Korea’s first food preventive treatment book (1460)

The first agricultural and livestock manual including vegetables, fruits liquor and vinegar ‘Sangayorok’ (1450)



Jeon Soon-Ui (Ancestor of Dr. Jeon Hyoung-Tag)

Chosun royal physician during Sejong Dynasty (1397-1450) and Sejo Dynasty (1455-1468)

Book Translation:

King Jong-Duk

Oriental medicine physician, Expert on Sasang constitution, Professor

English Translation:

Kim Juan

Biocera Marketing Team


The Value of the Book of the DT (Dietary Treatment), Shikyrochanyo (食療纂要)


In the Jeon Soon-Ui’s preface, treat the patient with the food first and when food cannot be treated, apply for medicine – the strength of the food is more than half that of the medicine. It is also said that five primary elements (grain, meat, fruits, and vegetables) are needed to treat illness, not from dry plants and root vegetables. This emphasizes the fact where DT should be prioritized because can understand the reason for preferring to treat with food in treating the disease. In other words, he stressed the importance of the diets and wrote a praise for easy retrieval by extracting only useful praises. The book of the dietary treatment (1460), which is one of the best dietary treatments in Korea, will be paid more attention to modern society where prevention medicine is emphasized.

It is suggested directions for the agriculture. In the past, cultivating crops were important, however, to use crops to which person was more important. In other words, agriculture and oriental medicine were not different but they were described together. ‘The book of the dietary treatment’ emphasizes the prevention and treating illness with food will be one of the directions for the modern agriculture.


Comparison: Nutritionist Origin and Sasang Constitutional Medicine

In Asia, the importance of diets was recognized and managed by nutritionists, since the old days. According to the 周禮句解 (New translation of ancient Chinese Zhou Dynasty’s craft and custom), people would likely to get sick for not eating the food in time, so two nutritionists were hired. To be more precise, nutritionists had obligation to check the food balance for the king. According to ‘The Classic of Change’, a wise person has a good table manner and illness occurs when having bad eating habits with imbalance diets. In general, food is the foundation of man. If the foundation is well-cured, there is nothing that does not grow and nothing do not exist if the foundation is un-cured. How can illness come when it is regulated well? The purpose of the dietary system management was installed because eating regularly in order to not occur illness was important.

The book 周官新義 (New translation of ancient Chinese Zhou Dynasty’s craft and custom), tells about the treatment of illness by ‘five flavors(五味)’, ‘five grains (五穀)’, and ‘five medicines (五藥)’. When ‘ki (energy)’ insufficient and it can be replenished by diets, thus diets help build ‘ki (energy)’. Grains build the body and medicine heals illness. Treating ‘ki (energy)’ is the foundation for building the body and medicine treatment comes last. This is the order of the treatment, thus using dietary treatment for building ‘ki (energy)’ and the body is important than using medical treatment.

Since the old ages, it was believed to eat proper foods in order to maintain health and minds. According to 黃帝內經太素 (The Book of Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine) -大毒[下品藥毒] {highly poisonous[lower]} uses 6 out of 10, 中毒 (中品藥毒) {medium poisonous[medium]} uses 7 out of 10, 嬏毒 (上品藥毒) {low poisonous[best]} uses 8 out of 10, and 無毒 (non-toxic) uses 9 to of 10 to treat illness. But if consumed grains, meat, fruits, and vegetables regularly then can cure illness. Therefore, it is important not to hurt ‘ki (energy)’ and eat well. When treated with medicine, it is better to use 上品(best) rather than下品(lower), however, it has believed that DT is more efficient. Maintaining the healthy mind and body is better than eating foods. Grains structures the body, fruits help, meat empowers energy, and vegetables replenish so it is called 補精益氣 (Five grains: [rice, barley, joe, bean, millet], five meat [cow, goat, pig, dog, chicken], five fruit (chestnut, date, peach, plum, apricot), five vegetables [leek, chives, chard, seaweed, garlic]

The ideology for maintaining health mind and the body had been used as a manual for ordinary lives.  According to 壽親養缁新書 (The Book of Medicine for the elder’s health and longevity), the illness should be examined by nutritionists using DT and medicinal treatments should be used if the symptoms do no improve. However, do not harm the intestines if using medicinal treatments. Although, it describes the case of the elders that we can get a glimpse of the DT are used when to heal illness and not harming the intestines. It also describes the importance of the DT, but the prior goal is to maintain a healthy mind and the body. 壽親養缁新書(The Book of Medicine for the elder’s health and longevity) describes after treating chronic illness, dietary treatment should be used for maintaining health mind and the body -chronic illness should be treated with soft 湯藥(medicine) for 3~5 days, and when symptoms reduce, dietary treatment should be performed depends on their constitutions. 

