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Moves to Fuse TCM with Western Medicine Gaining Traction Across Asia

With the active ingredients in Traditional Chinese Medicine now far better understood than ever before, a new range of hybrid TCM/Western treatments are wooing even the most cynical with their efficacy and lack of side-effects.

Photo: The International Conference for the Modernisation of Chinese Medicine & Health Products 2016.
The International Conference for the Modernisation of Chinese Medicine & Health Products 2016.
Photo: The International Conference for the Modernisation of Chinese Medicine & Health Products 2016.
The International Conference for the Modernisation of Chinese Medicine & Health Products 2016.

This year's International Conference on the Modernisation of Chinese Medicine & Health Products (ICMCM) was dominated by talk of how best to blend traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) with modern technology. The 2016 event also saw many exhibitors showcasing products more focussed on promoting general health and wellbeing than on treating specific ailments.

TCM has been practised for some 2,500 years and still provides a popular complementary and alternative approach for many sufferers across a range of conditions. Currently, advances in research and development have enabled a number of companies to integrate many of TCM's treatments and protocols with the latest technology and medical understanding.

Typical of the many companies taking this approach is the Hong Kong-based IPC Group. This year, the company was attending the show to promote a range of products said to use 'subtle energy' to promote anti-aging and maintain vibrant health. The firm also uses 'pico technology', together with a number of traditional Chinese approaches to healing – such as acupuncture – as constituent parts of it its Euphoria programme, an innovative and environmentally-friendly approach to personal health.

The company's aim is to improve the body's circulation (or 'chi') in line with the classic meridian system, with its range said to be suitable for both professional and personal use. A Room Energiser is included as part of the package. This device is said to balance the level of protons in the air, giving users a subtle – but sustained – energy boost, as well as sense of wellbeing. An i-Wand 2 – a device that can increase the level of chi in different parts of the body – also comes as standard.

With the aid of a sensor placed on the finger, Creamy Yu, the Salesperson manning the company's stand, demonstrated how the circulation of the blood could be immediately improved with the i-Wand 2. The wand is small and light and can be kept handy for the instant treatment of headaches or other ailment.

Another company taking a hybrid approach to TCM and western medicine is Healthy Medicine, a Hong-Kong based business certified to manufacture TCM products for external use. Ziya Ng, the company's Representative, said "Young people are quite willing to try traditional remedies alongside Western medicine. They are especially interested in products that are natural and contain no chemicals. They have a real respect for TCM's ability to help users maintain good health."

At present the company maintains a team of researchers in China, while its Hong Kong manufacturing plant produces various products said to relieve stress and lower high blood pressure, most notably Cuk Gaam Caat Relief Oil.

The company offers a range of product for all age groups, including a pain relief cream for adults and a heat rash cream that is gentle enough for use on babies. It also stocks a mulberry wine enhanced by TCM-approved herbs. At present, the company sells into Canada, South Africa and Singapore and has plans to expand into a number of other markets.

Hailing from a little further away, Taiwan-based Guang Sheng Tang International is a family firm in its third generation that specialises in TCM products derived from bird's nest extracts. The powdered form of its raw material – referred to as nana – is sourced from a certain breed of swallows found only in Indonesia.

In essence, bird's nest is more of traditional Chinese food than a medicine. It has, however, recently been identified as being rich in sialic acid, a compound known to enhance brain function and aid the immune system. This acid is also found in milk, eggs and cheese, but – at 12% – bird's nest has by far the highest concentration.

Photo: Well represented: Mainland exhibitors.
Well represented: Mainland exhibitors.
Photo: Well represented: Mainland exhibitors.
Well represented: Mainland exhibitors.
Photo: Aśoka: A hive of activity.
Aśoka: A hive of activity.
Photo: Aśoka: A hive of activity.
Aśoka: A hive of activity.

The company is now incorporating this nana powder into a variety of products, including throat sweets, candy, and a skin care range. It is thought to be particularly beneficial to the skin and has long been valued by the elderly for its positive effect on brain functions.  In Taiwan, the company has enjoyed considerable success with its NANA Chinese Herbal syrup with Bird's Nest Essence, as well as with a number of other traditional bird's nest products. It is now looking to develop its business in Europe and North America.

Ginseng – and, in particular, red ginseng – was the key element in the product ranges of both Jian Yisheng Pharmaceutical and Tonghua Baiquan Health Foods. The two companies are both based in Jiling, one of the major centres of ginseng production on the mainland.

Trading since 2003, this was GKH Pharmaceutical's fifth visit to the fair. Based in Guangzhou, the company has a high-tech processing facility where it produces a wide range of herbs in powder form. Currently, its products are sold in Australia, the UK and Germany.

Chinese doctors – especially those practicing in Hong Kong – have long valued the traditional method of combining natural ingredients for healing. Among GKH's most notable successes here is a product developed from flaccid anemone rhizome, which is said to help relieve rheumatoid arthritis. The company has now applied for the necessary licence to blend two or more herbs into specific combinations for medical usage.

Taiwan's Aśoka International, meanwhile, has spent the last 15 years researching and developing bee products .The company places its focus on quality and purity and sources raw material from the pristine environment of Taiwan's high mountain forests.

Its product range is said to be wholly natural and suitable for vegetarians. Its most popular line is its Royal Jelly Enzyme Powder, while demand is also said to be high for a number of its other powder formulas, many of which typically contain probiotics The company currently sells online, but is hoping to appoint a number of distributors in several of its target markets.

One Hong Kong company making a return visit to the fair was Samlo Health Assets, a business that markets and distributes a range of all-natural TCM health products. The majority of its range is, manufactured by Swiss Treasure Pharmaceuticals Corp, another Hong Kong business.

Its biggest seller is its Nutria Eye Meridian Clear Drops, which are said to help combat diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts. The company's range extends to a variety of liquid formulas, with treatments available for pain relief, hair growth, slimming and acne.

Explaining the company's approach, Vincent Cheung, its Representative at the show, said: "A lot of young people are willing to accept traditional Chinese medicine, but it needs to be integrated with their lifestyle."

Representing Japan, Reijin International Trade Inc had on offer a variety of health products all made from natural ingredients. It currently trades under a number of brand names, including Dr Yoso, Fretab, and Reijin.

The Dr Yoso formula is made from mushrooms and seaweed and is said to have real benefits for pregnant women, while supposedly enhancing the development of the unborn child's mental capabilities. By contrast, the Fretab range is made from barley leaves and contains lactobacillus, a substance said to help with slimming while enhancing skin health.

The Reijin label has a range of applications – slimming, elderly care, liver enhancement and nursing growing youngsters. To these ends, it uses a range of ingredients, including black ginger powder, gingko leaf powder and peptides. The company currently sells through an agent in Hong Kong and is seeking representation in other parts of Southeast Asia.

Photo: Endless possibilities: For many, the proper exploitation of TCM has only just begun.
Endless possibilities: For many, the proper exploitation of TCM has only just begun.
Photo: Endless possibilities: For many, the proper exploitation of TCM has only just begun.
Endless possibilities: For many, the proper exploitation of TCM has only just begun.

The International Conference for the Modernisation of Chinese Medicine & Health Products 2016 took place at the Hong Kong Conference and Exhibition Centre from 11-13 August.

Diana Rose, Special Correspondent, Hong Kong

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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