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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 5 (2008), Issue 4, Pages 429-434
http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nem054
Original Article

Antioxidant Activity of 45 Chinese Herbs and the Relationship with their TCM Characteristics

1Centre for Phytochemistry and Pharmacology, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia
2Department of Pharmacy, Shanxi Provincial People's Hospital, 99 Shuangtasi Street, Taiyuan, Shanxi 030012, China

Received 10 April 2006; Accepted 5 March 2007

Copyright © 2008 Hui Liao et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Here, 45 Chinese herbs that regulate blood circulation were analyzed for antioxidant activity using the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) assay. A recent publication by Ou et al. identified a close relationship between in vitro antioxidant activity and classification of Chinese herbs as yin or yang. The 45 Chinese herbs in this study could be assigned the traditional characteristics of natures (cold, cool, hot and warm), flavors (pungent, sweet, sour, bitter and salty) and functions (arresting bleeding, promoting blood flow to relieve stasis, nourishing blood and clearing away heat from blood). These characteristics are generalized according to the theory of yin and yang. We identified a broad range, 40–1990 µmol Trolox Equivalent/g herbs, of antioxidant activity in water extracts. There was no significant correlation between ORAC values and natures or functions of the herbs. There was a significant relationship between flavors and ORAC values. Bitter and/or sour herbs had the highest ORAC values, pungent and/or sweet herbs the lowest. Other flavors had intermediate values. Flavors also correspond with the yin/yang relationship and our results are supportive of the earlier publication. We reported for the first time antioxidant properties of many Chinese herbs. High antioxidant herbs were identified as Spatholobus suberectus vine (1990 µmol TE/g), Sanguisorba officinalis root (1940 µmol TE/g), Agrimonia pilosa herb (1440 µmol TE/g), Artemisia anomala herb (1400 µmol TE/g), Salvia miltiorrhiza root (1320 µmol TE/g) and Nelembo nucifera leaf (1300 µmol TE/g). Antioxidant capacity appears to correlate with the flavors of herbs identified within the formal TCM classification system and may be a useful guide in describing their utility and biochemical mechanism of action.