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ABSTRACT: According to archaeological discoveries, humans began to make use of marine natural resources early in the Palaeolithic era. In the Spring and Autumn period and Warring States period, they began to use marine life as medicines and also had simple cognitions on their efficacy and processing. In the Qin and Han dynasties, people further deepened the understanding of the marine Chinese materia medica and created prescriptions making use of marine drugs. In the Tang and Song period, the number of marine Chinese materia medica species and corresponding prescriptions apparently increased. The cognitions of the property, flavor, efficacy as well as the compatible principle of marine Chinese materia medica was further deepened and the scope of their treatment also significantly expanded. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, the cognition of the marine Chinese materia medica was mainly the conclusions of the previous experience. After the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC), with the development of science and technologies, the ability of exploiting and utilizing the marine Chinese materia medica by people dramatically increased, and the species of marine Chinese materia medica reached more than one thousand. However, the development of marine Chinese materia medica is confronted with new problems; although the number of species of marine Chinese materia medica increased, the understanding of their property and flavor is obviously lagging behind, which seriously affects the clinical application of marine Chinese materia medica.Zhonghua yi shi za zhi (Beijing, China: 1980) 05/2009; 39(3):168-72.