Better science can improve usefulness

My letter on Oct 8 ("Nobel Prize a boost to TCM") suggested that Dr Tu Youyou's achievement is an encouragement to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) universities engaged in scientific research.

It made no mention of "TCM practices" ("Tenuous link to Nobel Prize win" by Dr Ong Siew Chey; Wednesday). TCM universities do at least two kinds of research.

The first relates to Chinese medicinal herbs as sources of new modern drugs which are used primarily by doctors practising Western medicine.

Artemisinin, which Dr Tu discovered, belongs to this category.

The second relates to the therapies based on TCM practices using traditional diagnostic methods and prescriptions, mostly of ancient origin. Dr Ong is right if he means that Dr Tu's prize was for the former and not the latter.

It is also true that more research could be done on the efficacy of TCM clinical practices.

Such work should be encouraged, as better scientific knowledge and understanding of TCM practices will improve their reliability and usefulness.

Hong Hai (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2015, with the headline 'Better science can improve usefulness'. Print Edition | Subscribe