MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

On this blog, I have discussed the lamentable quality of TCM products before (e. g. here, here and here). In a nutshell, far too high percentages of them are contaminated with toxic substances or adulterated with prescription drugs. It is no question: these deficits put many consumers at risk. Equally, there is no question that the problem has been known for decades.

For the Chinese exporters, such issues are a great embarrassment, not least because TCM-products are amongst the most profitable of all the Chinese exports. In the past, Chinese officials have tried to ignore or suppress the subject as much as possible. I presume they fear that their profits might be endangered by being open about the dubious quality of their TCM-exports.

Recently, however, I came across a website where unusually frank and honest statements of Chinese officials appeared about TCM-products. Here is the quote:

China is to unroll the fourth national survey of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) resources to ensure a better development of the industry, said a senior health official…

With the public need for TCM therapies growing, the number of medicine resources has decreased and people have turned to the cultivated ones. However, due to a lack of standards, the cultivated TCM resources are sometimes less effective or even unsafe for human use, said Wang Guoqiang, director of the State Administration of TCM, at a TCM seminar held in Kunming, Yunnan Province in southwest China.

There is a pressing need to protect TCM resources, Wang said. “I’ve heard people saying that medicine quality will spell doom for the TCM industry, which I must admit, is no exaggeration,” he said.

The survey has been piloted in 922 counties in 31 provinces in China since 2011. According to its official website, it will draw a clear picture of the variety, distribution, storage and growth trends of TCM resources, including herbs, animals, minerals and synthetic materials.

TCM includes a range of traditional medical practices originating in China. It includes such treatments as herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage (tuina), exercise (qigong) and dietary therapy.

Although well accepted in the mainstream of medical care throughout East Asia, TCM is considered an alternative medical system in much of the western world and has been a source of controversy. A milestone in the recognition of TCM came when Chinese pharmaceutical chemist Tu Youyou won a Nobel Prize in 2015 for her discovery of Artemisinin, a medicinal herb, to help treat malaria.

END OF QUOTE

Surely, these are remarkable, perhaps even unprecedented statements by Chinese officials:

…cultivated TCM resources are sometimes less effective or even unsafe for human use…

…medicine quality will spell doom for the TCM industry…

Let’s hope that, after such words, there will be appropriate actions… finally.

8 Responses to Chinese officials admit that their TCM-exports are of dubious quality

  • “A milestone in the recognition of TCM came when Chinese pharmaceutical chemist Tu Youyou won a Nobel Prize in 2015 for her discovery of Artemisinin”

    Not really ‘recognition of TCM’, more like a recognition of chemistry and biochemistry methods.

    However, this article highlight quite well the ‘natural is never toxic anyway’. If the same kind of report happened in pharmaceutical products…

  • “A milestone in the recognition of TCM came when Chinese pharmaceutical chemist Tu Youyou won a Nobel Prize in 2015 for her discovery of Artemisinin, a medicinal herb, to help treat malaria.”

    This is not right!
    If you recognise TCM that means you recognise the principles (ying/yang etc) on which it is build. The discovery of artemisinin show that some plants, very few at that, used in TCM may indeed contain useful compounds. If this happens it is considered medicine and artemisinin is produced and used similarly to any western drug. They do tend to abuse the very few examples such as artemisinin to mislead the public that the pseudoscientific principles of TCM is indeed correct – which it is not.

  • At first I thought this was a gag.
    ‘Tu’ – French for ‘you’ – ‘Youyou’.
    I wondered if she also discovered Micoxafloppin for chaps who might need it, but no, she is a real person, and deserves congratulations for moving TCM a small step forward.
    Only two thousand more years to go!

  • YouYou Tu has the nobel prize for medicine for 2015.

    • Iqbal Krishna

      Do you ever read the threads you make comments on? Are you drunk or just unbelievably stupid?

      From paragraph 9 in the original post: “A milestone in the recognition of TCM came when Chinese pharmaceutical chemist Tu Youyou won a Nobel Prize in 2015 for her discovery of Artemisinin, a medicinal herb, to help treat malaria.”

      There were only four responses for you to to get through in the comments. Comment no. 1 (Quark) requotes paragraph 9 and comments: “Not really ‘recognition of TCM’, more like a recognition of chemistry and biochemistry methods.” Comment no. 2 (Frank van der Kooy) also requotes para. 9 and makes a more extensive comment that the Nobel Prize for You You Tu is not recognition per se of TCM. Comment no. 3 (Edzard) points out that “I know – we dedicated an entire blog post to this issue: http://edzardernst.com/2015/10/a-nobel-prize-for-tcm/“. Comment no. 4 (Richard Rawlins) makes a pun on YouYou Tu’s name.

      Then you come along telling us that “YouYou Tu has the nobel prize for medicine for 2015.” How the heck are readers supposed to react to this other than with an ad hominem? You appear to be a brainless idiot.

  • The Chinese were using artemisin as an antimalarial 18 centuries ago

  • Along with 199 other herbs which were not found effective. Even artemisinin was only found to have activity when extracted by a relatively unknown procedure. When YouYou extracted by ‘traditiional’ means, no activity was found. Whether it was effective is doubtful, no standardisation was applied until recently so variation in herb quality, identification and decay through age would have occurred.

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