Traditional chinese medicine: an update on clinical evidence

J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Mar;16(3):301-12. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0293.


Background: As an alternative medical system, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been increasingly used over the last several decades. Such a consumer-driven development has resulted in introduction of education programs for practitioner training, development of product and practitioner regulation systems, and generation of an increasing interest in research. Significant efforts have been made in validating the quality, effectiveness, and safety of TCM interventions evidenced by a growing number of published trials and systematic reviews. Commonly, the results of these studies were inconclusive due to the lack of quality and quantity of the trials to answer specific and answerable clinical questions.

Objectives: The methodology of a randomized clinical trial (RCT) is not free from bias, and the unique features of TCM (such as individualization and holism) further complicate effective execution of RCTs in TCM therapies. Thus, data from limited RCTs and systematic reviews need to be interpreted with great caution. Nevertheless, until new and specific methodology is developed that can adequately address these methodology challenges for RCTs in TCM, evidence from quality RCTs and systematic reviews still holds the credibility of TCM in the scientific community.

Conclusions: This article summarizes studies on TCM utilization, and regulatory and educational development with a focus on updating the TCM clinical evidence from RCTs and systematic reviews over the last decade. The key issues and challenges associated with evidence-based TCM developments are also explored.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic / standards*
  • Empirical Research
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Herbal Medicine / standards*
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / standards*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Research Design
  • Treatment Outcome