Many local traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) companies are collaborating with Temasek Polytechnic to produce scientific proof to back up the claims of the benefits of traditional health products.

Going through lab experiments, chemicals could be identified to produce a herbal brew that benefits the liver, or a popular health supplement can be analysed to determine its properties.

The school exhibited its latest work in this subject at the annual Applied Science Show at its campus on Wednesday.

Dr. Ong Seng Poon, deputy director of capability development at the School of Applied Science has said that the department has several projects per month now, an increase from one project every few months when it first started.

Ensuring safety of TCM products

The program started in June, whereby a dedicated centre of innovation to study complementary health products was set up by Temasek Polytechnic, thanks to S$3.2 million in funding from the government agency Spring Singapore.

One of its pioneer partners, Eu Yan Sang TCM group, has vouched for the program as scientific backing for their traditional products can open the doors to new markets and ensure the safety of their products.
"It's a way to satisfy the younger consumers, because they want to know the science behind the medicines," said director Mr. Koo Chee Kai of Kim Sin Medicine Manufactory.

Mr. Koo's company produces traditional medicines and health supplements and has so far worked with the school to identify certain chemical compounds in its bestselling Huji Waist Tonic - a concoction made up of herbs such as cordyceps.

"When the tests show that these chemicals are present, we can confidently say that it will have some impact on health," he said, "Traditional Chinese medicine products are based on TCM theory, but now we are moving towards evidence-based medicine and we want to bridge the gap."

Setting standards for the TCM industry in the future

The Singapore Accreditation Council accredits the centre of innovation, which also studies health supplements and food with healthy additives. This suggests that the centre of innovation could potentially set standards for the TCM industry as a whole, in the future, said Dr. Lee Chee Wee, director of the School of Applied Science.

"It's an old industry which hasn't been truly modernised, and all these products require a lot of tests which smaller producers don't have the capabilities to carry out," he said. "If we can set a standard for complementary health products, that means we can basically become industry leaders."

Patients and consumers have mentioned that having scientific backing for TCM treatments would increase their confidence in the consumption of the products - as a clearer idea about the effects on their health will be provided. MIMS

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