The Processing of Chinese Herbs
The processing of Chinese herb’s creates various therapeutic properties. Often, in Chinese medicine, you hear the term “hot” or “cold” and “taste” as they apply to herbs and the response from people who take them.
The description reflects the herb’s therapeutic properties, which differentiate them from each other, and help guide practitioners to prepare a personalized herbal formula that is needed for each patient. The herb can be warm, bitter, or sweet, or have other descriptive attributes.
Researchers say that preparing herbs is an extensive process that involves many layers of work. At the outset, impurities are removed. Then, there is “washing, cutting, drying, steaming and also stir-frying of herbal materials to increase solubility,” recent research in Chinese Medicine says. The process also includes “reducing unpleasant smells, reducing toxicity, decreasing side effects, enhancing the pharmaceutical efficacy, and stabilizing and modifying therapeutic properties,” the research shows.
Importance of Processing
Processing also has a close relationship with a herb’s therapeutic ability. For example, the research adds, according to Chinese medicine principle, raw Rehmannia radix, a root common in Chinese medicine, is considered to have “sweet and bitter” with “cold” properties and can be used to treat “heat” in the body for certain illnesses. But the processed Rehmanniae radix can have “sweet” and “warm” properties and can be used to treat “cold” syndromes in the body. Those changes show the various possibilities for treatment with the Chinese herb or medicine. While “cold” relates to chills, and body aches, “heat” refers to fever and inflammation.
Essentially, the chemical compounds can be changed by processing and may induce different therapeutic properties. Research shows that almost all herbal materials are required to be properly processed before being used.
In China, there is a big demand for science-based protocols that are used to evaluate quality during and after processing.
One system being studied is known as delayed luminescence, which helps to categorize the properties of herbs during and after processing. It can be used to show differences in herbal materials prepared under different conditions, as well as the age of the herb and environment.
Delayed luminescence relates to the manner in which organisms have a “decaying emission” of light after exposure to light, or illumination, from microorganisms to leaves. With this process, food quality and seed germination, can be measured, and other properties important to herbal medicine.
As a result, delayed luminescence, as it is being developed, provides a “promising technological platform for investigating the properties of Chinese herbal medicines, both qualitatively and quantitatively.” Research adds that it may serve as a “robust and sensitive tool for evaluating the therapeutic properties of herbs base on the traditional Chinese medicine classification of various elements,” such as taste, according to Chinese Medicine journal.
Sun, M, Chang, WT, et al. 2018. Application of delayed luminescence method of measuring of the processing of Chinese herbal materials. Chinese Medicine. http://doi.org/10.1186/s13020-018-0202-0
Pang, J, Zhu, X, et al. 2016. Spectral Analysis of Chinese Medicinal Herbs Based on Delayed Luminescence. Volume 2016, Article ID 8469024. 8 pages. .
Jinui, L, Haitong, W, et al. Current applications of molecular imaging and luminescence-based techniques in traditional Chinese medicine. 2011. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Volume 137. Issue 1. 1 September 2011. Pages 16-26. ps://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874111004211
Sun, M, Chang, W, et al.
Characterization of the therapeutic properties of Chinese herbal materials by measuring delayed lumiescnece and dendritic cell-based immunomoulatory response. 2017. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology. Volume. 168. March 2017. Pages 111. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2016/8469024/