If you travel to the Far East, especially China, Taiwan, Macao and Hong Kong you will invariably come across traditional herbal pharmacies. The oldest continuously operating pharmacy in China is the Tong ren tang which opened in 1669. The current establishment is on a side street of Qian men Avenue south of the Square of Heavenly Peace.
The names of Chinese pharmacies frequently contain allusions to the basic values of Buddhism and Confucian ethics so Tong ren tang translates to ”pharmacy of partaking in human virtue”. Other examples of names for traditional pharmacies are shen de tang “pharmacy of attention to virtue”, zhi de tang “pharmacy of utmost virtue” or ren de tang “pharmacy of human virtue”. The character tang has the meaning “pharmacy” in these contexts.
Other pharmacy names point out the goals of the medicines produced by the business like yong shen “eternal abundance”, bao yuan “preserving the original qi”, yi shou “benefiting longevity”, shou kang “longevity and health”, wan quán “myriad healing” and bao zi “protection and restoration”.
The figurative term “spring” meaning “health” also appears on many pharmacy names as hui chun “return to spring”. The variations on the term crop up so often that pharmacies are colloquially referred to as hui chun tang even when the pharmacy has another name or it may be known by the owners name as in hui chun Hua Tuo tang literally “Hua Tuo’s return to spring pharmacy”. It is also common to drop the character for “pharmacy” and simply have a sign in front of the store declaring Hui Chen “return to spring” which everyone knows refers to a traditional pharmacy.
The lack of trademark concerns in the East make the use of the term “return to spring” ubiquitous so many pharmacies will tout their lineage to show that they were established several generations past by famous doctors. Even this is an uncertain proposition for an unfamiliar person because many stores will usurp the famous name and while navigating a street you may see several stores proclaiming hui chen Hua Tuo Laodian “Hua Tuo’s original establishment”.
The Chinese pharmacy has several functions for their clientele, obviously the preparation of herbal medicines as prescribed by Chinese traditional doctors for their patients is foremost, but many pharmacies also have an onsite doctor so that a person can go in, have their pulse and tongue examined and be prescribed an herbal medicine on the spot. The herbal medicines vary from loose raw herbs that are taken home, boiled and drunk to pills, capsules, boluses and many other configurations of individually prescribed medicinal formulas.
The pharmacies also have their own brand of so called patent medicines that are good for anyone who wants to “return to spring” and maintain good health, these are over the counter medications without need for a prescription. These medicines are typically tonic formulas, that is, medicines that tone up or supplement specific organ functions and tissues. High on the list of this type of medicine are digestive formulas to improve nutritional intake, generally referred to as spleen tonics, medicines that improve the function of the kidneys and to promote sexuality and longevity, tonics for improved brain function and cognition called scholars tonics and medicines for calming the mind and improving sleep.
Atlantic Acupuncture has its own line of “return to spring” medicinals that are great supplements for any-body. Jian Fei Tang is our signature digestive formula to improve nutritional intake as a spleen tonic. Strength & Stamina is our medicine that improves the function of the kidneys and promotes sexuality and longevity. Brain Food is our scholar tonic promoting memory and cognition and Peace & Sleep calms the mind and improves sleep.
These four tonic formulas are available here on our online store. We urge you join the many others who have tried our formulas and felt the wonderful return to spring!
Yours in good health,
Robert Kienitz, DTCM