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Rhino horn use in traditional Chinese Medicine.

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The following article has been prepared by Susan Barrett, following an interview conducted with a retired Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, on the basis that his name would not be published. Thus the article has been prepared from his responses.




The TCM doctor we interviewed is a man of +-70 years old. He has many years of practice and was trained when rhino horn was commonly used. He is Han Chinese, born in Hong Kong and immigrated to the UK where his children were born. Chinese is his first language, so his English was understandable, but there was probably more subtle meaning in some of his answers than he was able to express. I've copied his answers only, not our questions:


He had never seen a case in his entire career where rhino horn was used as an aphrodisiac. But rhino horn "is medicine, especially for very young children as an emergency medicine." A tiny bit of powder is mixed with other herbs and gypsum to "save a life and lower temperature". Buffalo horn can also be used the same as rhino horn; they have a similar ingredient, and people in China use both buffalo and rhino horn.


We asked about the story of the Vietnamese who was cured of cancer and he said "many herbal medicines could be used to treat cancer; it's never a case of using just one thing." He then used an old textbook to look up info about rhino horn and its uses. There were over 500 different herbs in the book in addition to animal remedies.


The character of rhino horn is very cool and is used for curing the heat. The character of the remedy brings the healing; rhino horn is cool, salty, bitter. Viruses create heat (high temperature) and because ancient medicine didn't know about bacteria, they would use the character of the illness for diagnosis and treatment.


Rhino horn would clear the heat in the blood and de-toxify the blood in the body. It is also used to treat conditions causing the blood to "go the wrong way" such as nosebleed. It can also be used for conditions like boils, also causing heat (blood coming to the surface). Only a small amount of horn is used, mixed with the other ingredients (herbs, gypsum), or tea. These remedies have been used for over 500 years, as well as Chinese buffalo horn.


The rhino is not a symbol of power that has nothing to do with it. It's nothing spiritual. The Chinese people believe in many gods, including ancestry – he worships ancestry – the Indians worship cow or buffalo but the Chinese don't worship any animals.


As far as the manner of the death and suffering of an animal; to an un-educated Chinese as long as a medicine can save children they don't care where it comes from. "But many things can save children with a dangerous high temperature". His mother used to dig roots; you don’t have to use rhino horn.


Westernized Chinese people use western medicine, but most Chinese people just don't trust what (western) people say, they just stick to the old books. As far as he knows, the use of rhino horn isn't taught in China today, but it is the history and that's why it's still used in many Chinese families. But children don't suffer as much now from dangerous diseases now.


Any Chinese family who has knowledge (is educated) will know that their ancestors, like their grandfathers, used rhino horn and elephant ivory for chop sticks, because ivory will change colour if it touches something toxic - like jade, the Chinese people wear jade; if you have a dangerous fall the jade will break and save your life.


He feels angry about publicity that gives the wrong information about Chinese medicine to destroy its reputation. Twenty years ago people gave out the wrong information about acupuncture, which was seen as voodoo and black magic, even lower than homeopathy, and homeopathy isn’t real. He stressed again the botanical TCM substitutes for rhino horn, and said that’s what people should concentrate on.


Susan Barrett

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