Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has come a long way since its first founding of about 3000 years ago starting from the early Zhou Dynasty of China. What started out as a system of methods stemming from the need to treat ailments using natural solutions has evolved with times and integrating with modern technology to continue serving healthcare systems around the world.
Evidence-based medicine has even made its way to the world of TCM only 2 decades ago. This was a herculean step in TCM research which has profoundly influenced the process of clinical research and decision-making. Researchers are now more than ever paying closer attention to evidence quality and making efforts to accumulate data through standardized methods of clinical trials and evaluation of TCM products. This field holds much potential in its influence in medical practice and promises many research opportunities in the coming future.
Globally, the market size of the TCM industry has reached USD 18.8 billion in revenue in 2021 and is forecasted to increase to USD 50.27 billion by 2030.
In 2021, acupuncture was found to hold the largest share in revenue in relation to TCM therapies. As a crucial part of TCM, it is essential in treatment by stimulating the central nervous system which is believed to help the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being. Studies have found that acupuncture is beneficial in reducing chronic headaches more effectively than conventional painkillers.
On the disease front, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) accounted for the largest revenue share in the global TCM market in 2021. It has been found that a combination of certain TCM remedies, which include poria, red jujube, Chinese thorowax root, skullcap root, just to name a few, help with ADHD by calming the nerves, enhancing digestion, cleansing the body, and protect the spleen. Skullcap root especially is known to reduce anxiety and prevent hyperactivity in children with ADHD.
Due to increase in public awareness and rising demand from different healthcare providers and patients, surprisingly, North America made up 33% of global revenue. Making the North American market the largest revenue share in the TCM market in 2021. The increase in demand for natural remedies during the COVID-19 pandemic and consumer awareness coupled with evidence-based research on the advantages of TCM are factors that contribute to driving revenue growth of the TCM market in this region.
The increase in amount of evidence-based research on TCM practices and treatments also contributes to the increasing global trend of TCM use. Clinical epidemiological methods have also been adopted to test the efficacy of TCM. In 1982, the first rigorously-designed clinical trial of TCM was reported, setting TCM on the trajectory towards quality control and standardization. Since then, there was a surge in the number of studies pertaining to TCM methods and treatments. This allowed a strong body of evidence for TCM to be developed over the decades, making it all the more credible as a medical science and safely adopted by healthcare providers to patients.
Aside from clinical trials, quality control was the next issue to tackle. The large amounts of data generated from TCM studies means that there would be the presence of cross-disciplines. It was in the 2009, when a network pharmacology started to develop. This model allowed the study of TCM syndromes and prescription to follow a proposed algorithm to predict collaborative drug combination based on network targets. The network pharmacology has grown steadily, with research methods maturing, the field of TCM is on the road to becoming a credible evidence-based medical science.
Quality control of TCM is an effective measure to ensure the safety and efficacy of TCM in clinical practice, which is also a key factor permitting it to be modernized. As such, quality markers (q-markers) were introduced for each type of TCM treatment as away to ensure the standardization and safety for the quality control of TCM. The development of q-markers is through pharmacokinetic analysis of TCM which is important for understanding the therapeutic basis of TCM.
Mounting evidence-based research, standardization, and quality control methods, all contribute to growing the public’s confidence in TCM as a medical science and method of treatment, boosting the upward trend of the global TCM market revenue. With more research on TCM coming up we will potentially see this market grow steadily over the next few years.