Modern Research on Chinese Medicinal Herbs

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Traditional Chinese Medicine has existed for two thousand years in China.

Only in this century has modern research technology been used to study Chinese medicinal substances. The majority of the work has been conducted within the last 60 years, primarily in laboratories in China, Korea, Japan, Russia, and Germany. There are two types of research on medicinal substances. One is laboratory research into the effects of the substances on in-vitro systems such as in test tubes, tissue specimens, or even animals. The other is clinical research on patients, or in vivo.

Most of the research attempts have been made in order to understand the actions and properties of Chinese medicinal substances. For example, the herb Herba Oldenlandiae Diffusae (Bai Hua She She Cao) has been shown to be clinically effective in the prevention and treatment of a variety of infectious diseases. However, research showed that it does not have a significant in-vitro inhibitory effect against any major pathogen, but has the function of enhancing the body's immune response. One of the other goals of the laboratory research is to identify active ingredients of the herbal substances. This study usually involves fractionation of herbal extracts using high performance liquid chromotography and other related biochemical techniques, and functional detection by various biomedical assays. For example, glycyrrhetenic acid and lico-flavone, which are refined from Radix Glycyrrhizae (Gan Cao), were found to be responsible for the herb's function in detoxification and anti-ulcer effects. The discovery of demethylcoclaurine from Radix Aconiti Lateralis Preparata (Fu Zi) explains why Radix Aconiti Lateralis Preparata (Fu Zi) has the function of restoring Yang and rescuing patients from collapse. Research has shown that different herbs with similar functions actually have similar chemical compositions. For example, Radix Aconiti Lateralis Preparata (Fu Zi), Rhizoma Zingiberis (Gan Jiang), Fructus Evodiae (Wu Zhu Yu), and Flos Caryophylli (Ding Xiang) all have the function of warming the interior, and all contain demethylcoclaurine. It has been demonstrated that demethylcoclaurine is directly related to the function of warming the Interior.

In recent years, significant progress has been made in clinical research on medicinal herbs, especially in China and European countries. In China there are strict rules for using medicinal herbs as drugs. The regulation for herbal medicine, which requires pre-clinical studies, phase I, II, and III clinical trials, is very much the same as that for Western drugs. Each year a number of new herbal drugs are developed, certified, and licensed. For example, Radix Bu-pleuri (Chai Hu) was found to have the function of reducing Heat. A new extract from the herb, Radix Bupleuri injection, was approved and has been widely used to reduce fever. Another herb, Gynostema pentaphyllum ( Jiao Gu Lian), was found to reduce cholesterol. A new Gynostema pentaphyllum pill was then developed and has been used in China widely. Herba Leonuri (Yi Mu Cao) has the function of promoting blood circulation to regulate menstruation. The new drug Herba Leonuri Infusion is now widely used in gynecology for irregular menstruation.

Because of the progress made in understanding the function and properties of Chinese medicinal substances, some practitioners of TCM have taken the results of biomedical research into account before writing a prescription. For example, if from a modern biomedical perspective, a patient presents with a bacterial infection, the practitioner will use herbs that are thought to be effective against the bacterium. However, those herbs should not be inappropriate for the patient (from a traditional Chinese medical perspective) based on a diagnosis using pattern differentiation. Thus, patients with headaches should be cautioned not to take prescriptions containing Radix Angelicae (Bai Zhi) at bedtime for this herb can act as a central nervous system stimulant.

Considering the immense number of the traditional Chinese medicinal substances and the amount of resources it will take to study them thoroughly, it is not surprising that there is still much work to be done on basic levels. The active ingredients of most Chinese herbs are still unknown. For those in which some of the active ingredients are known, there is little understanding of their pharmacologic properties. Future studies in these fields are important not only to Traditional Chinese Medicine, but to the world's medicine as well.

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Illustrated Materia Medica pharmaceutical name Acacia Catechu english name catechu paste part used extract from the peeled branch and stem

Acacia Catechu, produced in the provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi, is collected during December and March. It is ground into a fine powder for use.

flavor, property, and channel tropism

Bitter and astringent in flavor, cold in property, acts on the Lung channel.

functions

Arrests exudation, promotes the growth of new tissue, and heals wounds.

clinical use and major combinations

For festering wounds, it is used with Gummi Olibanum (Ru Xiang), Myrrha (Mo Yao), and Sanguis Draconis (Xue Jie).

For skin diseases with watery discharge. For ulcers in the mouth.

For traumatic injury with pain and bleeding, it is used with Sanguis Draconis (Xue Jie) and Rhizoma Bletillae (Bai Ji).

For cough due to Lung Heat, thirst due to Summer Heat, and chronic dysentery.

dosage and administration o.i—I g, used in pill or powder form. Appropriate amount for external use.

precautions

None noted.

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