Modernization of Traditional Chinese Medicinal Herbology
TCM herbology is the mainstay of Chinese medicine, and its modernization is a major contribution to the overall integration process. Advanced technologies in phytochemistry and phytopharmacology have been applied to Chinese materia medica so that the use of herbs in MCM is based, not only on TCM principles, but also on the features of the herb’s pharmacology.
The traditional way of making a decoction from dried, raw herbs is subject to great variation. The herbal species, soil and other growing conditions, time of collection, and processing procedures can all vary, and the raw herbs may be tainted by herbicides and other contaminants. By employing phytochemistry techniques to extract active ingredients and purify them, variation and contamination are eliminated. Scientists have isolated the specific active ingredients that are responsible for the therapeutic effects of the herbs and have determined the molecular structure of most of these ingredients. Their physiological actions and metabolism in the body, possible toxicity and adverse reactions, clinical dosage, and treatment courses have thus been studied. In this way, MCM practitioners know exactly what and how much to administer to individual patients. The potency of herbal remedies has thus been standardized to enhance consistency and quality, assuring the predictability of the therapeutic effect and allowing for the replication of clinical outcomes. These studies also permit observation of the interactions between herbal remedies and conventional Western pharmaceuticals with the aim of avoiding harmful side effects. Pills and capsules make the administration of herbal medicine far more convenient and palatable than preparing and drinking bitter decoctions, as has been done for thousands of years.
In our practice we have developed our own herbal products to ensure their quality, safety, and efficacy. Our standards follow:
- The active ingredient is identifiable.
- The potency is measurable.
- The clinical action is predictable.
- The clinical outcome is repeatable.
Modern research methods applied to traditional medicinal herbs have enhanced the effectiveness of TCM. MCM can treat some diseases that are difficult for both TCM and WM. MCM herbs can be used to enhance the therapeutic effects and/or mitigate the side effects of Western pharmaceuticals. This strategy has been routinely applied in China. From these studies the herb’s indication for treatment of diseases is expanded. For example, the artemisinin extracted from Chinese herb Qing Hao (Herba Artemisiae annuae) and its molecular derivatives, such as artesunate and artemether were originally developed as anti-malaria medicine and now we have used them for treating babesiosis a malaria-like protozoa co-infection of Lyme disease and even for cancer as non-cytotoxic anti-cancer medicine, which can promote cancer cell undergo apoptosis without hurting normal cells. Recently the discoverer of artemisinin who win 2015 Nobel Prize and her team announced that these substances can also be effectively used to treat systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis.