Legendary King of Medicinal Herbs – Shen Nong

Learning to revere tea as medicine is important to us. Tea is a great healer, of body, mind and spirit. The earliest encyclopedia of Chinese herbs to mention tea stated that it “brightens the eyes.” This is a powerful expression of why Shen Nong, the father of all Chinese medicine, called it the “King of All Medicinal Herbs.” The eyes are brightened when the soul is in harmony with the body.

Wikipedia image of shennong

Tea is ‘medicine’ in the Native American sense of the word: that which aligns and connects us with the world and all life. Medicine empowers us in our connection to the Earth and all life on it. Health of body, mind and spirit succor such harmony and arise from it. Health is very much akin to harmony. When the body functions in harmony, internally and externally, it is healthy. The same could be said for the mind and spirit as well. In other words, if you have problems drink tea; if you don’t… drink tea!

There is a dimension of experience where people can indeed communicate with plants—one that was utilized by our ancestors for millions of years. The knowledge learned from the plants helps align us with the Sacredness of this Earth and our own place in it. Such wisdom heals more than the individual; it also can help us restructure our societies in a sustainable, healthy way instead of endangering all life on this planet as we are doing now through our discordance.

Green Tea: Healing And Serenity In A Cup - Photo of young tea leaves in sunlight

Tea is Adaptagenic

Tea is adaptagenic, helping alleviate any and all ailments. Living teas have a way of finding and treating any of our ailments, whether they are physical or spiritual. Furthermore, most herbs are useful to treat a particular disease and unhealthy if you don’t have that illness, whereas tea can be used every day. It isn’t just adaptagenic in our bodies either; it suits the spirit of any occasion. There is an old saying that it is “curious that a teapot can suggest both great and comfortable solitariness as well as friendship and society.” Tea has a way of suiting the energy of any gathering, from deep stillness to great celebration.

In this tradition, we cultivate a respect for tea as a healer. The specifics aren’t important. While scientists are finding that tea prevents cancer and helps regulate blood pressure, etc., this isn’t what we are referring to when we call tea medicine.

Tea is more than just a supplement taken for health benefits. Tea heals. While tea might aid your blood pressure, that isn’t the end—or even the essence—of its healing powers. It heals more fundamentally—cosmically, you might say. It can realign us with our source. You drink a few bowls and as the great tea poet Lu Tong says, “The last needn’t be drunk, for I am swept up to the land of immortals.” Even amidst the bustle of the city, tea can transport us to a healing space.

More Thoughts on The Meaning of Tea


Most medicines ae used to treat but a single sickness, but tea is a panacea for all illness. 

– Eisai

My experience . . . convinced me that tea was better than brandy, and during the last six months in Africa I took no brandy, even when sick, taking tea instead. 

~ Theodore Roosevelt