SCM collaborates with local industry on a study on the standardisation of vinegar for processing Chinese herbal medicines

15 August 2013


To safeguard the quality, safety and effectiveness of processed decoction slices, the School of Chinese Medicine (SCM) recently collaborated with Pat Chun International Limited to initiate a research project on the standardisation of the vinegar used in processing Chinese herbal medicines. The study is expected to be completed in two years. Entitled “Standardisation of the Vinegar for Processing Chinese Materia Medica”, the research project is a university-industry collaboration which obtained funding of HK$2 million from the Innovation and Technology Fund under the Innovation and Technology Commission and HK$1.3 million from Pat Chun International Limited. The two-year project is expected to be completed in mid-2015. Dr. Yu Zhiling, the project coordinator and Director of the Research and Development Division of SCM, said that raw Chinese herbal medicines have to be processed to become decoction slices before they can be used in Chinese medicine clinics and for preparing proprietary Chinese medicines products. Vinegar is one type of processing adjuvant. The main purposes of processing Chinese herbal medicines with vinegar are to enhance efficacy and to reduce the toxicity of Chinese herbal medicines. However, no worldwide standard is currently available for the processing adjuvants, including vinegar. He pointed out that many types of vinegar are used in the processing of Chinese herbal medicine and the chemical compositions of the vinegar varies greatly, leading to difficulty in controlling the constituents, efficacy and safety of decoction slices. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the industry to establish a standard for the vinegar used in processing Chinese herbal medicines. Based on Pat Chun’s current vinegar production process, the research team will optimise the brewing technology used for the vinegar, analyse the microbial composition during the fermentation process and monitor the process stability. In addition, by comparing the difference between the chemical composition, efficacy and toxicity of decoction slices processed with and without the vinegar, the team will also verify the enhancement of efficacy and reduction of toxicity of Chinese herbal medicines caused by the vinegar. By using modern analytical technology, medicinal standards will be established for the vinegar. Thirteen parameters will be used: name, source, preparation, description, identification, general quality parameters, saltless soluble solid material, assay, meridian tropism, actions, usage, shelf life and storage. Upon completion, the study will help enhance research and innovation for the industry, complete the quality control standard established for Chinese medicine, and improve safety in the use of Chinese medicine. Dr. Yu Zhiling said: “We aim to develop a standard for the vinegar used in processing Chinese Materia Medica and to provide a technical basis for the Government to establish new official standards for processing adjuvants in the future. This will help guarantee the quality of Chinese medicine and enhance the public’s confidence in using Chinese medicine products.”


(From left) Dr. Alexander Leung, Lecturer I of the Research and Development Division of SCM, HKBU; Dr. Yu Zhiling, Director of the Research and Development Division of SCM; Dr. Ted Ng, Managing Director of Pat Chun International Limited; and Mr. Li Xiping, Deputy General Manager of Pat Chun International Limited, brief the media on the “Standardisation of the Vinegar for Processing Chinese Materia Medica” research project at the media session