Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Chinese Herbal Pharmacy Terms of the Day: Chong Fu 冲服 and Rong Hua 溶化

Chong Fu (chōngfú 冲服) is an instruction typically added to written formulas to indicate that the herb in question should not be decocted, but ingested whole along with a swallow of the herbal decoction. Usually the herb is powdered to make this process easier, so the whole instruction might say yán mò chōngfú 研末冲服, which means "grind to powder and take drenched."

"Take drenched" is the translation from the World Health Organization term set, and it works for me even though it doesn't automatically conjure up an image. I like that we're using two words for two characters.

Herbs that are typically taken Chong Fu-style are expensive herbs like Lu Rong 鹿茸, Ge Jie 蛤蚧, Hai Ma 海马 and Dong Chong Xia Cao 冬虫夏草. (When dealing with an unfamiliar pharmacy or one in which you don't have complete confidence, a savvy herb customer should ask to see the herb in question before it is powdered. Of course, that assumes that you are somewhat familiar with how to differentiate authentic herbs and different quality levels - for more on these topics, keep an eye on Eric Brand's blog at the Blue Poppy website.)

A similar but very different instruction is Rong Hua (rónghuà 溶化), which simply translates as "melt" or "dissolve." An herb that is marked "Rong Hua" is added to the hot decoction after the cooking process has finished, but should dissolve completely when stirred in. Examples are the gelatins: Lu Jiao Jiao 鹿角胶, E Jiao 阿胶, Gui Ban Jiao 龟板胶. By contrast a powdered Lu Rong will never dissolve, and therefore must be ingested and chased with decoction for the best medicinal effect.

This is part of our ongoing series on Chinese pharmacy terms. Previously we've covered Hou Xia 后下, and we'll be covering more in the future. I would love to see more Chinese medicine doctors start appending these terms to their prescriptions. It makes your prescription more precise, it helps your herbal pharmacy, and it helps your patients!