Acupuncture Continuing Education

Chinese Herbal Medicine Goes Big

Chinese Herbal Medicine Worldwide

Chinese herbal medicine is going big.

Chinese herbal medicine development is seeing an explosion of investment from corporations worldwide. Not surprisingly, companies like Nestlé and Coca-Cola have poured resources into developing healthy beverages and products using traditional Chinese herbal medicines. Already, Coca-Cola is growing their Asian market sales with an array of herbal beverages containing Bai He, Ji Gua Cao, Xia Ku Cao, Bai Mu Er, Xi Yang Shen, Hong Zao and more.

One downside to worldwide use of herbal medicines is scarcity and overharvesting issues. Zi Cao, for example, is included in conventional over-the-counter creams throughout Asia for the treatment of psoriasis. However, unregulated industrial practices have depleted Zi Cao beyond sustainability and the herb is now an endangered species. The upside to conventional use of Chinese herbal medicines is access to healthier choices for consumers in the food and beverage industry. In many ways, the challenges to the implementation of Chinese herbal medicine within the food supply are  the same as those facing all foods. Sustainability rests in classic farming, harvesting and wild-picking practices. Additional concerns are the use of pesticides, preservatives and other forms of contamination.

Investment beyond supermarket distribution of herbal medicines is firmly within the pharmaceutical industry. Merk, GlazoSmithKline, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and many more drug firms have a history of investment in Chinese herbal medicines. One company of note is Tasly Pharmaceuticals. This Chinese corporation has an array of biomedicine drugs, Chinese herbal products and extracts. Currently, their stock price is soaring. Tasly is China’s second largest producer of Traditional Chinese Medicine products and devotes significant resources into research, product development and planting. Tasly has partnered with SemBioSys of Canada to produce nutritionals, beverages and foods made from oilbodies in plants using a continuous cold system that does not denature the oils. Tasly also has the ability to produce insulin from plant based products.

Tasly made the headlines when one of their flagship products, Danshen Plus, passed FDA Phase-II clinical trials. Phase-III is expected to be completed by 2015. Danshen Plus is used for the treatment of coronary heart disease. Recently, Tasly entered into a partnership with Hamsoa Pharmaceutical, the thrid largest distributor in the Korean marketplace, thereby immediately extending the reach of their natural extracts and Chinese medicine products into 30 Korean hospitals and over 100 clinics. This extends Tasly’s reach and builds on its firm foundations in the Chinese marketplace. If the Danshen Plus product reaches the United States market, expect a fundamental shift within pharmaceutical industry research and development towards complex natural products. Currently, the overwhelming investment in the US market is in the development of isolated, single ingredient drugs. The success of Tasly in broad spectrum based ingredients may open scientific investigation to further interest in complexes of ingredients including herbal formulas.

Herbal medicine companies in the US market have taken a strong leadership position in promoting the quality and purity of herbal medicines along with sustainability and environmental sensitivity. Spring Wind herbs has Dang Shen and Fu Ling that is certified USDA NOP Organic. Mayway herbal corporation has publicly promoted the protection of endangered species and the prevention of animal cruelty. They back this up with only offering herbal medicines that do not involve unethical practices. In addition, this company has very strict standards regarding pesticides and preservatives. Mayway surpasses government guidelines and has been a leader in sulfur-free, preservative-free herbs since 1969. Another leader is Brion herbs, the sole distributor of Sun Ten herbs in the USA. Sun Ten also adheres to strict quality controls and purity guidelines including high standards for limiting pesticides, heavy metals and microbiological contamination. Sun Ten has been in the herbal medicine business for over sixty years.

Mayway and Sun Ten are important examples of established companies dedicated to the quality and purity of herbal medicines. These companies use a variety of scientific procedures to ensure that herbal medicines are both safe and effective. Testing for microbiological contamination is a standard procedure along with microscopic examination, thin layer chromatography, mass spectrometry, gas chromatography, coupled flourescent detection, liquid and gas chromatography and several other methods to determine the purity and quality of herbal medicines.

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