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Journal of Integrative Medicine ›› 2021, Vol. 19 ›› Issue (2): 89-103.doi: 10.1016/j.joim.2020.12.003

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Processing methods and mechanisms for alkaloid-rich Chinese herbal medicines: A review

Ruo-lan Li, Qing Zhang, Jia Liu, Li-ying He, Qin-wan Huang, Wei Peng, Chun-jie Wu   

  1. School of Pharmacy, Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chengdu 611137, Sichuan Province, China
  • Received:2020-04-15 Accepted:2020-07-11 Online:2021-03-12 Published:2020-12-12
  • Contact: Wei Peng pengwei@cdutcm.edu.cn; Chunjie Wu wucjcdtcm@163.com E-mail:pengwei@cdutcm.edu.cn

The processing of Chinese herbal medicine is a form of pharmaceutical technology developed over thousands of years, in order to increase efficiency and decrease toxicity of herbs in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Herbal processing is essential for safe and effective application of TCM in clinical practice, as it alters the active chemical components and therefore the functions of herbal medicines. Alkaloid-rich herbal medicines in TCM are commonly processed by cleansing, cutting, processing by dry stir-frying, stir-frying with liquid adjuvants, and processing by water decoction. In addition, commonly used adjuvants for processing alkaloid-rich herbal medicines are river sand, wine, vinegar, brine, honey and herbal juice. For alkaloid-rich herbal medicines, the main chemical reactions that occur during processing include hydrolysis, oxidation, replacement, decomposition and condensation. This paper aimed to summarize the processing methods and mechanisms for alkaloid-rich Chinese herbal medicines, and provide much-needed theoretical support and scientific evidence for understanding those mechanisms and effects. Information on processing methods for alkaloid-rich herbal medicines was collected from classic books of herbal medicine, PhD and MSc dissertations, online scientific databases including PubMed, SciFinder, Scopus, Web of Science, Baidu Scholar and Google Scholar. This paper should help to advance our knowledge of the processing mechanisms and aid in the development of processing methods for alkaloid-rich Chinese herbal medicines.

Key words: Alkaloids, Alkaloid-rich herbal medicines, Chinese medicine processing

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