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Urban Apothecary


In the spring and summer we look around and many of our favourite plants delight our senses with their vibrant colours and floral scents, but did you know that the parks and gardens of Toronto’s neighbourhoods are a veritable Traditional Chinese Medicine chest?

On a sunny afternoon last week, our herbology teacher, Sako Makarians R.TCMP, took his students on a herbal scavenger hunt in the alleyway behind our Toronto School of Acupuncture and TCM. Growing out of cracks in the pavement, up brick walls, and through chain link fence was an accidental garden of TCM herbals. Of the many thousands of herbs that fill the pages of the Materia Medica, here are a few that we found sprouting up right in our own backyard.

Burdock– Common to Toronto’s back alleyways, the roots of the burdock (Niu Bang Zi) plant are eaten in stirfrys and boiled in decoctions to aid digestion and remove dampness from the body.

Chrysanthemum– Not only bold and beautiful, the Chrysanthemum (Ju Hua) acts on the liver and lung meridians to help with summer allergies, and soothing itchy red eyes.

Mulberry– Mulberries (Sang Shen), commonly found staining the sideways purple all around Toronto, are also good for boosting blood and essence in TCM.

Rhubarb– You might not want to bake Rhubarb Root (Da Huang) into a pie like the stalk but it is fantastic when boiled with water and used as a wash for bruises and rashes.

White Peony– Not only valuable for its beautiful flowers, but also it’s roots! White peony roots (Bai Shao) can help to regulate the TCM Liver, relax spasms and muscle cramps.

Rose Petals– Harvested in June when the flowers are just opening, wild rose petals (Mei Gui Hua) aid digestion, and relieve premenstrual symptoms by moving qi.

If you are interested in learning more about TCM herbology at our Toronto School of Traditional Chinese Medicine, we offer a variety of options including a full or part time TCM diploma program; part time herbology diploma program for registered acupuncturists; a part time herbology certificate program; and most recently, an Ontario Herbalists Association certified herbology program. Or, on one of theses sunny summer days, you could always just take a walk through your own back yard and discover an urban apothecary of your very own!

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