Avicenna & Medicinal Plants in China

13 May 2013


Avicenna Dispensary has been run by Mazin Al-Khafaji for over 25 years, and it’s thanks to his huge personal efforts and uncompromising ways that Avicenna has achieved a trend setting position within the industry that reaches far beyond UK borders.

We are one of very few dispensaries run in a truly traditional style and base all our prescriptions and in house productions on carefully designed processes, using authenticated, single herbal ingredients. The majority of these are imported directly by us from trusted suppliers in China.  This requires enormous expertise, but optimizes efficacy and quality control, and translates into direct benefits for Mazin’s and Avicenna patients.

The reputation of our unusual set up has spread far and wide, and has even reached back to China and Taiwan. Hong Kong University TCM graduates come to visit our dispensary for inspiration, and the College of Pharmacy of China Medical University in Taiwan arranges for their students to come as interns to study at Avicenna.

One of the more challenging aspects when running a herbal dispensary is to maintain the steady supply of quality ingredients with an impeccable pedigree in terms of authenticity, purity and sustainability at a reasonable price.

A great many factors are involved and the subject area is fraught with difficulties and barriers, ranging from sustainability to economic issues. This includes basic issues such as validating Good farming practices and the exclusion of substituted herbs in China, to restrictive regulatory issues in Europe and absolute requirement of specialist knowledge and experience in the every day running of herbal dispensary.

Forever in search of high quality raw materials, Mazin will be travelling to China again in June 2013 and undertake a three week study trip. Together with Kerry Carter, our long term dispensary manager and herb buyer, he will further explore the sustainable direct supply of ingredients for Avicenna Dispensary.

His travels will take him to Sichuan and to Yunnan province in the southwest of China, bordering onto the ancient regions of Tibet and Vietnam. Both provinces are famous for tea and traditional herbal cultivation, in fact over 4300 different culinary and medicinal plants indigenous to the Sichuan area have been cultivated there for hundreds of years.

Visits to the famous herbal market of Chengdu as well as to the Herbal Botanical Garden of HuaXi Medical School and to TCM Hospitals are scheduled.

Mazin will be accompanied by Chinese pharmacologists specializing in pharmacognosy (recognizing and analyzing medicinal plants and their active compounds) on his visits to several herb production areas in the hills surrounding Chengdu and for the duration of his trip through to Yunnan.

Their work is of increasing importance in China, as the sustainable supply of safe herbal ingredients that by local people are not only used as teas, but also eaten as part of their daily diet is crucial.

One of the most important areas of concern today is the sourcing of raw ingredients free of contamination, which we feel we can ensure better by having close links to our suppliers and keeping up regular audits.

Mazin’s main focus will be visits to herb plantations and growers of organically cultivated herbs to establish direct contacts with farmers.

He will explore cultivation methods, difficulties with cultivation of various types of herbs and how they are dealt with, and audit the quality of produce and suitability for direct trading, and also take some time out for good old-fashioned botanising and wild herb hunts in the mountains of the region and have discussions on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), folk medicine and modern medicine with many experts and old doctors he has arranged to visit along the way.

Bon Voyage!