A mixed microscopic method for differentiating seven species of "Bixie"-related Chinese Materia Medica

Yina Tang, Xicheng He, Quanlan Chen, Lanlan Fan, Jianye Zhang, Zhongzhen Zhao, Lisha Dong, Zhitao Liang, Tao Yi, Hubiao Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


Confusion in the species associated with the name of "Bixie" in Chinese Materia Medica began centuries ago. In recent decades, diverse medicinal plants from the genera Dioscorea and Smilax, and even minor species from the genus Heterosmilax, have been documented under the name Bixie or a very similar name as folk medicines in different areas of China. However, the traditional efficacies and chemical profiles of these herbs are not exactly the same and even vary wildly. Comprehensive authentication of multiple Bixie herbs has not yet been attempted. To differentiate and ensure the correct use of these Bixie-related herbs, in this study, seven sorts of representative Bixie herbs (Dioscorea collettii, D. zingiberensis, D. nipponica, D. septemloba, Smilax china, S. glabra, and Heterosmilax japonica) were characterized based on the microscopic examination of their powders and cryotomed transverse sections. This is not only the first attempt to distinguish Bixie herbs by a comprehensive microscopic techniques, including common light microscopy, fluorescence microscopy, and polarized light microscopy, but also it is the first research to observe characteristics of transections of crude drugs under polarized lighting for the purpose of authentication. Polarized light has been found to provide a number of unique characteristics. The results indicate that starch granules, stone cells, vascular bundles, and other significant tissue features can be used to authenticate "Bixie" herbs. The method was proven to be quick, handy, specific, and simple. It should be widely applicable to other herbal materials. Microsc. Res. Tech. 77:57-70, 2014.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-70
Number of pages14
JournalMicroscopy Research and Technique
Issue number1
Early online date14 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Instrumentation
  • Medical Laboratory Technology

User-Defined Keywords

  • Bixie
  • Dioscorea
  • Smilax
  • fluorescence microscopy
  • polarized microscopy


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