Traditional Chinese Medicine firms should target international dietary supplements market, China Premier says

TCM suppliers should look into developing mainstream dietary supplements using Western medical knowledge © iStock

China’s Premier Li Keqiang says Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) manufacturers should look to develop mainstream dietary supplements using Western medical knowledge in order to boost export potential.

Speaking on recent visit to the Yunnan Baiyao Group Co – a supplier of TCM products which claim to stop wounds bleeding, he said: "I hope your company can introduce innovative ways from Western medicine to make such products."

Li added that TCM has great potential to develop dietary supplements to expand reach in overseas markets.

Yunnan Province is famous for its abundant medicinal plant species, and the Yunnan Baiyao Co has collected more than 100,000 plants used for medicinal purposes.

The company is also supplying bandages, toothpastes and curing sprays for sprains.

"Many companies around the world are using natural plants to make medicine. So I hope your company can make more progress in the Chinese market and expand in the international market," Li said.

Some players within the TCM industry are starting to accept the need for sound scientific evidence of the efficacy of their products if they are to expand out of domestic markets.

We have previously reported on studies from Australia that show how a complex mix of plant compounds used in TCM can kill cancer cells, as well as others exploring the properties of Chinese liquorice and cordyceps.

Meanwhile, at a conference late last year, Singapore’s Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said TCM could play a pivotal role in treating an ageing society, provided it is backed up by science.

Margaret Chan, director-general for the World Health Organisation, said scepticism of TCM would have to be overcome to enable it to play a full role in healthcare regimes – which also means more evidence-based research is needed due to relatively few clinical trials taking place.

“Some critics dismiss the entirety of this ancient art as nothing but pseudoscience or snake oil medicine. We need to find the evidence to prove it wrong, or to prove that traditional medicine is of great value,” she said.

She also called for greater research funding for TCM.

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