Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor Wins Nobel Prize

Written by Dr. David He, RAc, TCMD

On October 5, 2015 judges in Stockholm awarded the prestigious Physiology/Medicine Noble Prize to William Campbell, Satoshi Omura and Youyou Tu. Dr. Youyou Tu, a Traditional Chinese Medical Doctor (TCMD) and scientist, turned to ancient texts to discover a powerful therapy against malaria, which has significantly reduced the mortality rates for malaria patients.

Figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show malaria kills about 584,000 people per year, but deaths due to the mosquito-borne disease could have been much higher without available treatment. Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) is currently considered as the best available treatment for the potentially deadly disease and the world owes this to the awarded 2015 Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Tu, for the discovery of the malaria drug.

Dr. Tu started her malaria research in China when the Cultural Revolution was in progress. In early 1969, Dr. Tu was appointed head of the project where she collected 2000 candidate recipes, ancient texts, and folk remedies for possible leads for her research. In 1972, she and her colleagues derived medicine from qinghao (Artemisia annua, sweet wormwood) and named it qinghaosu, or artemisinin, which has saved millions of lives around the world.

The award has given pride to Chinese medical experts who believe in traditional medicine based on Chinese medical texts and traditional Chinese clinical experience.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is the oldest, safest and most comprehensive system of medical care that has a history spanning more than 5000 years. The science of Traditional Chinese Medicine is a range of medicine practices including herbal medicine, exercise, dietary therapy and acupuncture. Acupuncture is an external therapy by means of needling; it can stimulate the body and activate the regulating function of the body to improve and rectify the disturbance and dysfunction of certain organs in the body. Such a therapy can not only treat disease and conditions, but also prevent disease from occurring.

It is because of Dr. Tu’s research and the characteristics mentioned above that the Word Health Organization (WHO) has placed such importance in the scientific content, safe and effective application of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Today, Traditional Chinese Medicine is practiced in over 150 countries in the world, gradually gaining a role in healthcare, benefiting all human beings.


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