Reating the First New Dose Form of TCM


 In the spring of 1951, Yue Songsheng attended a meeting convened by Peng Zhen, the then mayor of Beijing. On the meeting, Peng Zhen said to Yue Songsheng, “Your family has been in the industry of TCM for so many years. Our country wanted to rejuvenate the industry of TCM and it is your family’s unshirkable responsibility. You must make new contributions to the development of the undertaking of TCM!”


Hearing these words, Yue Songsheng didn’t think carefully then. But later, the more he thought over, the more he believed it was reasonable. Pill, powder, ointment, small pill, medicinal liquor and decocting pieces in the traditional Chinese medicine had such a long history and good curative effect, and so they were very popular. Yet like everying having two sides, the traditional Chinese patent medicine also had its defect. The most obvious point was on the form of the drug, especially the big medicinal balls, which were as big as glutinous rice balls and not easy to eat and take and had quite many ineffective elements. Compared with tablets of the western medicine, TCM balls were huge. Yue Daren once said, “If we don’t reform, the TCM could exist only for 20 years at most.” Now thinking carefully, we could find that it was reasonable. What “not reformed” referred to by him also included the form of the medicine. If the form of the medicine was not changed, it could not compete with the western medicine no matter how good the effect was. In addition, there were many things that could be improved in TCM. Changing from its form was perhaps the most urgent and easiest thing to do.


On October 1 1952, an institution studying the improvement of TCM was formally established. The full name was “TCM Improvement Research Institute under Tianjin Darentang TCM Pharmacy Beijing Office”. Yue Songsheng engaged Professor Zheng Qidong from Peking University to be the chief technician. As Zheng Qidong had been to Japan to study, and had extracted hormone from the internal organs of animals and had been the vice factory manager of Beiping pharmaceutical factory, he was the best choice for improving TCM. Chaired by Yue Songsheng, the TCM Improvement Research Institute was established.


Yue Songsheng believed what Professor Zheng said was very reasonable. After a thorough discussion, they decided to extract and refine the medicinal materials with the modern scientific method according to this line of thinking. They also worked out the principle of extraction of medicinal materials: keeping the number and amount of ingredients in original prescriptions unchanged, but removing ineffective elements like starch and fiber while retaining effective elements like organic acid, alkaloid, essential oil and higher alcohols; not adding antiseptic and not retaining the smell of the solvent used in the extraction.


Everything was difficult at the start. You must read up a lot of documentation and also made lots of experiments, and dealt with shortage of manpower and people who knew foreign languages. The conditions then were very humble with few instruments. For example, there was no device to extract the volatile oil. They had tried many methods but they could just extract some water with fragrant smell. To reach the aim, Professor Zheng even used the eyecup, something normally used by the oculist, but they still couldn’t separate oil from other elements. Later they made a glass pipe by baking, but could only extract several drops of oil. And this was finally solved when the device to extract oil was available.


One day Yue Songsheng came to the laboratory to visit Professor Zheng Qidong and asked him whether there was any trouble. Professor Zheng said, “This seems to be easy but it’s hard when it is conducted. It is not just us who are engaged in TCM modernization. Yet we have different approaches. Our method seems to be easy and feasible, but actually it is extremely complicated. For example, the prescription of this medicine is composed of four herbs. Since the TCM stresses the functions, each kind of herb plays a different role in the prescription. If there is something wrong with the extraction or proportion in the recipe, there would be no curative effect. So it was indeed hard.”


Later Zheng Qidong and the working personnel learnt from the elder traditional Chinese doctors and old medical workers on the one hand, and on the other hand, they collected the materials and made improvements in practice. In April 1953, TCM tablets including fructus forsythiae antidotal tablet, niuhuangshangqing pill, hisang lien pien and nujinpian were successfully manufactured. Take fructus forsythiae antidotal tablet for example. Each tablet weighs 1.2 g and you just need to take 2 tablets to achieve the curative effect of one big pill that weighs 9 g.


