork and is more likely to result in overall improvement in health without side effects.
  4. Optional:   Choosing specific herbs that simultaneously match the individual's symptom-patterns and his/her medical condition is a method of fine-tuning that can increase effectiveness while avoiding side effects.

Herbal formulas are typically put together to create an overall recipe that does not taste unnecessarily repulsive, that minimizes any undesirable or harsh effects of particular ingredients, and that ensures the net effect is "harmonious" and smooth. Even if it does not taste especially great, if well-matched to the individual's symptom pattern(s), that person will usually express that it feels "right" after ingesting it.

Learn more about how flavors provides important clues that help you predict and avoid side effects unique to each individual. The preceding linked article explains how to apply basic principles of traditional Chinese herbology to any herb or food you might read about on the Internet or in textbooks.

Please submit your completed questionnaire for this tutorial, wait to receive feedback from your assigned tutor, then go to  Tutorial #4:   Herbal Tutor