The present and future of Oriental Medicine

21st April 2023 by Jayasree Prabhakaran | Pharmaceutical

Oriental Medicine


Still, there is a talk spread across the community of people to follow traditional therapies and medicines for pain relief, common cold, and even for dementia rather than popping the pill for every symptom. This proves that the system of traditional medicine is connected with the belief system of a larger part of society since it emerged in the world ages ago and these practices have been transferred from generation to generation. Oriental medicine is one such category in the traditional medical system, which is commonly called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It revolves around the concept of a vital force of life named Qi. It is a form of holistic medicine that has its roots in ancient Chinese culture and philosophy. It encompasses a range of practices, including acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, and various forms of bodywork.

The origins of Oriental medicine can be traced back more than 2,500 years to the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism, which emphasized the interdependence of all things and the importance of living in harmony with nature. The earliest known writings on Oriental medicine are the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (Huangdi Neijing), which was compiled around 300 BCE. Over the centuries, it has evolved and been influenced by other cultures and medical systems, such as Buddhism, Confucianism, and Ayurveda from India. In the 20th century, it spread to other parts of the world and gained popularity as an alternative or complementary approach to conventional Western medicine. Today, Oriental medicine is widely practiced in China, Japan, Korea, and other parts of Asia, as well as in many other countries around the world. Its principles and techniques are also being studied and integrated into Western medical practices, such as in the fields of pain management, acupuncture anesthesia, and integrative oncology.

Acceptance of Oriental medicine worldwide:

Oriental medicine or Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has gained increasing acceptance in many parts of the world over the past few decades. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in these medicines among both practitioners and patients in the West, who are looking for alternative or complementary approaches to conventional Western medicine. One reason for this growing interest is that it offers a holistic approach to health and wellness that is often lacking in Western medicine. TCM practitioners consider not only the physical symptoms but also the patient's emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being when making a diagnosis and developing a treatment plan.

In addition, it has been found to be effective in treating a wide range of health conditions, such as chronic pain, stress-related disorders, allergies, and digestive problems, among others. Acupuncture, one of the most well-known oriental medicine modalities, has also been found to be effective in treating conditions such as low back pain, headaches, and osteoarthritis. The acceptance of oriental medicine at the global level is also due to the efforts of various organizations and governments to regulate and standardize these practices. In China, TCM is recognized as an important part of the country's healthcare system, and there are now over 3,000 TCM hospitals and clinics throughout the country. In the West, many countries have established regulatory bodies to oversee the practice of oriental medicine, and some have even integrated TCM into their national healthcare systems. Some of the drug products in DCM have been accepted by FDA and approved for marketization in the US. In the case of the European market, the drug Di'ao Xinxue Kang treats cardiovascular diseases has been approved for marketization in 2012, it has been the first herbal medicine to be recognized in Europe. WHO proposed a Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023 in 2013 to safeguard the IPR of every traditional drug and promote research & development in medicine and therapy. Hence, it is evident from all these approvals that health organizations around the world are accepting and supporting the growth of oriental medicine.

Challenges in Oriental medicine:

A major concern regarding oriental medicine is the lack of demonstrable, objective, and replicable evidence of its efficacy. Notably, in the European Union, regulatory authority registration for traditional herbal medicines does not require the demonstration of significant efficacy. Safety concerns are also significant, with documented risks of harm from herbal ingredients, and additional health risks may be caused by adulteration and dose variation due to the absence of recognition of standardized frameworks for quality assessment and formulation. The potential for pharmacological or pharmacokinetic interactions with other medications further poses a threat to patients, and follow-up surveillance and procedures for assessing liability outside of public health services may be weak or absent. Despite a vast scientific literature on herbal medicines, clinical studies often tend to fail to meet proper methodological criteria, resulting in less availability of high-quality evidence, as depicted by a systematic review of the literature on rheumatoid arthritis. Therefore, there is a huge demand in compiling oriental medicine to international standards to clarify further its therapeutic potentials and mechanisms of action, improve quality control, and develop big data platforms for sharing information.

Integration of Oriental and Western Medicine:

Integration of the two approaches could potentially offer the best of both worlds, with Western medicine providing rigorous scientific validation and Oriental medicine providing a more holistic approach to health and wellness. This integration could lead to more personalized and effective treatment plans, better patient outcomes, and improved quality of life.

According to the statistics, 13.6% of total Western medicine hospitals in China provide oriental medicine services. It also mentioned that around 120 countries in the world practice oriental medicine in different forms. The export of herbal medicines from China to the countries in the West has reached a value of US$ 500 million per year, especially to the US and European markets. Several countries, including China, Japan, and Korea, have already integrated Oriental medicine into their national healthcare systems, and there are now many integrative medicine clinics and hospitals in the West that offer a combination of Western and Oriental medicine.

However, there are also challenges to integrating these two approaches. One major challenge is the lack of standardization and regulation of Oriental medicine practices, which may lead to safety concerns and inappropriate treatment procedures. Another challenge is the necessity for increased communication and collaboration between Western and Oriental medicine practitioners, as well as increased education and training for both groups to understand each other's practices. Despite these challenges, the integration of Oriental medicine with Western medicine has the potential to revolutionize healthcare and improve patient outcomes. At present, reaching the position of integrating both approaches require extensive research, education, and collaboration are important.

Oriental Medicine


Despite its growing acceptance, there are still some concerns about the safety and efficacy of oriental medicine practices. Critics argue that some of these practices may not be based on scientific evidence and may even be harmful to patients. However, with continued research and regulation, it is hoped that oriental medicine will continue to gain acceptance and recognition as a valuable form of medicine in the future too. It is recommended to translate oriental medicine from conventional into modern language, develop whole-system methods for randomized controlled trial designs, and adopt interdisciplinary approaches to education. Hence, to achieve these goals, an informed approach to health, science, and economic policies is necessary, as purely market-driven approaches may lead to negative influences that need to be mitigated.

Jayasree Prabhakaran

Research Associate

Jayasree Prabhakaran is research associate at Delvens. Her core responsibilities involve conducting primary and secondary research based on the raw datasets, and other quantitative and qualitative data acquired through data collection, analyzing and interpreting the data to deliver key insights on market trends. She engages with experts, academics, and executives to execute research goals and provide them with the best possible outcomes.

Let's Connect

Let's Talk