Traditional Chinese Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology


Dr. Anita Chen Marshall


Traditional Chinese Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology

by Anita Chen Marshall


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) represents thousands of years in treatment protocols for health, healing, and longevity and has evolved into a complex healthcare system. The following chapter is designed to give a basic concise overview of TCM principles and practices, in relation to clinical pharmacology, and focuses on mutually relevant areas of interest. Much as society learned to harness electrical currents to empower machinery, TCM theories of energetic patterns help to empower the functionality of the human body. The major theories include the vital life force, known as Qi, Yin and Yang, Five Elements, herbal medicine, multivariate diagnostics, syndrome differentiation, and acupuncture, among others. In TCM, there is a direct relationship to the energy of nature and the energetic patterns within the human body and the human consciousness. This comprehensive approach is gaining momentum in clinical and network pharmacology, as new technologies emerge regarding TCM collaborative compounds versus singular chemical constituents in treatment modalities. Of major importance to clinical pharmacology are recent TCM evidenced-based empirical studies, correlations, and interactions between herbs and pharmaceuticals, updated data on toxicity, adverse reactions, quality assurance, and herbal medicine standardization. Global concerns over antimicrobial resistance to drugs have put a spotlight on TCM herbal medicines as alternatives with greatly reduced resistance factors. From ancient archives to the Nobel Prize to a formal endorsement by the World Health Organization as a global healthcare system, TCM has widened the lens of modern science. It offers the wisdom and experience of millennia to inspire the think tank of today’s medicine and pharmacology and tomorrow’s generations of integrative healthcare advancements.



Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is renowned and respected among the world’s time-honored systems of wellness and healing. Although legend and mythology allude to TCM origins as far back as 5000 years BCE, it was during China’s Shang dynasty (1766–1122 BCE) TCM was systematized among the highly esteemed traditional herbalists and healing practitioners of the imperial courts. The first authenticated text to reference the concept of Yin and Yang (阴阳), which is the most important and distinctive theory of TCM, was the “Book of Changes” (Yi Jing 易經), dating back to around 700 BCE. Together with the concept of Qi (), vital life force, also translated as Chi (pronounced as “chee”), they provide the basic foundation for TCM’s comprehensive mind, body, and spirit ideology and practice. On May 25, 2019, TCM was officially adopted into the 11th version of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). This document represents the formal global classification of diseases by the World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organization (WHO). This official compendium has recognized TCM as a traditional healthcare system and endorsed it to its 129 global member states. Excerpted from the WHO website regarding the ICD-11: “ICD is the foundation for the identification of health trends and statistics globally, and the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions. ICD-11 was submitted to the Seventy-second World Health Assembly in May, 2019 and, following endorsement, Member States will start reporting using ICD-11on1 January 2022.” This chapter has been carefully written to inform and inspire readers to evaluate better the benefits of TCM in relation to conventional medicine and clinical pharmacology. TCM has a rich lineage of traditional knowledge bases and skill sets and has survived millennia of medical and scientific evolution to be acknowledged as a major contributor to twenty-first-century global healthcare. The compelling wisdom that TCM offers modern medicine is the primary position of prevention above treatment and discovering each individual’s unique blueprint of wellness.


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