A Definitive Guide to Pao Zhi

What is Pao Zhi? What separates Huang Qin and Huang Qin (Jiu)? If you've had these questions in the past, this article is for you!

Pao Zhi is the medical processing of herbs, and it's extensive use is "a distinctive and uniquely developed feature of Chinese herbal medicine" according to Eric Brand, PhD

Most frequently, Pao Zhi is used to amplify the effects of an herb, to reduce toxicity, or both. However, there are seven distinct purposes of Pao Zhi. A single Pao Zhi process may achieve one or more of the following outcomes:

Purpose Example
1 Enhance the effect of ingredients and improve efficacy of herbs Jiao (焦) Shan Zha is burned to reduce its sourness and to augment its benefits to the digestive system
2 Reduce or eliminate the toxicity or side effects of herbs and ensure safety Fa (法) Ban Xia is soaked with water and then an alkaline solution of Gan Cao and lime to reduce the toxicity of raw Ban Xia
3 Expand the scope of its an herb's applications Jiu (酒) Huang Qin is cooked with wine to temper it's cooling effect, allowing it to be used in a wider range of applications including supporting a stable pregnancy
4 Facilitate more stable storage Traditionally, steamed Ren Shen (aka Hong Shen) is not only warmer but also more stable in storage because the steam treatment kills bacteria and pests
5 Purify the extract to ensure quality Dan (燀) Tao Ren is soaked in boiling water to remove a coating on the kernels
6 To correct odor and taste for ease of consumption Cu (醋) Wu Ling Zhi is cooked with vinegar to make it more palatable and less irritating
7 Guide herbs into specific channels to facilitate targeted effects Xiang Fu is processed with Cu (醋, vinegar) to target the liver channel or with Yan (盐, salt) to target the kidney channel


Pao Zhi is an essential part of the production process for our herbs, and we carry a wide variety of Pao Zhi herbs. The specific processing for each herb is based on a mixture of traditional knowledge, extensive chemical research, and on the standards of the Chinese Pharmacopeia. 

Some of the most common Pao Zhi methods are listed in the table below:

Name Chinese Processing Method
Sheng Unprocessed
Zhi Cook
Yan Zhi 盐炙 Cook With Salt
Jiu Zhi 酒炙 Cook in Wine
Cu Zhi 醋炙 Cook in Vinegar
Jiang Zhi 姜炙 Cook with Ginger
Mi Zhi 蜜炙 Cook with Honey
Chao  Stir-Fry
Fu Chao 麩炒 Stir-Fry with Wheat Bran
Chan/Dan Boil (or soak in boiling water)
Duan Calcinate (heat to high temperature)
Fa Soaked with other ingredients
Jiao Burn
Tan Carbonize


Sometimes "Zhi" is omitted from the names of herbs; for example, "Huang Qi (Mi Zhi)" is often known as "Huang Qi (Mi)".  Conversely, sometimes "Mi" is omitted from the names of herbs; for example "Gan Cao (Mi)" is often known as "Zhi Gan Cao".

In Chinese, Pao Zhi is usually a prefix to the name of herb (e.g. Chao Bai Zhu).  However, in English, Pao Zhi is usually a suffix to the name of herb. This is because sorting alphabetically by the name of the herb naturally groups multiple versions of the same herb together (e.g. you'll find Bai Zhu and Bai Zhu (Chao) next to each other).

Pao Zhi can have distinctive effects on the benefits and usage of a particular herb, so it's important to understand the usages of each version. For example: Gan Cao is a neutral temperature herb, but turns into a warm herb when processed with honey into Gan Cao (Mi). The Mi Zhi process also amplifies the tonifying properties of Gan Cao.

We carry unprocessed (Sheng) versions of most herbs. Very often, we also carry in Pao Zhi versions that are very hard to find or simply not available elsewhere. Some herbs are less effective without preparation or toxic without preparation - in these cases, we do not carry the unprocessed versions at all.

Nicholas Duchnowski of TCMStudy also has a great video on the topic of Pao Zhi with illustrations and explanations of each process:

If you have any additional questions about particular herbs, you can set up a consultation with Dr. Wang, or send us an email at herbs@treasureoftheeast.com