Li Shizhen (1518-1593) was a great Chinese pharmacist in the Ming Dynasty.
Born in Jinzhou of Hubei Province, Li Shihen decided to follow the trace of his father, a local renowned medical man, to study traditional Chinese medical science. He was very interested in the proper classification of the components of nature. His major contribution to medicine was the forty year project of sifting through the vast array of herbal lore and writing down the information that was, in his view, a reliable reflection of reality. His book, ”Ben Cao Gang Mu (1596)” , has been used as a pharmacopoeia, but it was also treatise on botany, zoology, mineralogy and metallurgy. The book was reprinted frequently and five of the original editions still exist. “Ben Cao Gang Mu” contains 1892 different herbs, divided into 6 sections, 521 scrolls and 60 different categories. In order to obtain first-hand information from the real world, he risked his life numerous times as he tasted every single herb in the book to test the pesticide effect. He also reached the habitat of dangerous Chai snakes, which at the time were considered a precious medicine, collecting them for testing and writing the book of “Chai Snake Compilation”.
Li’s contribution lied upon his critical spirit too. Denouncing sharply the absurd practice of taking “magic pills “ for longevity, he treated on curative effect of herbs in clinical practice and made new solutions such as Semen Hydnocarpate to sure leprosy, and Rhizome glabrae to cure syphilis. He also made corrections to the mistakes in the ancient medicinal works in terms of names, catalogues and origin of the medicinal herbs. It was he who first pointed out that human thinking process took place in the brain other than in the heart.