The Three Treasures

Three Treasures

It is said by the Taoist sages who developed Chinese tonic herbalism that a human being is composed of three “Treasures.” The “Three Treasures” are called Jing, Qi and Shen.


Treasure Rating


is the first Treasure and is translated as “Essence.” Jing is the primal energy of life and is closely associated with our genetic potential, and is associated with the aging process. According to traditional teaching, the quantity of Jing determines both our life span and the ultimate vitality of our life. Jing also is said to control a number of primary human functions: the reproductive organs and their various substances and functions; the power and clarity of the mind; and the integrity of one’s physical structure. Jing, which is a blend of Yin and Yang energy, is said to be stored in the “Kidney.” Jing is generally associated these days with the hormones of the reproductive and adrenal glands. Strong Jing energy in the Kidneys, so it is said in the Orient, will lead to a long and vigorous life, while a loss of Jing will result in physical and mental degeneration and a shortening of one’s life.

Jing is burned up in the body by life itself, but most especially by chronic and acute stress and excessive behavior, including overwork, excessive emotionalism, substance abuse, chronic pain or illness, and sexual excess (in men, excessive release of semen is said to diminish Jing). Excessive menstrual patterns, pregnancy and childbirth can result in a dramatic drain on the Jing of a woman, which is even more pronounced in middle aged women. There are special tonics that fortify Jing, and these are found among the Yin and Yang tonics. Jing tonics are used to replace the spent energy and to build up large reserves for future use.



is the second Treasure, and in the Three Treasures system includes both Energy and blood. This is the aspect of our life that involves action and thought. Qi tonics, composed of Qi and/or blood tonics, increase our ability to function fully and adaptively as human beings. Qi is said to be produced as a result of the functions of the Lungs and Spleen. Therefore, Qi tonics strengthen the digestive, assimilative and respiratory functions. In addition, they are generally believed to have potent immune modulating activity. Qi tonics increase the amount and improve the quality of the energy and blood flowing through our system. This increase in energy and blood results in an overall increase in physical and mental vitality.



is the third Treasure. Shen is our Spirit. This is ultimately the most important of the Three Treasures because it is the basis of our higher nature as human beings. Chinese masters say that Shen is the all-embracing love (peace, contentment, mindfulness) that resides in our Heart. Shen is expressed as love, compassion, kindness, generosity, acceptance, forgiveness and tolerance. It manifests as our wisdom and our ability to see all sides of all issues, our ability to rise above the world of right and wrong, good and bad, yours and mine, high and low, etc. Shen is our higher knowledge that everything is one, even though nature manifests dualistically and cyclically, often obscuring our vision and creating illusion. Certain true Shen tonic herbs encourage the opening up of Shen. There are also “Shen stabilizers” which help stabilize our emotions so that Shen (our higher self) can rule our lives. The emotions are allowed to play themselves out, but not to dominate our lives and become obsessions or addictions. Shen tonics have been used by the great sages of the Orient to help in their quest for enlightenment and harmony with Nature and all of humankind.


Tonic herbs can be categorized as Jing (Yin and/or Yang), Qi (Qi and/or blood) and Shen (opening and/or stabilizing) by virtue of which Treasure(s) they tend to nourish and develop. The value of an herb is a reflection of the Treasures it contains.

Applying the principle of the Three Treasures is the highest form of herbalism. In the Orient it is called “the Superior Herbalism.”

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