Researchers in China are working to standardize traditional Chinese medicine alongside Western styles.
CGTN’s Xu Mengqi examines how the process has worked for one item.
If you ever catch a cold “drink some banlangen”, your Chinese colleague might say.
It’s an herbal drink often used to prevent and treat colds. The name banlangen, means the root of isatis indigotica, an herb that, despite its longtime popularity in China, has only recently acquired international status.
The recognition came from ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, which published a standard for the herb in February four years and two months after Professor Wang Rui and her team proposed the idea.
“The ISO standard specifies what plant banlangen derives from, what it looks like, how to test its specific composition, and the minimum requirement for that composition,” said Wang Rui a professor at Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Having researched banlangen for more than 10 years, Wang Rui said she was surefooted about the technical side of the project. The challenge to be overcome was the conceptual differences between Chinese and Western medicine.
“In traditional Chinese medicinal theory, banlangen can remove heat and toxins, cool the blood and clear the throat. So how to explain the Chinese concept of ‘toxins’ to the foreign experts That was the hard part. When bacteria or viruses enter the body, the residuals they produce or the metabolites are the toxins,” Wang said.
Wang Zhengtao, a leading figure in the standardization of traditional Chinese medicine, said that TCM has been proven to be clinically effective and safe, but it still lacks adequate explanations in terms of modern medical science.
“Because traditional Chinese medicine comes from nature, its composition is extremely complex. One herb often contains hundreds, or even thousands of components. This is very different from chemical drugs. We are still deepening our understanding of traditional medicine, and there’s still a lot of fundamental research work to do,” said Wang Zhengtao the director of Shanghai R & D Center for Standardization of Chinese Medicines.
Wang said 12 traditional Chinese medicinal materials have now been given an ISO standard, that means these materials now have a license to be traded internationally.