The quest for modernisation of traditional Chinese medicine

Qihe Xu*, Rudolf Bauer, Bruce M. Hendry, Tai Ping Fan, Zhongzhen ZHAO, Pierre Duez, Monique S.J. Simmonds, Claudia M. Witt, Aiping LYU, Nicola Robinson, De an Guo, Peter J. Hylands

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

153 Citations (Scopus)


Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is an integral part of mainstream medicine in China. Due to its worldwide use, potential impact on healthcare and opportunities for new drug development, TCM is also of great international interest. Recently, a new era for modernisation of TCM was launched with the successful completion of the Good Practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine Research in the Post-genomic Era (GP-TCM) project, the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) coordination action on TCM research. This 3.5-year project that involved inputs from over 200 scientists resulted in the production of 20 editorials and in-depth reviews on different aspects of TCM that were published in a special issue of Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2012; volume 140, issue 3). In this narrative review, we aim to summarise the findings of the FP7 GP-TCM project and highlight the relevance of TCM to modern medicine within a historical and international context. Advances in TCM research since the 1950s can be characterised into three phases: Phase I (1950s-1970s) was fundamental for developing TCM higher education, research and hospital networks in China; Phase II (1980s-2000s) was critical for developing legal, economic and scientific foundations and international networks for TCM; and Phase III (2011 onwards) is concentrating on consolidating the scientific basis and clinical practice of TCM through interdisciplinary, interregional and intersectoral collaborations. Taking into account the quality and safety requirements newly imposed by a globalised market, we especially highlight the scientific evidence behind TCM, update the most important milestones and pitfalls, and propose integrity, integration and innovation as key principles for further modernisation of TCM. These principles will serve as foundations for further research and development of TCM, and for its future integration into tomorrow's medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Article number132
JournalBMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2013

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine

User-Defined Keywords

  • Acupuncture
  • Chinese herbal medicine
  • Efficacy
  • Evidence-based medicine
  • History
  • Innovation
  • Integration
  • Integrity
  • Safety
  • Science


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