The importance of diets for maintaining health mind and the body describes on 黄帝内經素問 (The Book of Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine). ‘A wise one should prevent illness from happening and to resolve before the chaos, not after. Treating illness after the symptoms is like to dig a well when thirsty and make weapon after the war starts, it is just too late. In other words, it is important not to treat illness after happening, but to maintain a healthy mind and the body by diets, not to get sick.

According to the Korean Oriental Medicine, the illness is categorized in constitutions and the constitutions are depended on upon 偏嬏之臟 (a person born with a weak organ). In other words, debauchery (alcohol & women), internal and external injuries damage Taeyangin’s liver, thus Taeyangin should stay away from them. Likewise, each constitution has weak points, such as Taeumin has weak lung, Soyangin has weak kidney, and Soeumin has a weak spleen. If so, how much deviations should be a stage of disease? On the other hand, it is said that Taeyangin with healthy liver and lung is an ideal healthy person. However, if the liver has a half function then the person would likely to have an illness and if the liver function is lower than half, he or she would die. Therefore, the half of the liver function is the key for Taeyangin's lifespan.

Even though 偏嬏之臟 (a person born with a weak organ) is damaged and reduced, every person has a natural healing ability called reproductive tract. In order to help the reproductive tracts, the immunity system was emphasized. However, the key was to maintain and vitalize 偏嬏之臟 (a person born with a weak organ).  Ginseng, poria cocos, lycium chinense, and persimmon soup can be used for dietary treatment, because for their smooth texture and characteristics. It insists that the treatment should intermittently stop not hurting the intestine’s vitality (本常之氣) and set a standard for maintenance. The treatment for Sasang Constitution was regarded as a principle of treatment in illness and was divided into two treatments, pharmacological nonpharmacological.

To compensate for the weakness of the 偏嬏之臟 (a person born with a weak organ), it is necessary to stabilize the mind and keep away from debauchery to preserve the intestines and medicinal effect. It had described at 客土(medicine effect) and 主土(intestine function) that if the conditions do not meet, the illness will overcome the energy of the medicine. The intestine is the main and medicine comes second, but if medicine overtakes the intestine, then illness will occur. It is recommended not to be dependable with drugs.

As for the importance of the organs, Taeyangin's medicine was administered to Taeyangin's illness, but if the condition gets worse, the energy of the intestines is already dry and cannot be cured. Physical condition to accept the medicine is important as for Taeumin, Soyangin, and Soeumin. Although, strong medicine cannot be treated for a long period since the soft medicine is applicable to maintain the body’s vitality. Here, the difference between ideological foods and ideological medicine is shown. It has said, the ideological food can be eaten for a long period because of its soft texture. Ideological medicine should be administered to treat illness through the body’s vitality should not be damaged.

Moreover, medicines should not be taken for a long period. 東武(Lee Jae-Ma) said, once the food is digested in the morning, the stomach will be relaxed, as it feels hunger and fullness, which is called 陰陽之道(The Balance of Ying and Yang). Comparing today and night, good foods will make you full in only Yang with no Ying. It is said too much medicinal treatment is like having the full day with no night. Therefore, the sick person takes medicine, but the healthy person should not take any. The grains will be harmful if they were eaten too much, although they have soft characteristics. What about medicine? If a person would take warm foods for a long period, the body cannot overcome the cold because of its habits. Since taking foods to need control, it emphasizes not to take medicine for a long period.

The medicines are classified into Taeumin medicine, Soeumin medicine, Taeyangin medicine, and Soyangin medicine, as well as Taeumin diets, Soeumin diets, Taeyangin diets, and Soyangin diets also are classified as ideological diets, however, they are classified as ideological medicine. In other words, to indicate broadly, all ideological medication can be treated to the Sasang constitutions. Some medicine differs from its characteristics and longevity. Therefore, ideological foods belong to a wide range of ideological medicine, but they are contrasted with a narrow sense of ideological medicine that they are taken long-term and raise the body’s vitality. 









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