Mason, founder of SuperFeast, recently went on an expedition through China and you can check in here as he shares everything you need to know about Di Tao, live from the China hinterlands!
Mason in the China hinterlands, giving thanks to the mountain spirits with the local farmer
Di Tao (or
Ron Teeguarden, founder of Dragon Herbs and legendary tonic herbalist, translates Di Tao to “Earth Tao,” or “the Way of the Earth.” He says,
“Every plant has its perfect habitat where the plant flourishes, and in the case of a herb or food, becomes the most phytochemically rich and balanced.”
To put it simply, reishi grown in a mountain in China and reishi
You cannot expect the same energy from a mushroom that didn't have to grow through cold winters and nights, exposed to high altitudes and winds and fed off natural water such as rain and water from the river.
Again, to quote
“Chemical analysis is also an important method of determining the quality of an herb. But it is a highly over-rated method. Generally one, or maybe two, chemicals are established as a “marker” for an herb, and herbs are sold based on that marker. This can be very misleading. Herbs are complex, and some are VERY complex. Reishi mushroom, for example, has over 800 known pharmacologically active constituents. Many of them play roles in the benefits attributed to Reishi. The quantity of certain constituents matters, but so does the quality of these constituents. And the ratio of these constituents may play an essential role in whether an herb does something or not, or does it well. To sell Reishi or any other herb based on narrow standardization (one or two marker constituents) is just a trick.”
Di Tao is kind of like the wine industry’s notion of terroir, but the concept of Di Tao is slightly more complex because it is intricately related to
Cultivation in and of itself is not considered to have a negative effect on many herbs, so long as they are still exposed to the natural elements. Most Di Tao cultivation is semi-wild, in that the herbs are still fighting to survive and are not given an easy run!! The constituents of a plant are affected by environmental factors such as soil, climate, humidity
Mason at one of the SuperFeast tonic herb farms - see how wild it is?
China has one of the longest-standing herbal traditions in the world, and one of the oldest books on medicinal substances (also known as a “materia medica”) in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, which was compiled in the 1st century AD during the Han dynasty.
Crucial to the development and continuation of this herbal tradition that is still going strong in China was
You can imagine that it was pretty tough to ensure your herbal source was legit back in those days (these days we have laboratory testing and fingerprint chromatography to help us make sure our herbs are from the right place). Therefore it became necessary to develop a system to ensure the authenticity of the source in recognition of specific regions and production practices that resulted in the highest quality herbs.
Di Tao isn’t just some ancient concept that has been lost to all but a few Taoist herbalists.
“Medicinal material that is produced and assembled in specific geographic regions with designated natural conditions and a specific ecological environment, with particular attention to cultivation technique, harvesting, and processing. These factors lead to quality and clinical effects that surpass items of the same botanical origin that are produced in other regions; thus, such items are widely recognized and enjoy a good reputation.”
About 200 of the 500 or so herbs in the Chinese materia medica have specific Di Tao forms, and these herbs make up about 80% of the Chinese herb market. Di Tao is a fundamental concept in Chinese herbalism but one that is vastly overlooked and disregarded by many Western herbal companies.
The Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing was the first text to discuss the importance of production regions, though certainly not the last. In 659 AD, the Tang Dynasty herbalists
The famous Tang Dynasty author Sun Simiao
“Ancient doctors depended on medicinals produced from the proper production areas. Therefore, if they treated ten patients, they achieved results in nine. Although contemporary doctors understand the pulse and prescriptions, they are not familiar with the proper production regions, harvest time, and, quality of medicinals. Thus, they only achieve results in five or six cases out of ten.”
Need a refresher on whattonic herbs are? Wait, what's amedicinal mushroom again?! Or, if you found this discourse interesting, check out The Taoist Brains to dive deeper into Taoist philosophy! Plus we have some epic podcast episodes you can nerd out to here :)
Evidence-Based Validation of Herbal Medicine edited by Pulok K. Mukherjee
Geographical Indications for Medicinal Plants: Globalization, Climate Change, Quality and Market Implications for Geo-Authentic Botanicals by Josef A. Brinckmann (accessed online https://pdfs.semanticscholar.
What is “Daodi” Medicinal Material? By Eric Brand, Zhongzhen Zhao, and Ping Guo (accessed online http://mzines.net/
Great Herbal Sourcing Is the Secret of Great Herbalism by Ron Teeguarden (accessed via http://ashokkoul.blogspot.com.
The formation of