Bibliometric Analysis of Traditional Chinese Medicine Scientific Production between 1982 and 2016 Indexed in PubMed

Medicines (Basel). 2018 May 3;5(2):41. doi: 10.3390/medicines5020041.


Background: Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) may be understood as a system of sensations and findings designed to establish the functional vegetative state of the body. This state may be treated by several therapeutic methods such as acupuncture, Chinese pharmacotherapy, dietetics, Tuina, and Qigong. Nowadays, as a result of several evidence-based reported beneficial effects over specific pathological conditions, there is an increasing tendency to integrate some of these practices in Western medicine. The main goal of this study was to perform a bibliometric analysis of TCM scientific production between 1982 and 2016 indexed in PubMed, by analyzing several parameters including time and location distribution, publication quality, experimental design, and treatment methods. Methods: The methodology was based on the quantitative inventory of published scientific research indexed in PubMed medical subject headings (MeSH), sorted within the broad term “Traditional Chinese Medicine” and integrating the following criteria as limit filters: “Species: Humans”, “Article Type: Clinical Trial”. In addition, the articles’ triage was ruled by temporal limitations set between 1945 and 2016. Results: The overall analysis of data allowed observation of an average annual growth of approximately 33%, with a productive peak of 122 articles in 2007. The scientific production was distributed in 27 countries, led by China (76.1%), followed by the United States of America (3.0%) and South Korea (2.1%). A significant amount of references were published in Chinese journals: more than 50%; however, these journals had a low impact factor. The most cited treatments in the keywords section of the articles were phytotherapy (55%) and acupuncture (40%). Conclusion: The increasing demand for TCM seems to be due to factors such as lower side effects and greater efficacy in some patients not responding well to conventional therapy. As a result, a considerable amount of TCM science-based literature has been produced, supporting the rational integration of these practices in Western healthcare systems and research. Our results show that the quality of TCM research and inherent publications have been increasing over the last decades, with a higher incidence of studies published in well-ranked journals.

Keywords: PubMed; acupuncture; bibliometric analysis; traditional Chinese medicine.