Does Traditional Chinese Medicine work

Gingko bilobaMany of the health claims of herbal medicine bear fruit for the pharmaceutical industry, leading to new drugs that are more potent and more targeted than the original remedy. In Traditional Chinese medicine there are many health claims for the likes of Ginkgo biloba and many other remedies that might bear closer scrutiny. Now, pharmaceutical chemist David Barlow and colleagues Peter Hylands and Thomas Ehrman at King’s College London have undertaken the biggest study yet of the active ingredients in TCM and used an analytical system known as a multiple decision tree technique, called Random Forest, to unearth the root of the activity of the natural products in TCM.

Their study seems to vindicate many of the claims of TCM as well revealing several compounds that might be indicated for diseases and symptoms not treated with in the traditional system.

The team built a database containing well over 8000 compounds from 240 of the most commonly used TCM herbs and used a second database of almost 2600 known active plant chemicals and other natural products as a training set for the Random Forest computer algorithm. The team found that about 62% of the herbs they tested in silico against various drug targets (mostly enzymes associated with pathogens or problems in the body) contained candidate drug compounds that might be isolated for treating a single disease without the associated issues of a TCM approach. They also found that more than half of these compounds worked against at least two diseases and so might have multiple applications.

You can read more about this research today on SpectroscopyNOW news round up from David Bradley. I asked Barlow about the wider application of this research and he said it might be applied equally well to other databases. “The same methodology might also be applied in screening other similar databases, constructed, for example, with reference to herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine,” he said.

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27 thoughts on “Does Traditional Chinese Medicine work

  1. i’m sorry but i know little on the topic of medicene, not due to ignorance but to lack of time to attain sufficent knowledge to have any degree of understanding…BUT surely if TCMs did cure the different illnesses they claim to, then why aren’t they widley renowned throughout the MEDCs of the world, where modern medicene is leading, and only in a developing country, China, which although does have a large developed “hub” it is still largely a rural aimed country. This brings me onto the point that most of China’s population is still living in a more similar way of life to than that of what we lived say 300 years ago, so consequently due to lack of development in areas, they no no better/alternative, and that most of the TCM is down to mythology.
    A point mentioned earlier in this discussion is, i believe a very important one, that there is no data on success rates for the types of methods that TCM uses and there are no rich TCM practitioners, surely if these cures worked they would be wide spread, just like other things that helped the human race advance such as cancer treatment or internet

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