Dr. Albert Leung

Standardization: Proceed at Own Risk


HerbFest 1996

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Very few Chinese herbs have only one active chemical compound or one single group of active compounds. For example, tonic herbs often contain two, three or more active principles, including flavonoids, triterpenoid, sesquiterpenoids, polysaccharides, nucleosides, glycosides, steroids, alkaloids and others. Modern sophisticated extraction technology can selectively extract any one active principle, leaving other equally active compounds, behind. Hence, standardization using one particular compound or type of compounds as chemical markers is only relevant when one has a total extract of an herb, or when one does not intend to use the herb for its traditionally known qualities but rather as a source of a single chemical drug with a specific pharmacological activity along with its accompanying adverse side effects. Standardization is not for those who are interested in an herb's total quality and traditional properties. Examples and suggestions of alternative ways of quality control will be given.