Author(s): Leung AY
Documentation of Chinese materia medica (CMM) dates back to around 1,100 BC when only dozens of drugs were first described. By the end of the 16th century, the number of drugs documented had reached close to 1,900. And by the end of the last century, published records of CMM have reached 12,800 drugs. The recorded traditional information includes toxicities, incompatibilities, cautions, precautions and contraindications. Thus, contrary to a general misconception, toxicity data on Chinese herbs exist and are not meager. If consulted properly before embarking on a study of CMM, it will save researchers much time and efforts and the frustration of not obtaining consistent or expected results. The history of documentation is reviewed with examples of major classic and contemporary works highlighting and emphasizing the manner in which CMM toxicities have traditionally been documented through clinical experience as opposed to most modern toxicity data that are based on animal experimentation.