A.T. Still University School of
Osteopathic Medicine ‘21
Jaseng’ s herbal dispensary was a much anticipated event. With my background in engineering, touring and learning about manufacturing processes is nostalgic of my undergraduate days. Though I chose a career in medicine over a career in engineering, I am still in awe of the processes behind manufacturing medicines.
The dispensary is located roughly 40min from Jaseng Hospital. The dispensary manufactures herbal prescriptions for the 12 Jaseng clinics in the Seoul area. Prescriptions from the 8 other clinics outside of Seoul are manufactured in Jaseng’s Haeundae site. Prior to our tour we were given a cup of hot herbal tea and disposable white coats to be worn during our tour.
Global interns ready to tour!
We began the tour in the dispensary room where we observed Korean medical pharmacists prepare the herbal contents of each prescription. Prescriptions were confirmed and processed as they came in to ensure next day delivery to patients.
Next we entered the herbal storage room, a temperature and humidity controlled room, where the herbal ingredients were stored in their natural states. The tour guide explained the origins of Jaseng’s key herbal ingredients, some of which were imported from other countries – antlers from Russia and licorice root from China. Theses countries facilitated the optimum environment to bring out the efficacy of the herbal ingredients needed.
Deer antler – stored in original form in the herbal storage room
We then made our way to decoction room where the raw ingredients were processed. The room emulated a smaller scale version of the manufacturing sites I’ve toured in the past. Each individual herbal preparation is fed into a decoction machine – a device that reminded me of a mini bioreactor. The herbal preparations remained in the device for 3-4 hours depending on the mixture to extract the necessary compounds for therapeutic efficacy.
From each decoction machine, the liquid herbal product was directly transferred for packaging through pharmaceutical grade stainless steel pipes. After transferring of the liquid herbal prescription, the pipes underwent a thorough cleaning process prior to the next transfer to prevent contamination.
In the packaging section of the manufacturing suite, we observed the liquid herbal product fed into spout pouches. The spout pouches were weighed manually and then packaged into sets of 10.
Manual weighing and packaging of medication in spout pouches
Moving on from the observing the production process of the liquid prescription form, we observed the making of Gwanjulgo, an herbal medication in a soft chew form. Gwanjulgo has been shown to stimulate cartilage regeneration and bone growth as observed in a research study conducted by Jaseng and Kyunghee University School of Korean Medicine. Gwanjulgo is a common herbal therapy for women, especially those suffering from arthritis or any joint problems. As mentioned, this specific product came in a soft chew formula. We observed employees manually weigh and prepare the raw Gwanjulgo for aging (1 week process). After aging, the soft chew is coated with honey for flavor, packaged into gold foil, neatly organized into boxes that looked more like a holiday gift box than a box of medicine.
Packaged Gwanjulgo soft chew
The next medicine we observed was the making of Yookgongdan, an herbal medication for Alzheimer’s and chronic fatigue. The research on the substance demonstrated an improvement in memory, prevention of brain cell loss, and an increase in brain capacity/function. This study was the result joint research conducted by Jaseng Hospital and UC Irvine School of Medicine.
The base of this herbal medicine is the deer antler, which we saw earlier during the tour. The product started as a power form which is carefully rolled and packaged into small packets with the optimal amount of medicine.
My experience at Jaseng’s herbal dispensary was pleasant and informative. I was humbled to learn that these herbal medicines are prepared under the same strict standards that any other drug formulation would be exposed to.