Embracing Chinese medicine: Scientists have developed a new, fast authentication method for verifying herb composition

One of the arguments against Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is that it is not scientifically and medically validated. Detractors love to mention that these folk medicine healers, despite having followed knowledge practiced for thousands of years, still preach advice to use herbs that cannot be empirically proven to be effective. Moreover, conventional medicine still cannot authenticate how genuine certain herbs are. This willful ignorance towards alternative medicine continues even as more people speak of natural herbs being effective in alleviating various diseases.

This is all set to change with new research from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Researchers from the Food Safety and Technology Research Center of the school have developed a new method to rapidly authenticate different Chinese herbal medicines, including Ganoderma (known as lingzhi) and Gastrodiae Rhizoma (known as tian ma). Unlike previous authentication processes which could take hours to process, the new method developed by the team only takes around 10 minutes to analyze one raw sample. The validation process offers the following information:

  • Whether a sample is genuine or counterfeit;
  • Its classification (wild or cultivated); and
  • Its differentiation in terms of geographical origin.

The team is focused on using their method to test various samples of linzhi and tian ma, two of the most popular and valuable Chinese herbs. The demand for these two herbs has increased their commercial value. It has been said that the black market trade of the two have adulterated the supply and there are herbs now being sold that are mostly counterfeit.

Wild lingzhi and tian ma are rare and have a specific genetic profile. Their components are uniquely arranged  to form a “fingerprint” which can be easily identified through the team’s new method. Researchers say that their method is simple, rapid, and reproducible. They hope that their method can be applied and adopted to other relevant fields where a specialized device is required. More importantly, the researchers hope that their method will bring about a positive impact to the Chinese herbal medicine industry.

Looking at lingzhi and tian ma

Lingzhi is a medicinal mushroom known as Reishi and has an extensive history of promoting health and longevity in Asia. The Chinese believe that the fungi represent spiritual potency as well as immortality and is often used in dishes that are meant to symbolize success. Healers use lingzhi to control blood glucose levels, modulate the immune system, and protect the body against bacterial infection.

Tian ma, on the other hand, is a dried tuber belonging to the orchid family. There are five variants of the plant. Chinese healers determine the potency of tian ma based on when they were harvested. Those picked during winter (dong ma) are considered to be more medicinally sound than those picked during spring (chun ma). Nevertheless, both types are used to calm hyperactivity in the liver and is highly recommended for various forms of inflammation.

Starting small

If you’re still hesitant to go to your local Chinatown and ask for some herbs (uncertain on how to pronounce them), there are some herbs that are easy to find and can be found as supplements. Here are five very powerful plants that can be used to improve your overall health.

  1. Garlic — This has potent antibiotic, antifungal, and antiparasitic properties. Garlic can be used to lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart diseases.
  2. Turmeric — This is one of the best superfoods out there. Turmeric can treat a number of conditions, including curing cancer.
  3. Echinacaea — Use this herb to improve your immune system and lessen your risk of infection.
  4. Chamomile  — This can aid in digestion and boost the nervous system by making you less stressed and anxious.
  5. GingerGinger can be used to treat various conditions such as nausea and morning sickness.

To learn more about various herbs and other alternative practices, visit NaturalPedia.com.

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