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Origins, benefits, efficacy, and methodology
Chinese medicine is a treasure for human healthcare due to its rich experience that has accumulated for thousands of years.1 Over-the-counter Chinese medicines are preferred over conventional Western medicines in China because the Chinese believe in natural products and alternative medicines.2
What is Chinese medicine? Where did it originate?
Chinese medicine is a system of medicine oriented toward the patient using a holistic approach to treating the subject, instead of the disease.1
Traditional Chinese medicine is now gaining more and more attention from scientists and suffering patients due to its mild nature, effect on multiple targets, and emphasis on retaining the balance in an individual. However, very little is known about the interaction between traditional Chinese medicine and an organism. Because of the dearth of information about the active compounds present and the synergistic actions of the various parts, it is difficult to evaluate the holistic efficacy of traditional Chinese medicine.4
Historically, Chinese medicines are made as decoctions using a unique methodology with particular combinations of various herbs as a formula.5
How is Chinese medicine beneficial?
Here is a list of benefits to be obtained from Chinese medicine:
- Effective in treating acute mountain sickness.1
- Acupuncture has been found to be effective in treating pain in patients with whiplash associated disorders. However, it is not effective in decreasing disability.1
- As an adjunct therapy, Chinese medicine may improve the symptoms and the quality of life for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.1
- In China, astralagus-containing Chinese herbal preparations are combined with chemotherapy for patients of lung cancer.1
- Chinese medicine has shown to better the core symptoms of postinfectious cough, having a quicker antitussive effect, and improving the quality of life of the patient.1
- Chinese medicine is used for treating cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases in hospitals.2
- Chinese medicine is also used for treating musculoskeletal diseases, gynecological diseases, urinary system diseases, and respiratory diseases in hospitals.2
- Alismatis Rhizoma Decoction, a classical traditional Chinese medicine, is used for the treatment of vertigo.3
- Tongxinluo has a protective effect on the blood-brain barrier and may be effective in acute stroke.4
- Danggui Buxue Tang, a simple herbal decoction made from the roots of Astralagus membranaceus and the roots of Angelica sinensis, is prescribed in China for menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, mood swings, sweating, and anxiety.5
- Danmu injection, made from Nauclea officinalis, is used for the treatment of fever, cold, and swelling of the throat in China.6
Studies/research on its efficacy
Due to the lack of scientific evidence, the scientific validity of Chinese medicine is in question. World Health Organization (WHO) and the Cochrane Database have documented that Chinese medicine is effective in the treatment of many diseases, especially chronic disorders.1
How is Chinese medicine administered?
Chinese medicine has a broad spectrum of treatment methods that include herbal, acupuncture, qigong, proprietary Chinese medicine and moxibustion.
- Based on the pattern of disharmony identified, the therapy to be used is selected and customized.1
How can you get started with Chinese medicine?
The six most popular categories of Chinese medicine, along with their examples are:
- Cold medicine (999 Ganmaoling granule, Xiaochaihu granule, Vitamin C Yinqiao tablet, Antiviral oral-liquid, Lianhua Qingwen capsule)
- Respiratory system medicine (Milian Chuanbei Pipa paste, 999 Qiangli Pipa lu, Shedan Chuanbei liquid, Chuanbei Pipa paste, Jubong tanke liquid)
- Digestive system agent (Huoxiang Zhengqi liquid, Jianwei Xiaoshi tablets, 999 Weitai granules, Stomach-recovering capsule, Health pill)
- Gynecological medicine (Fuyankang tablets, Gynecologic Qianjin tablets, Wuji Baifen Wan, Huahong tablets, Kanggongyan tablets)
- Health tonic medicine (Donkey-hide gelatin, Liuwei Dihuang pill, Renal Aid, Buzhong Yiqi pill, Anshen Bunao syrup)
- Heat-clearing and detoxifying medicine (Banlangen granules, Niuhuang Jiedu tablets, Zhongsheng pill, Sanhuang tablets, Pudilan Xiaoyan tablets)2
Any precautions, contraindications, interactions
Toxic contaminants in over-the-counter Chinese medicine are frequently cited as a safety issue.
- Research has also been conducted to determine the dosages and schedules required to avoid adverse side effects.
- Safety problems have been frequently reported despite the fact that most Chinese medicines are manufactured from natural products.
- High concentrations of heavy metals were found in an aloe compound capsule and acute kidney injury was caused by Han fangji (Stephania tetrandra).2
- With the widespread use of traditional Chinese medicine injections, many serious adverse effects have been reported due to the lack of a reliable and feasible quality control to monitor the changes occurring in the medicine’s properties during the process of preparing the course, transportation, storage and the final use in the clinic.6
- Cho WC, Lee MS, Lao L, Litscher G. Systematic review and meta-analysis in Chinese medicine. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:859309. doi:10.1155/2014/859309. Epub 2014 Aug 27. PubMed PMID: 25243013; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4163305
- Ge S, He TT, Hu H. Popularity and customer preferences for over-the-counter Chinese medicines perceived by community pharmacists in Shanghai and Guangzhou: a questionnaire survey study. Chin Med. 2014 Sep 13;9:22. doi: 10.1186/1749-8546-9-22. eCollection 2014. PubMed PMID: 25243017; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4169131
- Song C, Huang X, Lu K, Peng M, Yu S, Fang N. The rationality of the hypolipidemic effect of alismatis rhizoma decoction, a classical chinese medicine formula in high-fat diet-induced hyperlipidemic mice. Iran J Pharm Res. 2014 Spring;13(2):641-9. PubMed PMID: 25237360; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4157040.
- Cheng X, Luo H, Zhou L, Wang L, Sun J, Huang Y, Luo E, Cai Y. Neuroprotective effect of the traditional Chinese herbal formula Tongxinluo: a PET imaging study in rats. Neural Regen Res. 2014 Jul 1;9(13):1267-74. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.137573. PubMed PMID: 25221578; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4160852.
- Zierau O, Zheng KY, Papke A, Dong TT, Tsim KW, Vollmer G. Functions of Danggui Buxue Tang, a Chinese Herbal Decoction Containing Astragali Radix and Angelicae Sinensis Radix, in Uterus and Liver are Both Estrogen Receptor-Dependent and -Independent. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:438531. doi: 10.1155/2014/438531. Epub 2014 Aug 19. PubMed PMID: 25214874; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4156991.
- Zhu FX, Wang JJ, Li XF, Sun E, Jia XB. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of the major constituents in traditional Chinese medicine Danmu injection using LC-ESI-MS(n) and LC-DAD. Pharmacogn Mag. 2014 Jul;10(39):254-64. doi: 10.4103/0973-1296.137365. PubMed PMID: 25210312; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4159918