On the eve of the National Day of 1953, Yue Songsheng put four kinds of successfully improved TCM tablets into production and took them as the presents for the fourth anniversary of  PRC.


In May 1955, based on Luyuan of the former Darentang, Yue Songsheng established factories to produce TCM tablets with monthly production volume of over 500,000 tablets. The products also increased from the original four kinds to 13 kinds including Liuweidihuang tablet, shugan tablet and lophanthus antifebrile tablet.


In April 1957, with a structure of state-private joint ownership, Darentang TCM Refinery Plant was incorporated into Beijing TRT and changed to “Beijing TRT TCM Refinery Plant”.


Bezoar is the gall-stone of the cattle and is a kind of precious TCM material. It occupies an important position in traditional Chinese patent medicine. It could be found in many of the most famous medicines like bezoar chest functioning pill and bezoar sedative pills produced by TRT. Yet the natural resources of the bezoar were scarce. Each year our country would import great quantity from countries in South America. It is expensive; besides, the goods supply is not stable. In the international market, China often raced with countries like Japan to purchase it, making its prices go up rapidly, even higher than the gold. To solve this difficulty, Professor Zheng Qidong got to know the composition of natural bezoar through analysis with persistent efforts ever since the founding of the TCM refinery. Later on, he led his small team of research and found out how to extract bilirubin from the pig’s bile, to extract cholate and cholalic acid from the bile of the cattle and sheep, to extract cholesterol from the brain and spinal cord of the cattle, sheep and the pig, to extract the specific aromic elements from the fresh bile of the cattle with scientific means to manufacture man-made bezoar. Later to reduce its cost, they improved the extraction method of bilirubin, increasing the ratio of 0.01% to 0.02%, 0.03% and 0.04% and hence greatly reducing the cost.


In April 1957, the man-made bezoar was formally put into production. Besides the characteristics of natural bezoar, it was also cheap and easy to produce. In April 1957, the man-made bezoar developed by Zheng Qidong and other people was put into production after the approval by the Ministry of Health.


The manufacturing of man-made bezoar was an important contribution. Otherwise, medicines like bezoar sedative pills and bezoar antidotal pills would be so expensive that it could not afforded by the majority and would not be easy to produce. It was hard for such products to keep a foothold in the market. The man-made bezoar was exported to Southeast Asia at China Export Commodities Fair at that time. In 1965, with the instruction of the higher authority, the relevant technology was transferred to DPRK and Viet Nam. Now the recipe of the man-made bezoar had been revised for several times and been improved. Therefore, it was welcomed by many TCM factories and the common people.


The TCM Fefinery continued its efforts and developed new recipes and put into production like anti-dysentery tablet, tablet for promoting coronary circulation etc. They were popular among people for their excellent curative effect. The yufengningxin pill had special significance as it was the first traditional Chinese patent medicine which could be inspected with the content measurement method since it was put into production. Besides, the refinery also developed the liquid for children’s cough in concentrated decocted form. It was not only popular at home, it was also the main type of goods exported for foreign cash. Besides, they also developed water for cold and ageratum water for heat prevention, which has become best-selling products ever since.


The improvement of forms of TCM and development of medicines like man-made bezoar were an important event in the history of China’s TCM. It has not only greatly reduced the cost and increased the production volume of relevant medicines but also brought health and happiness to numerous patients and enhanced the health level of Chinese people. Yue Songsheng and Zheng Qidong must be remembered for their achievements.


Professor Zheng Qidong was born in 1908 in a common TCM family near Jiayi of Taiwan. He had inherited the fine tradition of TCM and had also been to Japan for study. He was accomplished in chemistry and physiology. He was also very patriotic. In his old age, he still made great efforts in developing man-made muskiness. And people will never forget the precious contributions made by Taiwan compatriots to the famous TCM of TRT.