There was a Chinese general in the Han dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.) by the name of Ma-Wu. One summer, the country was undergoing a severe drought and the people were suffering from famine. As if things weren’t bad enough for Ma-Wu, he had been defeated on the battlefield that summer and his entire army was forced to retreat to a remote region where nobody lived.
Ma-Wu’s soldiers couldn’t find any water to drink there, nor could they find any food to eat. Many soldiers and horses died of starvation and the surviving soldiers and horses had become so weak that virtually all of them had been under the attack of one disease or another.
There was one particular symptom that almost every sick soldier and horse seemed to have – that was the presence of blood in the urine (hematuria).
One of the grooms under Ma-Wu was in charge of 3 horses and 1 cart. When this particular groom, who took his duties very seriously, saw that he and his 3 horses all showed blood in their urine, he desperately began to look for a cure.
Then one day, to his delight, the groom noticed that none of his 3 horses showed blood in their urine. Wondering what they possibly could have eaten, he made it a point to watch his horses very closely over the next few days.
He noticed they ate plants a few inches tall that crept along the ground and had oblong leaves and light-green flowers. So, he pulled out a few plants, boiled them in water, and drank the liquid himself.
After a few days of consuming this drink, the groom saw that the blood in his urine had completely disappeared. The groom was so excited that he immediately told General Ma-Wu, who then issued an order to all his soldiers to take this remedy themselves and to feed it to their horses. A few days later, none of the soldiers and their horses showed any sign of blood in their urine.
And so the plant became known as “plant-before-cart” – Che Qian Cao – ever since.
For a Western pharmaceutical view of this TCM herb, visit Che Qian Cao.