Processing (Chinese materia medica)
Processing (simplified Chinese: 炮制; traditional Chinese: 炮製; pinyin: páozhì, or Chinese: 炮炙; pinyin: páozhì) in Chinese materia medica (Chinese herbology) is the technique of altering the properties of crude medicines by processing using heat and combination with various materials in a kind of alchemical approach to preparation.
Pao Zhi processing may involve such means as roasting, honey frying, wine frying, earth frying, vinegar frying, calcining, or other means. This is a kind of alchemical processing used in everyday preparation of herbal, mineral and animal medicinals.
There are also more esoteric traditions of processing, including those involving mercury, but the term is used to refer to the more common preparations. For instance, frying with wine is believed to enhance the circulatory properties of herbs. Frying with salt is believed to draw the herbal actions to the kidneys. Otherwise cooling herbs may be warmed up by heated techniques. These techniques have been applied to Western herbal medicine in the David Winston Center for Herbal Studies for the last 20 years.
The technique is somewhat similar to the Ayurvedic samskaras, although the latter technique is more complex and may involve prayers as well as physical techniques. A study of the effectiveness of the Ayurvedic equivalent of Pao Zhi was printed in the Journal of Postgrad Medicine discusses aconite, a derivative of the plant genus Aconitum, a genus that includes monkshoods:
Crude aconite is an extremely lethal substance. However, the science of Ayurveda looks upon aconite as a therapeutic entity. Crude aconite is always processed i.e. it undergoes "samskaras" before being utilised in the Ayurvedic formulations. This study was undertaken in mice, to ascertain whether "processed" aconite is less toxic as compared to the crude or unprocessed one. It was seen that crude aconite was significantly toxic to mice (100% mortality at a dose of 2.6 mg/mouse) whereas the fully processed aconite was absolutely non-toxic (no mortality at a dose even 8 times as high as that of crude aconite). Further, all the steps in the processing were essential for complete detoxification.
- Philippe Sionneau and Bob Flaws Pao Zhi: An Introduction to the Use of Processed Chinese Medicinals(April 1, 1995)
- Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica Third Edition, by Dan Bensky & Andrew Gamble et al. 2004
-  Tierra, Michael, OMD, L.Ac.Processing Chinese Herbs: Basic Principles And Its Therapeutic Importance
-  David Winston Center for Herbal Studies
- Alan Keith Tillotson. AHG, PhD, D.Ay The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook: Everything You Need to Know About Chinese, Western, and Ayurvedic Herbal Treatments 2001
- Can we dispense with Ayurvedic samskaras? Thorat S. and Dahanukar S., Journal of Postgrad Med. 1991 Jul; 37(3):157-9