17 Nov 2021

The similarity between Ayurveda & TCM & Botanical Drugs in TCM

Post by uday patel

Both the Indian and the traditional Chinese Systems of Medicine are ancient healing sciences.  The former originated in the Vedic Era which is believed to be more than five thousand years old. The oldest Chinese medical therapy was compiled in the 1st Century BC.

There is an immense difference behind the mechanism of the two systems of healing, and paradoxically a commonality based on botanical drugs since both systems base their formulation on the herbal matter. Herbal medicine ingredients might be the only confluence between the two since the Ayurvedic system uses little animal matter as to the Chinese System. Though the latter inculcates different aspects, both the systems are labeled as pseudoscience or alternative medicine in absence of a veritable mechanism of action. The term alternative is more suitable as they are in reality an alternative to modern medicine.

medicinal herbs
Medicinal herbs

Of late, the Chinese have put more stress on research and evidence-based adoption of its formulation comprising many ingredients. Though Ayurveda too is proceeding in this direction greater amount of work has to be done. TCM took shape as Chinese medicine as modernizers considering the traditional system too backward had decided to integrate concepts of modern medicine

TCM or Chinese Medicine is based on the Compendium of Materia Medica and comprises text on cultural ethos, acupuncture, tai chi, bonesetter, and qigong besides dietary therapy. Materia medica lists plants, minerals, metals, and animal parts that have a therapeutic impact. The use of animal parts has created tremendous stress on biodiversity especially in the case of critically endangered species like the tiger, bear, pangolin, and rhinoceros’ horns to name a few. The rise in zoonotic disease is also attributed to the system since consumption of exotic life forms transfers pathogens against whom we have no or little defense mechanism. Notably many SARS diseases have originated in China with Covid 19 proving to be the most disastrous.

TCM Store
TCM Medicine Store

Ayurveda on the other hand has put greater emphasis on vegetable matter, and most of its formulations comprise exudes, liquid extracts, and powders, all from herbs, shrubs, fruits, and roots. The formulations are being sold as branded medicine manufactured by major pharmaceutical companies in the country.  

Chinese Herbal Medicines  

  • Astragalus
  • Horny goat weed
  • Birthworts
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Chinese cucumber
  • Red yeast rice
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Ginseng
  • Gotu kola
  • Yu Xing Cao

None of the systems are popular in each other’s country but some of the herbs used could be common or belong to the same family.   Take ginseng, for example, it has stark similarities with Ashwagandha used in Ayurveda, both are used as tonic and immune system enhancers besides leading to appreciable mental alacrity. Ginseng has diverse therapeutic uses like Ashwagandha. It is sold in packets as tablets and also in powdered form.

Horned goat weed is similar to Gokhuru used in Ayurveda medicine. Both are used for treating erectile dysfunction. East Indian Rhubarb is another such example.  

Like their counterpart, TCM medicines generally comprise a cocktail of herbs. The mix is created by the practitioner keeping the major illness in focus, most of the formulations are created for individuals although readymade or branded cocktails are also available in the market. In this therapy, most of the ingredients are added as a catalyst, or for reducing the toxicity of others.

Chinese herbology incorporated all parts of the plants as is often done in TIM. These herbs have been used for centuries. The first manual on pharmacology was published by Shannon Bencao who listed more than 300 species to be used for pharmacological purposes. The generations to arrive after him listed more species with medicinal properties to augment the capacity of TCM as a healing system.   

The popularity of TCM like Ayurveda is growing exponentially as an alternative recourse for wellness. At the present juncture, its popularity is more than TIM, and almost one in five Americans use TCM. European Union imports nearly the same amount of TCM as the USA.

China exports nearly 400,000 tons of TCM valued at 3.6 billion. While Indians too consume TCM in some form or another, the status of Ayurveda in China is not known but looking at the potential herbal medicine consumption in Chinese traditions there is a lot of scope for TIM.

China is one of the top importers of herbal medicines from India. It imports nearly 17 million USD worth of herbal products and medicine from our country. Besides our export to the USA stand at 1billion and 34 million USD to Germany. The country exports herbal medicines to 164 countries.

In order to increase exports of herbal medicine, encouragement is being provided by relevant export promotion councils, AYUSH Ministry, and relevant Central and State Government departments. 

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