OPINIONS Commentary: Int'l acceptance remains TCM's greatest challenge


Commentary: Int'l acceptance remains TCM's greatest challenge

By Terry Guanlin Li | People's Daily app

07:24, July 18, 2018


In recent years, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) brands have emerged in global markets. Despite opportunities for overseas expansion, the non-traditional methods, pharmaceutical components, and public stereotypes continue to be serious challenges for its acceptance among foreigners. 

Beijing Tong Ren Tang (TRT), a Chinese pharmaceutical company founded in 1669 and the largest TCM producer, has opened branches in the US. Meanwhile, Tai An Tang (TAT), another well-known TCM brandname, has also started to open branches in the US. 

TCM is an ancient medicinal practice dating back some 2,500 years, and has earned a reputation for fighting diseases and wellness cultivation.  

In the mid 1600s, Polish Jesuit missionary Michal Boym traveled to China and wrote the first book about TCM that would later introduce its customs and practices to Europe.  

Although TCM is already known in the Western world, a lack scientific and academic scholarship has hindered growth and development among today’s medical landscape.  


TCM practitioners held events to promot traditional Chinese medicine (File photo: ifeng.com)

According to a report from the US National Institute of Health, TCM has over 200,000 unique components, and yet only a few have received professional study while most are still completely unknown.

Due to pressure from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), much of TCM is forbidden. Its unique characteristics target multiple symptoms all at once which makes it difficult for traditional study methods to be applied. Western research models typically use “one component, one target” methods. Furthermore, some TCM has proven to be effective in fighting cancer. 

According to a study from Oncology Nurse Advisor (ONA), TCM was effective with specific cancer treatments. Researchers from Australia along with Chinese University scientists studied 3,000 cancer patients, and they found that the Chinese medicine “offered significant treatment for most types of cancers,” even breast cancer.

Of the total cases studied, 90 percent received herbal medicine treatment while 72 percent applied TCM with conventional treatments. Although the study treated a variety of cancers, TCM had a positive impact on at least 85 percent of symptoms such as reducing pain, extending survival rates, tumor reduction, lower relapse rates, and less all-around complications. The researchers found herbal medicine was the best holistic cancer treatment, while traditional Chinese medicine was proven to be effective in treating cancer.

Another study found that Western-style care supplemented by TCM could lead to optimal outcomes for patients with certain types of cancer. 

Unlike other countries that have a medical system where general practitioners are tested, verified, and need certification, TCM practitioners do not answer to federal regulations or guidelines.  And it’s this uncertified image that functions as a stereotype that only distances patients from what could very well be a practical cure.  

TCM system and its participants have realized the lack of a universal standard and made huge improvements on it over the years. Chinese medicine practitioners are requested to go through processes and get verified by eligible agencies to obtain a license for their qualification. 

Australia requires TCM practitioners to be licensed professionals before they can legally practice, but the industry still has a long way to go when it comes to changing foreign perception and opinion.

Once TCM receives the academic focus that it deserves, the world will wake up to its potential. Going global is a difficult challenge for any brand, but for TCM, once the breakthrough is achieved, it would be a hard-fought opportunity that would benefit the world. 

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