Nature journal provides special supplement on traditional Asian medicine

Nature is offering a free supplement this week on Traditional Asian Medicine.

Using scientific techniques to investigate the claims of traditional medicine as practised in countries such as China and Japan can help sort effective treatments from unfounded superstitions — and perhaps give modern medicine a few insights into holistic approaches borne from thousands of years of herbal remedies.

This is from the introductory article by Michelle Grayson

When the topic of traditional Asian medicine was first mooted, we were sceptical. To a magazine based in Europe and steeped in the history of science, there is much about traditional Asian medical practice that seems mystical and pseudoscientific. Other than well known success stories — artemisinin for malaria, and arsenic trioxide for leukaemia — there seemed to be a lack of scientifically proven remedies.

Yet a bit of probing revealed what a complex story this is. Not only are big efforts underway to modernize traditional medicine in China and Japan, but Western medicine is adopting some aspects of the Eastern point of view too. In particular, modern medical practitioners are coming around to the idea that certain illnesses cannot be reduced to one isolatable, treatable cause. Rather, a fall from good health often involves many small, subtle effects that create a system-wide imbalance.

But do traditional medicines actually work? Their personalized nature makes randomized controlled trials — the gold standard for testing drugs — extremely difficult. Rarely are two formulations identical. However, as modern medicine becomes more personalized, using biological and genetic markers, it is inadvertently developing the tools to better test traditional medicines.

Orac at Respectful Insolence blog is none too pleased, noting the following:

[Noted in Nature] We are grateful for the support of our sponsors, Saishunkan Pharmaceutical Co., ltd. and the Kitasato University Oriental Medicine Research Center. As always, Nature carries sole responsibility for all editorial content.

[Orac] Yes, you read it right. Nature has apparently sold out to a Chinese supplement manufacturer and a quackademic medical center.

Wow. So wrong.