Pao Zhi – The Chinese Way of Preparing Herbs

In Chinese herbal medicine pao zhi is a term that generally describes all the procedures involved in preparing plant (or animal or mineral) to be consumed by humans. This includes every part of the process from harvest to consumption. However, we mostly think of pao zhi as some specific processes applied to herbs when they are already dried. These processes include, but are not limited to the use of vinegar, wine, dry stir-frying, stir-frying in bran, and honey stir-frying, plus many more.

This is a subject that I have always been interested in and I have been fortunate enough to have had two teachers here who know a bit about the subject. I have applied some of these processes to a few Western herbs, and I will be offering a class this coming spring at the Sylvan Institute of Botanical Medicine.

Using Chen Pi as an example please see Sylvan Institute of Botanical Medicine’s Facebook page here.


Since the post above was so brief and I merely sent readers to other pages I thought I was take the time to add a little more. Here I will give an example of Sheng Ma (升麻, Actaea* dahurica or A. foetida or A. heracleifolia).

Sheng ma is a exterior resolving medicinal. It is acrid and slightly cold. It effuses the exterior and outthrusts papules, clears heat and resolves the exterior, upbears yang and lifts the fallen.

Raw sheng ma is used to effuse the exterior and outthrust papules, clear heat and resolve toxin.
For initial onset of measles it is used in Sheng Ma Ge Gen Tang.
For swollen and painful throat it is used in Niu Bang Zi Tang.
For wind-heat headache it is used in Qing Zhen Tang.

Honey stir-fried sheng ma upbears yang and lifts the fallen.
For qi vacuity with downward fall (generally this means prolapse) it is used in Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang and Ju Yuan Jian.

This example shows a clear difference in use of this species and is a very important distinction that if goes unnoticed will certainly have an effect on clinical effectiveness.

* The Acteae genus name was formally known as Cimicifuga, but changed several years ago. However, most of the books on Chinese medicine have not recognized this change in the botany.


I have been really into reading about pao zhi lately and discussing it with one of my teachers. So, I thought I would add yet another herb/preparation to this post. This one is an alcohol preparation.

Achyranthes bidentata (huai niu xi 怀牛膝) is a rectify the blood medicinal. It is bitter, sour, and neutral. It quickens the blood and transforms stasis, supplements the liver and kidney, strengthens the tendons and bones, disinhibits urination and frees strangury.

Raw huai nui xi quickens the blood and transforms stasis, conducts blood to move downward.
For headache and toothache (stomach heat from yin vacuity pattern) it is used in Yu Nu Zhu.
For head/eye dizziness it is used in Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang

Wine stir-fried huai niu xi increases the medicinal’s quickening the blood action and stops pain.
For double and flowery vision (liver and kidney dual depletion) it is used in Shi Hu Ye Guang Wan.
For lower back pain (liver and kidney vacuity depletion taxation damage) it is used in He Che Da Zao Wan.

For photos of this plant, sheng ma (mentioned above) as well as many other Western and Chinese herbs go here and click on the photo gallery link.

One Response to “Pao Zhi – The Chinese Way of Preparing Herbs”

  1. lileskimo77 December 30, 2010 8:56 pm
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