The Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden has over 100 plants currently used in traditional Chinese Medicine, including Ginkgo, Diospyros (persimmon), Ephedra (joint fir), and Eriobotrya (loquat). This collection was initiated in 1986 when administrators of the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco asked if we would be willing to devote a place for this display so that their students would be able to see the whole plant growing instead of just the dried part used in medicine. In 1987 Professor Xu Hong-hua of the Guangzhou College spent six months in Berkeley designing the garden and supervising its installation.
Over four hundred guests attended the dedication of the Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden on June 6, 1987. The highlight of the program was the unveiling of a 2,600 pound engraved marble tablet, shipped to Berkeley from Guangzhou to commemorate the occasion. Mrs. Robert Gordon Sproul, Jr., and Lon Driggers (representing Richard P Ettinger, the major donor to the project) unveiled the dedication stone. Installation of the stone was completed just three days prior to the dedication and was a major endeavor in itself, involving structural engineers, professional stone masons, a forklift, crane, and cement truck. As the marble was finally set in place, onlookers applauded and garden staff sighed in relief.
Medicinal herb gardens are common at medical colleges in China, but this collection was the first U.S. medicinal garden arranged by function group. Many of these function groups have equivalent descriptions in Western terms: for example, herbs for promoting the flow of water are primarily diuretics and clearing heat herbs are good for fever conditions.
Chinese herbs are almost always used
in formulas, or combinations of herbs rather than a single prescription.
Dried herbs arekept in long rows at
the pharmaceutical counter and formulas are made up as needed to be boiled into teas or made into poultices. Not all of the herbs are of Chinese origin; in fact, some are quite cosmopolitan. Watermelon, mint, and rhubarb are surface relieving herbs; fennel, black pepper, and ginger are all good for warming the interior. While Western medicine tends to make a clear distinction between medicine and food,
Chinese medical philosophy emphasizes the medicinal properties of good diet.
Many acupuncturists and their patients are familiar only with the dried herbs; they may have never seen the plants growing
in a natural garden or agricultural setting. This has turned out to be one of the greatest assets of the Chinese medicinal herb garden: it provides an opportunity to study the herbs in living form.
Today funding to maintain the Garden is provided by the Shih Ning Chern Endowment. Two brochures provide detail about
the Garden in English and a newly revised Mandarin edition. The function labels are deteriorating and will be replaced when
a funding source becomes available. Please contact the Garden’s Development Director, Vanessa Crews (firstname.lastname@example.org
or 510-643-2937), if you are interested in funding this project.
Enhance your visit by visiting our new webpage for details or viewing the Chinese medicinal Herb Garden brochure printed in English or Chinese.