Traditional Chinese medicine refers to a collection of health practices that originated in China, some of them over thousands of years ago. Most people have a passing familiarity with some of the practices, including acupuncture, cupping, tai chi, and qi gong. With such a diverse range of practices, and the modern interest in alternative medicines, traditional Chinese medicine has experienced a surge in popularity, but it may have you wondering if the excitement is justified and backed by science. Research into traditional Chinese medicinal practices is still relatively new, which means that while it is too early to form conclusions, there are promising studies demonstrating the efficacy of traditional Chinese medicine.
In this U.S. scientific review, researchers found that herbal formulas containing Radix glycyrrhizae (or licorice root, as it is often called by TCM practitioners) seemed to be effective as a therapy for asthma symptoms and improved lung function. The study was followed up 3 years later to find that patients taking the herbal supplement based on Chinese medicinal herbs reported positive results and no side effects. That said, the study is small and needs further replication before it can be considered conclusive.
This reputable Chinese study examined the interaction that traditional herbs have on the immune system and bone health closely. Certain herbs are often prescribed to people with osteoporosis, which is on the rise in China, and what they were able to conclude was that because many of these herbs support regulating the immune system, and because immune and bone cells coexist in our bone cavities, supporting immune system regulation can be an effective treatment. They also noted, however, that the chemical mechanisms of the plants were “multiroute and multitargeted” which increases the chance of there being confounding factors, and the need for further study before conclusions can be drawn.
There are studies being done to understand the efficacy of various TCM practices all over the world, as people want to understand how these ancient medicinal practices continue to thrive and adapt even in the modern health landscape. While we highlighted two studies that suggest Chinese medicinal herbs as therapeutically effective, we encourage you to stay up-to-date on the latest research yourself. A few places to find reputable information about TCM
Traditional Chinese medicinal practices are often considered safe. Many of them involve minor lifestyle and dietary adjustments rather than drugs or surgery, which reduces the risk of having side effects, but it is important to make sure that your practitioner is licensed and staying up-to-date on scientific research. The AHRPA has a Chinese Medicine Board that specifically regulates and tracks all the qualified practitioners and educational institutes in Australia so you can search their database to make sure that the practitioner you plan on visiting is safe and reliable before you make an appointment.
At the Sydney Institute of Traditional Medicine, we make an effort to remain informed about the latest scientific research and encourage all of our students to the do the same while honouring the ancient wisdom of Chinese medicinal practices at the same time. We hope to see more advancements in our scientific knowledge as people continue to look for alternative medicines. If you are interested in learning more about traditional Chinese medicine based on our own research and experience, we encourage you to download our eBook, where we go over much of this information in greater detail. If you are interested in taking some of our classes or becoming a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, we’ll hope you’ll enquire today!
Click below to download our FREE guide on Studying Traditional Chinese Medicine.