Korean medicines draws its ingredients based on Her Jun’s book. Heo Jun was a royal physician (1539 – 1615) and first published the Dongui Bogam in 1613 during the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. Heo Jun was born in 1539 to an affluent military family.
In 1571, at age thirty-three, Heo entered Naeuiwon, the royal clinic of the Joseon Dynasty. After that, he was continuously promoted within the clinic at an unprecedented rate.The Imjin War, or the Japanese Invasions of Korea (1592-1598), further solidified King Seonjo’s trust in Heo, who loyally accompanied the King throughout the war.
In 1600, Heo became the chief physician of Naeuiwon. During this time, King Seonjo ordered Heo to write a medical book for his citizens, who suffered from epidemics and post-war famines. He wanted to publish a book that promoted preventative care and detailed drug formulas and treatment methods that even uneducated commoners could easily comprehend and access.
In 1609, King Gwanghaegun, the successor to Seonjo, restored Heo to office despite many officials’ disapproval. Like his father, Gwanghaegun appreciated Heo’s talent and loyalty. In 1610, Heo finally completed the twenty-five volumes of Donguibogam after fifteen years of continuous effort. Donguibogam literally means “Mirror of Eastern Medicine.” It is divided into five chapters: Internal Medicine, External Medicine, Miscellaneous Diseases, Remedies, and Acupuncture.
The chapter on External Medicine explains how the skin, muscles, blood vessels, tendons, and bones allow for movement and maintenance of posture. Heo’s remedies rely on medicinal herbs and plants, and he provides impressively detailed instructions on how to extract, maintain, and consume the herbs. Donguibogam is one of the most valued treasures of Korea owing to its originality and quality. As the backbone of Eastern medicine to this day, Donguibogam was recently included in the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2009.