Paris polyphylla is a herb that has long been regarded in traditional Chinese medicine as a great cure for fevers, burns, and for detoxification. In particular, it cures snakebites very well.
Native to the Himalayas and China, Paris polyphylla has a small purple flower nestled in the middle of a symmetrical whorl of leaves. Long yellowish-green petals sprout from the flower center like cat whiskers, and in the fall, the flowers are replaced by scarlet berries.
The Chinese legend of how Paris polyphylla was discovered reminds us that sometimes a cure comes when all seems lost.
A long time ago in China, there lived a young man named Zhen Jiangsan, who made his home in the mountains in Zhejiang Province, which is on the coast of the East China Sea.
Since both of his parents died and he had no other siblings, the only way he could make money was by selling the firewood he collected in the mountains. One day while he was cutting wood, a venomous snake suddenly sprang out of the bushes and bit his leg.
The wound was bad, and there was no one nearby to help him. Shortly thereafter, Zhen Jiangsan became unconscious and fell to the ground.
He might have died there on the forest floor, but fate was on his side, and seven fairies happened to fly by on their way to the nearby Tianmu Mountain to bathe in one of the heavenly ponds.
Seeing Zhen Jiangsan passed-out on the ground, the fairies flew to him and out of compassion, used their shawls to cover his wound.
Zhen Jiangsan continued to lie there until by an even greater stroke of luck, a great Chinese goddess, the Queen Mother, happened to fly into the clouds above the mountains and saw what was happening. Without a second thought, the Queen Mother took the jade hairpin out of her hair and placed it in the middle of the seven shawls.
The influence of the divine energy from the seven shawls and the jade hairpin caused the venom to quickly dissipate from Zhen Jiangsan’s body, and he gradually regained consciousness. As he became clear-headed again, Zhen Jiangsan felt a gust of wind and heard several unexplained, striking sounds.
When he opened his eyes, he found that the seven shawls and the jade hairpin had suddenly become seven green leaves and a golden flower.
He felt rather confused as if he had just woken from a dream, but when he looked down at his leg, he found that the skin where the snake had bitten him was very smooth, without any scars.
As he sat there in bewildered amazement, it dawned on him that the beautiful wildflower had saved his life.
After going back to the village, he shared his miraculous encounter with the villagers and brought them to look for the magic flower. They all believed that it was divine energy from the flower that made it able to dissipate snake venom and evil spirits from the human body.
After that, as soon as someone was bitten by a snake, they would go to the mountains to find the flower, and it worked wonders every time.
When asked the name of the flower, Zhen Jiangsan said: “Seven leaves with a flower,” which later became a highly esteemed herb in traditional Chinese medicine.