Macroscopic identification of Chinese medicinal materials: Traditional experiences and modern understanding

Zhongzhen Zhao*, Zhitao Liang, Ping Guo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


Authentication is fundamental for the standardization of Chinese Materia Medica. Macroscopic identification, an important method of authentication, has a long history rooted in practice and experience over generations. In ancient times, macroscopic features were used not only to identify the genuineness, but also to evaluate the quality of Chinese medicinal materials (CMMs). In many ancient documents, picturesque terms were used to describe the quality of certain specific CMMs. These traditional macroscopic descriptions used for identification are filled with characteristics, quality descriptions, and specifications of CMM that need to be confirmed by modern scientific analysis. In this paper, the essential and fundamental components of macroscopic identification are introduced. As the quality and macroscopic characteristics of CMM are traditionally thought to be closely related, modern scientific approaches to confirm the validity of these associations are discussed. This review clarifies the role of macroscopic features in the quality assessment of CMM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)556-564
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Ethnopharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2011

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese medicinal material
  • Macroscopic identification
  • Plant anatomy
  • Quality evaluation


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