Chinese medicine is a very big concept of medicine. In Shen-nong era, medicine and food do not divide. "Medicine and food homology", which is called “Chinese medicine and dietary application”, refers to that many foods are drugs, and there is no absolute demarcation line between them. At that time, seventy poisons were encountered in a day for experimental accusations, herbal medicines are divided into upper, middle and lower categories, the safe and non-toxic Chinese medicines are the upper product, which can be consumed, but is just a difference in dosage. Ancient medical scientists applied the theory of "four natures" and "five tastes" of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) into food, believing that each food also has "four natures" and "five tastes". "Medicine and food homology" means that Chinese medicine and food are of the same origin.
The theory of "medicine and food homology" based on practice has existed in Chinese traditional medicine since ancient times. In ancient primitive society, people discovered the sexual taste and efficacy of various foods and medicines in the process of searching for food, realizing that many foods can be used medicinally and many medicinal materials can be used as dietary supplement. The theory holds that many foods are both food and medicine, and that they are just as effective in preventing disease as drugs. Therefore, this theory of "medicine and food homology" is also the basis of food therapy. Strictly speaking, in the TCM, drugs and food are indiscriminate. Food has fewer side effects, but drugs have more. This is another meaning of medicine and food homology. Hence, the source of Chinese medicine and food is the same. Some things can only be used to treat diseases, known as drugs, some things can only be used for diet, known as foods. The line between medicine and food is not very clear because they all have healing powers. Such as orange, hawthorn, black plum, walnuts, almonds, fennel, cinnamon, pumpkin seeds and so on, they are not only Chinese medicine with a good curative effect, but also nutritious delicious food that people often eat.
The common point of TCM and food is to have a healthy function to prevent and control diseases. The difference between them is that the TCM has strong therapeutic effect, which is often called "strong drug". When the medicine is used correctly, the effect is prominent. However, the therapeutic effect of food is not as prominent and rapid as that of TCM. The important issue cannot be ignored is that medicaments will not be often taken commonly though their action is strong, and food we eat every day though food action is weak. Our daily diet, in addition to the supply of essential nutrients, will also be more or less due to the performance of the food on the balance and physiological function of the adverse or favorable impact, accumulation, from quantitative change to qualitative change, the impact becomes very obvious. In this sense, they are no less effective than TCM. Accordingly, adjusting food correctly and reasonably, with long-term adherence, can have the effect that medicaments cannot achieve.
In this issue of CHM journal, we organized four articles on Lycium barbarum, Gardenia jasminoides, Taraxacum mongolicum, and Moringa oleifera (Gouqizi, Zhizi, Pugongying, and Lamu in Chinese, respectively) with medicine and food functions, focusing on the analysis and discussion of the current research status and put forward the views or opinions of authors on the development of these four Chinese medicines.
The present paper on Lycium barbarum focuses on the legal plant resource and reviews the main research in medicinal field including botanical identification, ethnopharmacological functions, phytochemistry, pharmacological effects, clinic usages, and safety issues. Fruits of Gardenia jasminoides haves been used as dietary supplement and traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Recent studies of Gardenia jasminoides reveal that the extracts or the active components play an essential role in oxidative stress, inflammation, hepatoprotection, neuroprotection, anti-diabetes, antitumor and so on. Here, we reviewed Gardenia jasminoides in the botanical identity, chemical ingredients, pharmacology, and pharmacokinetics, safety and toxicity evaluation, clinical application, etc. Taraxacum mongolicum has been used in TCM and dietary application, and T. officinale has been applied in medicinal and food use in other regions and cultures around the globe. Authors summarized the phytochemical constituents of dandelion (particularly from T. mongolicum and T. officinale). Recent published health benefits of dandelion, such as anti-oxidant activity, anti-inflammatory activity, blood sugar and lipids regulation and hepatoprotective activity, as well as its safety data were highlighted. The limited human clinical study and pharmacokinetics information lead to the thought that well-designed human clinical study should be the focus and opportunity for the future research area to truly understand efficacy function and health benefit of dandelion for its application in medicine and health food area. Moringa oleifera is one of the most widespread species belonging to family Moringaceae. Almost each part of this tree has enormous properties in nutrition, medicine or other industrial purposes. This review mainly introduces nutritional ingredients, bioactive compounds, applications, and potentials of this tree including leaves, seeds, pods, flowers, root barks, and gum in order to bring convenience to industries and researchers all over the world focusing on each part of this amazing plant. Moreover, the review also analyzes the current application situation of M. oleifera in China. Authors concluded that most current researches focus on the leaves and seeds of this plant, and the most concerned property of M. oleifera is the antioxidant ability.
Medicine and food dual-use plants of China have a long history of application, and the medicine-food dual-use plants have both certain physiological effects and long-term edible safety. For people with potential risk of onset, healthy products developed by edible and edible dual-use plants can prevent disease occurrence and maintain health, and are more scientific and rational than drug treatment after disease occurrence. The development and utilization has broad market prospects.
According to the research and development status of Chinese plant resources, the development and utilization of medicine-food dual-use plants is facing challenges. Evaluation and selection of efficacy in research and development, study of functional substance basis and mechanism of action, functional product positioning and composition design, and plant resource germplasm evaluation, planting process management, post-harvest storage, etc. involved in functional food quality control process. A series of key technical issues, such as intensive processing and comprehensive utilization of resources, require efforts to carry out research in order to provide certain theoretical guidance and practice for the development and utilization of dual-use plant resources in China.