Traditional Chinese Medicine with Dr Hu
Here are two stories about the pear as a medicine.
According an ancient text, there was once a public official who had symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus. No matter how much water he drank, his thirst could not be quenched. A doctor diagnosed him and announced that he would be dead in thirty days. The man quit his post and set out for home. On the way, he met another doctor who told him to get 100kg worth of pears and eat according to his instruction. After he finished about 60 pears, he was healed.
Another story goes that in the Song Dynasty, there was a famous doctor called Jie Yang. One day, he saw a very ill patient who was a scholar. Dr Yang found that as his inner fever had exhausted all his qi and blood, he would die of subcutaneous inflammation within three years. The scholar left in despair.
Then the scholar heard of a Taoist near Mount Mao who had magical treatment skills. Unfortunately, the Taoist was devoted to practicing Taoism and was reluctant to see patients. As such, the scholar dressed himself as a servant, went up to the mountain, and asked to serve the Taoist. The Taoist was happy to see him and kept him as an apprentice. For about two months, he assigned the scholar only chores and observed that he was unlike any ordinary servant. So he asked this new apprentice what he was really there for.
The scholar apologised and told the truth.
The Taoist smiled and said: “Is there any illness untreatable?” He took the scholar’s pulse and smiled again. “I have no medicine for you. Go down the mountain and buy some nice pears. Eat one every day. When not in season, steep dried pears in hot water and eat the whole thing. Any illness you have will be cured.” The scholar followed the instruction. One year later, Dr Yang saw him again and was surprised to find that “his face was radiant, and his pulse was calm”. “You must have met an extraordinary person!” The scholar told him what happened. After hearing the story, Dr Yang tidied his clothes and burned some incense, faced Mount Mao, and kneeled down in worship. He blamed himself for not having achieved such a high level of skill.
According to the Complete Essentials of the Materia Medica, pears can “moist the lungs, cool down the heart, eliminate phlegm, down bear fire, quench thirst, detoxify alcohol, and benefit the intestines.” It is “sweet, mildly sour, and of a cold nature.” To treat a fever from a cold, hot cough with phlegm and shortness of breath, or apoplectic aphasia, crush the pears and drink the juice frequently. According to the Taiping Royal Prescriptions, pear porridge can treat paediatric heart disease caused by a virus; sliced pears can be applied to burns from hot water or fire.
Although the pear can eliminate heat, it has some restrictions. One should not eat too many pears at once for its cold nature can cause diarrhoea. Patients with spleen or blood deficiency and breast-feeding mothers should avoid pears as well.
Both raw and cooked pears are medicinal. Raw pears can take out the heat in the six bowels (gall bladder, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, urinary bladder, circulation of body fluids), while cooked pears can nourish the “yin” of the five viscera (heart, liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys). Raw pears are good for conditions caused by excess fire, and cooked pears are good for those caused by deficiency fire. Pear juice and pear paste are both effective forms of medicine. For conditions with phlegm and coughs, take pear paste made with ginger juice and honey.