Factors involving effective and safe application of Chinese Materia Medica

Due to deficiency of scientific support in English literature, and negative reports such as death from products containing Ephedra in the US and kidney failure from weight-loss products consisting of Chinese herbs containing aristolochic acid in Belgium, the efficacy and safety of Chinese material medica (CMM) have been questioned in the West.  Thus, most Western physicians currently recommend against taking Chinese herbs. 

Why? - Efficacy!!!  Safety!!!

1. They are unaware of Chinese medicine and Chinese materia medica (CMM)
2. Lack of efficacy and safe data in English literatures
3. Reports of death from Ephedra and kidney failure from weight-loss products containing aristolic acid[1,2]
4. Adulterated or drug mixed ingredient in herbal products  
5. Concern about drug-herb interactions
6. Reports of false negative study results obtained by incorrect design due to limited knowledge on CMM[3]
7. Few Chinese herbs are toxic only to certain gene specific people[4] 

Chinese herbs are improperly regulated as dietary supplement in the U.S., which misleads the consumer believe Chinese herbs are unconditionally safe. Most people do not know that many safety issues, including the above mentioned two, were resulted from misuse by ignorant businessmen and consumers.  

Herbs from plants used in TCM are officially called CMM, together with few originated from animals and minerals. They should be applied under guidance of TCM theories and mostly prescribed in the form of formula by well-trained TCM doctors on the basis of TCM diagnosis and zheng differentiation. A formula is mostly consisted of several herbs. Many factors impact the efficacy and safety of a formula. Diagnosis and pattern differentiation, treatment strategy, administrative period and dosage, solvent and temperature used for extraction, selection of herbs, dosage of each herb, and process of each herb, quality of herbs are all importance to an effective and safe treatment of a formula. Further more, quality of individual herb depends on the species, growth environment, collection time (growth year, season, day time), contamination (microorganisms, pesticide residues, heavy metal), and processing method.