Chinese government increase funding into TCM
As Beijing shifts its growth engine to cleaner hi-tech industries, committing $1.7 trillion over the next five years to nurture them, Chinese scientists are enjoying unprecedented government support and access to funding to design better drugs and diagnostic tools for chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
Part of that effort and money is going into traditional Chinese medicines (TCM). Researchers are re-examining roots and herbs that have been used for thousands of years, seeking to find and reproduce their active ingredients and putting them through rigorous Western-style clinical tests so they may hopefully find wider acceptance - and be sold - globally.
Below are some facts on TCM:
* What is it: There are 12,807 TCM materials, including 1,146 herbal species, 1,581 animal species and 80 minerals. There are more than 100,000 medicinal recipes recorded in ancient Chinese literature.
* How are they obtained and administered: Traditionally, TCMs are made by planting and harvesting herbal medicine and then extracting key ingredients. TCMs are brewed over a low fire into medicinal beverages, but many are now made into pills, injectables and oral liquids.
* Who are the users: TCM is hugely popular in Chinese communities around the world but less understood by non-Chinese although certain TCM therapies such as acupuncture have been gaining more recognition globally. By subjecting TCMs to clinical tests, Chinese scientists hope TCM will gain wider acceptance and use worldwide.
* According to the United States National Institutes of Health, a survey found 3.1 million U.S. adults had undergone acupuncture in 2006 and 17 percent of them had used herbs.
* The best known TCM that is used around the world is artemisinin, which is the best available treatment for malaria. Artemisinin is derived from the leaves of the annual wormwood shrub, or Artemisia annua.
The World Health Organisation recommends artemisinin-based combination therapy in order to maximize the lifespan of the compound and reduce resistance.