Understanding traditional Chinese medicine to strengthen conservation outcomes.

Published online
29 Oct 2021
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Cheung, H. & Doughty, H. & Hinsley, A. & Hsu, E. & Lee TienMing & Milner-Gulland, E. J. & Possingham, H. P. & Biggs, D.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
South East Asia


Numerous treatments in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) involve the use of wildlife products, including some that utilize ingredients derived from endangered flora and fauna. Demand for such endangered wildlife products in TCM can threaten the survival of species and pose serious challenges for conservation. Chinese medical practice is embedded in the cultural fabric of many societies in East and Southeast Asia, and remains an integral part of everyday life and knowledge. It is grounded in principles and theories that have grown over hundreds of years and differ substantially from those of mainstream allopathic biomedicine. In order to address the threats posed by the medicinal consumption of endangered wildlife, conservation scientists and practitioners will benefit from a basic understanding of TCM. Such knowledge will enable conservationists to craft culturally nuanced solutions and to engage constructively with TCM stakeholders. However, conservationists typically lack familiarity with TCM as the incompatibility of many TCM concepts with those of the biomedical sciences poses a barrier to understanding. In this paper, we examine the core theories and practices of TCM in order to make TCM more accessible to conservation scientists and practitioners. A better understanding of TCM will enable conservationists to deliver more effective and lasting conservation outcomes.

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