Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Quality Control of Selected Popular Asian Herbs in the U.S. Market
Herbs have been used as medicines and functional foods in the Asian world for thousands of years. Before western medicines were introduced into Asia, herbs had been the main method for the treatment of diseases and remain a main source of drugs in primary healthcare. Currently, over half of the
Chinese population use traditional herbal remedies, particularly when western medicines do not appear to be as effective, as in the case of chronic ailments such as age-related diseases. The traditional Chinese medicine in China is undergoing a renaissance, as the current Chinese government has recognized that traditional Chinese medicine is a treasure for the nation and can provide both improved health care for its own citizens as well as serving as an excellent source of phytomedicines for the international export market when it is combined with modern science. The Chinese government is now attempting to modernize traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The push toward modernization in this field has led to an increase in the use of modern pharmacological experiments, standardization of the active components, identification and use of marker compounds in herbal prescription, establishing fingerprinting profiles (chemically and genetically) for single and blended herbs, and a wide range of other quality-related issues that now face the international acceptance and use of TCM. The long history of TCM, and its associated assumption of safety, if not efficacy, has attracted much interest for the European and North American marketplace to examine and use Asian herbs for disease prevention and treatment. Given the recent demographic trends in the U.S. (the latest U.S. national census), there is a strong rise in the number of first and second generation Chinese and Asian families. This demographic development has contributed to an increased demand and interest to have the same herbs available in China, now available for use in their new country. Consequently, due to perceived consumer demand for these products, many western companies have been importing, promoting, and distributing a wide range of Asian herbs in the western market. Popular Asian herbs including ginseng (
C. A. May), ginkgo (
[Oliv.] Diels) and Siberian ginseng (
) are among the top 20 selling herbs in the U.S. market.