China on standardized quality push for traditional medicines

China's government at the highest level is taking steps to bring the traditional Chinese medicine industry into the 21st century with plans to help it along while taking steps to ensure its quality.

Just as China's public has become more health-conscious, with an emphasis on natural treatments such as TCM, its purveyors are experiencing production problems and what some have claimed is a diminution in its quality of late.

The China government cabinet, the State Council, has given orders to change all that along with a plan devised by 12 ministries to carry out the instructions. One eventual plan is to have a TCM industry with large-scale production of the more commonly used herbs and other treatments.

But the council wants the members of the industry to modernize and be part of a system that improves its basic research and uses modern techniques to make a better product. Along with that would be government oversight, including monitoring of TCM resources and a system of traceability covering the process from production through distribution.

Wild herbs, considered an ideal TCM ingredient, are preferred by the medicine's adherents, but they apparently are becoming scarce and harder to find. The council instructed that problem be addressed.

One of the ministry officials involved said quality solutions include reducing the increased reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides that have become popular with TCM producers. He said the tendency of late has been to sacrifice quality for quantity.

- here are the State council releases on policy and latest updates