Hepatoprotective plants in Chinese medicine. Oksana Nachataia.

Dear colleagues! Looking through the articles on plant research, I noticed an interesting trend, namely the active study of medicinal plants from the perspective of evidence-based medicine. Working in the field of TCM, I reason from these positions and see a certain paradox. A lot of works are devoted to the study of plants separately, in isolation from the context of the theory of Chinese medicine and their direct indications. On the other hand, many specialists practicing TCM, on the contrary, are far from the methodology of modern research, as this is often not part of their professional interests. Therefore, here, apparently, we need a bridge, the work in tandem, to cover both spheres entirely.

Each TCM ingredient, that is, raw material from a plant, is clearly inscribed in the context of the theory, falls into different classifications according to its nature, mechanism of action, tropism, taste and so on. And any doctor who studies Chinese medicine knows this. The doctrine of recipes determines the rules of plant combination when the ingredients act in synergy, strengthening each other’s action, in antagonism, limiting too much strong action of each other, or bringing the whole recipe to a specific organ at the expense of tropism to the meridians. Thus, the combination of plants in the recipe and the effect of this aggregate in the body is more than a formal sum of actions for each one. Therefore, there are great prospects in researching the formula in its entirety, and with its proper clinical purpose. And it’s not only my thoughts – these are the statements of experienced specialists in the field of TCM. This problem, in my opinion, hangs in the air. Perhaps, there are already such studies concerning some diseases. Please tell me if you know there are such works somewhere!

Especially, in my opinion, it concerns liver diseases, the treatment of which is my working topic for a long time. In Chinese medicine, as is known, information about the treatment of liver diseases is distributed both in ancient treatises and in modern textbooks, depending on the causes of the occurrence. Briefly, there are reasons that damage the liver indirectly (for example, metabolic syndrome), but there are three main factors that directly damage liver tissue and cause destruction of hepatocytes, inflammation and microcirculation disorders. These are viruses that cause hepatitis, alcohol abuse and hepatotoxic substances. Apparently, all these reasons remain relevant in modern reality.

It seems to me that recipes for viral and toxic hepatitis, despite all the achievements of European medicine, can be of great interest for research, in view of the good effect of treatment and cheep cost. In the basis of these practical formulas, the key ingredients are recipes from the “Wen Bing” treatise for the treatment of pathogens by the nature of “heat and poison.” There are a number of plants in TCM with obvious hepatoprotective properties, for example, yin chen hao (Artemisia capillaris), bai hua she she cao (Oldenlandia diffusa), chai hu (Bupleurum scorzonerifolium), yu jin (Curcuma longa), chi shao (Paeonia veitchii) qing hao (Artemisia annua) and many others, but they are always used in the composition of recipes. It makes sense to study them separately, but in a complex they acquire properties that lead to recovery, and have not yet been studied. Therefore, I write only on the basis of reasoning and experience of using these recipes in China. With viral hepatitis, TCM recipes really allow to preserve liver tissue and transfer the patient into a state of asymptomatic virus carrying, since in TCM the physiology of the liver is revealed very deeply from the perspective of the theory of Chinese medicine. With toxic hepatitis, Chinese medicine formulas help to remove toxins from the body in all possible ways and restore liver tissue. The professor of Tianjin University, Wei Yu Qi, who, as a practicing physician, also made many trips to different parts of China devoted himself to studying these issues, collecting information on prescriptions for the treatment of hepatitis, cirrhosis and hepatosis. He was dealing with this topic for several decades. His dream was to study these recipes, since twenty years ago he was an advocate of an integrative approach, he knew biochemistry well, used all available methods of diagnostics in modern medicine in China, objectified the results of treatment with the help of laboratory control. Probably, for many this position will seem not new, but it seems to me that in the action of the whole recipe lies the deep basis of the effect of the ingredients on the pathogenesis of the disease, which we probably know very little, but only observe clinically. For several years I was fortunate to work under the guidance of Professor Wei Yu Qi, I consider him my teacher and his work is very important for modern medicine.