Prescribing Poisons for Healing? A Lesson from Traditional Chinese Pharmacy

This talk explores the ways physicians, religious devotees, court officials, and laypeople used powerful substances to both treat intractable illnesses and enhance life. It illustrates how the Chinese concept of du—a word carrying a core meaning of “potency”—led practitioners to devise a variety of techniques to transform dangerous poisons into efficacious medicines. 

Prescribing Poisons for Healing? A Lesson from Traditional Chinese Pharmacy

4 Lessons 
Included
1:20 hours 
On-Demand Video
4 Interactive
Quizzes
Certificate On Completion
CEU/PDA/CPD



Taking this course, you will

  • Understand the meaning of du in traditional Chinese pharmacy, which is different from its modern meaning.
  • Recognize the paradox of poisons and medicines in traditional Chinese pharmacy.
  • Review the rich variety of techniques that were used to transform poisons into medicines.
  • Learn how bodily sensations could inform the understanding of medicines.
  • Learn the fluid nature of medicines and the importance of the context in the use of any medicine (from either Chinese or Western pharmacy).

Course Overview

At first glance, medicine and poison might seem to be opposites. But in China’s formative era of pharmacy (200–800 CE), poisons were strategically deployed as healing agents to cure everything from chills to pains to epidemics. 

This talk explores the ways physicians, religious devotees, court officials, and laypeople used powerful substances to both treat intractable illnesses and enhance life. It illustrates how the Chinese concept of du—a word carrying a core meaning of “potency”—led practitioners to devise a variety of techniques to transform dangerous poisons into efficacious medicines. 

The talk elucidates the expression of du in early pharmacological writings, and reveal some of the key techniques in the preparation and administration of poisons in medieval China. By recovering alternative modes of understanding wellness and the body’s interaction with potent medicines, this talk cautions against arbitrary classifications and exemplifies the importance of paying attention to the specific context in which medicines become truly meaningful.

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CEU/CPD/PDA

When stated
CEU/PDA/CPD requirements need to be completed within 1 year of the purchase. You are advised to print and save your certificate for your records and under your association requirements.

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About Instructor

Dr Yan Liu PhD

Yan Liu is an assistant professor in History at SUNY, Buffalo. He obtained his first PhD in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the University of Michigan in 2007, and his second PhD in History of Science at Harvard University in 2015. He was an Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow at the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto from 2015-16. Dr Liu specializes in the history of medicine in premodern China, with particular interests in pharmacology, the history of the body and the senses, religious healing, and the global circulation of medical knowledge. His first book, Healing with Poisons: Potent Medicines in Medieval China, was published by the University of Washington Press in June 2021.

1 Course

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Course Includes

  • 1 Section
  • 5 Lessons
  • 4 Quizzes
  • Course Certificate