Pao Zhi: The Art of Preparing Chinese Herbs

Expand your knowledge of how traditional Chinese medicine herbs are prepared

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Quick Summary

  • Pao zhi is the art of processing herbs for use in traditional Chinese medicine
  • Learn how different preparations methods can lead to different herbal effects

Every substance in the Chinese herbal pharmacopeia innately has specific characteristics, tastes, temperatures, and actions. Not only do herbs have an inherent nature, many substances need to be prepared before using. This processing is known as, pao zhi (炮制). 

Processing begins after the herb has been harvested, dried and cut. Pao zhi prepares the herb in order to minimize side effects, increases potency, directs its action to specific areas of the body, and increases or alters properties of the substance for use in a particular clinical presentation.[1]

 

Common Preparations of Chinese Herbs

Here are a few common herbal preparations that your practitioner may use when prescribing a raw herbal formula.[2]

Dry frying 

A stir-fry technique without the use of oil that directs the action of the herb to the Spleen and Stomach systems to improve the digestion. While adding salt into the stir-fry directs the action of the herb to the Kidney system. This preparation can also support the yin and reduce fire.

Frying with liquid

Adding one of the items below to a stir-fry is a great way to support the properties of particular herb.

  • Honey: nourishes and moistens
  • Vinegar: astringes, invigorates the blood, detoxifies, and has analgesic properties
  • Wine: unblocks the channels, expels wind, and reduces pain
  • Ginger juice: warms the stomach, alleviates vomiting, balances cold and bitter herbs that may upset the stomach

Quick-Frying

An herb is fried at an extremely high temperature so that it becomes

dark brown or cracked. This technique reduces toxicity and moderates harsh

properties.

Boiling

Done in either water or some other medium, this technique can also alter

the characteristics of an herb. For example, boiling an herb in vinegar can reduce

toxicity.

 

The Preparation Can Change An Herb’s Effect

One example of how processing affects the properties of an herb is with rehmannia root or Chinese foxglove. In the Chinese herbal pharmacopeia, the raw form that has been simply prepared for ingestion is known as, sheng di huang (生地黄).[2] This herb is in the clear heat and cool blood category. Like its category, this herb is cold in nature and has the function to treat warm diseases. It also has the function to nourish the yin and generate fluids. When sheng di huang is prepared with rice wine and steamed, it becomes shu di huang (熟地黄).[2]Shu di huang falls into the tonifying category in the pharmaceopia. This version is slightly warm and has the functions to nourish the blood, yin, and essence. Both forms of rehmannia affect the blood, yin, and fluids and they are often interchanged depending on the nature of the condition, whether there is more heat or cold, more excess or deficiency. 

Your Chinese medicine practitioner will always evaluate your specific condition in order to customize the most appropriate herbal formula and advise you on any processing techniques that you may use at home to support its efficacy if you have elected for raw herbs. 

* This Website is for general skin beauty, wellness, and health information only. This Website is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. The information provided on this Website should never be used to disregard, delay, or refuse treatment or advice from a physician or a qualified health provider.

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References

  1.  Mayway. Herb Manufacturing. Accessed June 10, 2018.
  2. Bensky D. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica. 3 ed. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press; 2004.