Origin and evolution of China Pharmacopoeia and its implication for traditional medicines

Mini Rev Med Chem. 2015;15(7):595-603. doi: 10.2174/1389557515666150415150803.


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a history that can be dated back to several thousand years ago. The extant earliest medical book is Huangdi Neijing (Canon of Internal Medicine, 770 BC~221 BC), and the earliest pharmacy monograph is Shengnong Bencao Jing (Shengnong Materia Medica, AD25~AD220). The most influential pharmacy monograph is the Bencao Gangmu (Compendium of Materia Medica, AD1368~AD1644). There were also many other far-reaching influencial monographs, which become the main and the most important derived resources of modern China pharmacopoeia for TCM. In this paper, we try to introduce some representative medicine and pharmacy works of ancient China, and elaborate the origin, development and improvement process of modern China pharmacopoeia, which may have referential significance for traditional and natural drugs. China Pharmacopoeia and TCM still have to face many problems in authenticity discrimination, action mechanism, and adverse reaction, etc. The improvement of China Pharmacopoeia still has room for progress with the solutions of modern analytical methods to the problems. The start-up and development of Herbalomics project will be helpful to further improve the China Pharmacopoeia, especially Chinese patented medicine and compound prescription.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / history
  • History, 15th Century
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Materia Medica / history*
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / history*
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / methods
  • Pharmacopoeias as Topic / history*
  • Plants, Medicinal
  • Publications / history*


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Materia Medica