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Chin J Integr Med. 2017 Mar;23(3):166-169. doi: 10.1007/s11655-016-2536-8. Epub 2017 Jan 20.

Non-scientific classification of Chinese herbal medicine as dietary supplement.

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American Institute of Traditional Medicine, 2712 San Gabriel Boulevard, Rosemead, CA, 91770, USA.


This article focuses the category status of Chinese herbal medicine in the United States where it has been mistakenly classifified as a dietary supplement. According to Yellow Emperor Canon of Internal Medicine (Huang Di Nei Jing), clinical treatment in broad sense is to apply certain poisonous medicines to fight against pathogeneses, by which all medicines have certain toxicity and side effect. From ancient times to modern society, all, or at least most, practitioners have used herbal medicine to treat patients' medical conditions. The educational curriculums in Chinese medicine (CM) comprise the courses of herbal medicine (herbology) and herbal formulae. The objective of these courses is to teach students to use herbal medicine or formulae to treat disease as materia medica. In contrast, dietary supplements are preparations intended to provide nutrients that are missing or are not consumed in suffificient quantity in a person's diet. In contrast, Chinese herbs can be toxic, which have been proven through laboratory research. Both clinical practice and research have demonstrated that Chinese herbal medicine is a special type of natural materia medica, not a dietary supplement.


Chinese herbal medicine; dietary supplements; herbal medicine; non-scientifific classifification

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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