23/04/03

The new face of Chinese traditional medicine

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Chinese woman selling
traditional medicines at a market
China, Hong Kong and Taiwan are boosting efforts to screen the 10,000 or so plants described in the Chinese herbal medicine literature. They hope that such efforts, together with investigation of the herbal remedies themselves, will lead to an array of new drugs.

Traditional Chinese medicine has even made it onto the region’s political agenda. China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, for example, has made the modernisation of traditional chinese medicine one of 12 focal points in its current Five-Year Plan, with US$3.6 million budgeted for screening both conventional chemical compounds and medicinal herbs for drug leads.

In this feature article, Dennis Normile examines some of the success of the region’s attempts to unlock the secrets of ancient herbal remedies, and reports on differing predictions of how well current efforts will pay off.

Link to Science feature article

Reference: Science 299, 188 (2003)

Photo credit: Andrea Fisch