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Nobel Prize Puts Complementary Medicine in Spotlight
October 19, 2015 -
On Oct 12, 2015, the Nobel Assembly announced the winners of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Among the 3 winners, Youyou Tu, a Chinese scientist, was recognized "for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria". This "novel therapy" is Artemisinin, a drug that was discovered based on a centuries-old Chinese remedy and has significantly lowered mortality rates from malaria since late 1960s.

A History Made for Complementary Medicine

While winning a Nobel Prize means global attention to the winners, the recognition for Youyou Tu's achievements brings special significance - as a article pointed out: medical knowledge outside of the western conventional medicine had never been on the radar of Nobel Prize until now.

Professor Stephen Ward of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in U.K. told the Nature magazine that this recognition could pave the way for more breakthroughs with non-conventional medicines.

Before Artemisinin was discovered, chloroquine was the major drug used to cure Malaria. However, after heavy use of the drug for several years, strains of Malaria became resistant. "By the late 1960s, efforts to eradicate Malaria had failed and the disease was on the rise," the Nobel Assembly wrote in a statement. Better treatments were needed to fight this deadly disease in tropical and sub-tropical areas in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In the late 1960s, Youyou Tu and her team discovered the naturally-based compound artemisinin while studying traditional Chinese medicine. They researched ancient Chinese literatures for potential remedies for the symptoms of Malaria. Then they used sophisticated methods from western biomedicine to collect 380 extracts from 200 herbs mentioned in those literatures, which eventually led to the discovery of the Artemisinin compound.

The Inspirations for Tai Chi and Qigong Practitioners

Some experts think that, as Youyou Tu's achievement shows, "opening up to traditional medicine could help advance conventional treatments - especially as developments of new medications are hampered by a lengthy research process and growing drug resistance has rendered some drugs useless."

That is also one of the reasons why more and more doctors and their patients are turning to Tai Chi and Qigong for complementary treatments. Plenty of scientific research has proven that Tai Chi and Qigong can be effective and safe supplements to conventional healthcare for many health conditions.

Another inspiration for Tai Chi and Qigong practitioners from this event: understanding and embracing both complementary and conventional medicines. Youyou Tu's success is attributed to not only the knowledge from Chinese Traditional Medicine but also using the complex extraction methods from the western medicine. Integrating the two streams brought her and the world the ground-breaking discovery.


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