Efficacy and Safety in Tibetan and Chinese Medicine. Historical and Ethnographic Perspectives

A SPECIAL ISSUE BY M. SCHREMPF and L. SPRINGER (Asian Medicine, 2015 [©2016])


schrempf-springerThis collection of articles opens up new cross-cultural and multidisciplinary ways of understanding efficacy and safety in globalised Asian medicine. Using historical, philosophical, anthropological, and public health approaches, the contributions examine Tibetan and Chinese medicine on their own terms and also in comparison for the first time. They contextualise the views of and nurture appreciation for distinct actors in both Asia and the Euro-American regions who are involved in making, regulating, distributing, prescribing, and consuming Tibetan and Chinese medicines.

Schrempf, M.: Springer, L. eds. (2015). Efficacy and Safety in Tibetan and Chinese Medicine. Historical and Ethnographic Perspectives, Asian Medicine10(1-2), 381 p. [©2016]



1. Editorial
Mona Schrempf and Lena Springer

Part I: Histories and Discourses

2. The Question of Efficacy
Nathan Sivin

3. The Administration of Tibetan Precious Pills
Olaf Czaja

4. The Dangers of ‘Warming and Replenishing’ (wenbu 溫補) during the Ming to Qing Epistemic Transition
Leslie de Vries

5. Safety Net—The Construction of Biomedical Safety in the Global ‘Traditional Medicine’ Discourse
Paul Kadetz

6. The Efficacy of Collaboration: Tibetan Medicine Across Countries and Conversations
Sienna Craig

Part II: Present Practices

7. Collectors, Producers, and Circulators of Tibetan and Chinese Medicines in Sichuan Province
Lena Springer

8. The White Pill: Perceptions and Experiences of Efficacy of a Popular Tibetan Medicine in Multiethnic Rebgong

9. Contingent Efficacies in Buryat Tibetan Medicine
Tatiana Chudakova

10. Contested Issues of Efficacy and Safety between Transnational Formulation Regimes of Tibetan Medicines in China and Europe
Mona Schrempf

11. Promoting Chinese Herbal Drugs through Regulatory Globalisation
Wen-Hua Kuo

Notes From the Field

12. Medicine and Morality in the Ho Family in Lijiang
Shelley Ochs

13. A Tibetan Herbal Formula Understood from a Phytotherapeutical Perspective of TCM
Florian Ploberger

Go to the publisher website

CNRS Prize for Scientific Excellence Awarded to Laurent Pordié

CNRS Prize for Scientific Excellence Awarded to Laurent Pordié

logo-cnrsEstablished by a French decree in 2009 and granted each year to a selected number of laureates from any academic discipline, the Prize for Scientific Excellence is intended to recognize the commitment of researchers and professors in research activity.

Laurent Pordié received the Prize from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in November 2013 in recognition of his “exceptional contribution to research”. The CNRS is Europe’s largest fundamental research organisation with over 12.000 researchers and 14.000 engineers and support staff.  It is a public institution placed under the responsibility of the French Ministry of Higher Education.

LaurentLaurent, who holds PhDs in both anthropology and pharmaceutical sciences, is a senior researcher with the CNRS, appointed to the Center for Research on Medicine, Science, Health and Society (Cermes3) and affiliated to the Center for South Asian Studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, where he is teaching. He is the founding member of the PharmAsia Network. Laurent’s works revolves around the social study of science and medicine in South Asia, among which the award winning book Tibetan Medicine in the Contemporary World (Routledge 2008 - ICAS BOOK Prize 2009) and the recent co-edited volume Les nouveaux guérisseurs (EHESS 2013).

For more information on his work, see Laurent's institutional webpage.

Sino-British Fellowship Trust awards a grant to Mona Schrempf

Sino-British Fellowship Trust awards a grant to Mona Schrempf

TibMedAgar8Dr Mona Schrempf, Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in the project 'Beyond Tradition - Ways of Knowing and Styles of Practice in East Asian Medicines from 1000 to Present', has been awarded private funds by the Sino-British Fellowship Trust as part of her British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant 2014 for inviting her co-applicant Dr. Cairang Nanjia from the Tibetan Medical College, Qinghai University, Xining, China, as a visiting scholar to EASTmedicine, Department of Complementary Medicine, University of Westminster.

Between March and May 2015 they will be cooperating together with Dr. Epaminondas Kapetanios, computer and information scientist from the School of Science and Technology, on a joint pilot study for developing a multi-disciplinary and multi-lingual knowledge base on Tibetan materia medica focusing on 'Cultural translations of Tibetan medical formulas for stress-related disorders'.

See the forthcoming workshop

ERC Starting Grant Awarded to S. Kloos

ERC Starting Grant Awarded to S. Kloos

Re-Assembling Tibetan Medicine: The Formation of a Transnational Sowa Rigpa Industry in Contemporary India, China, Mongolia and Bhutan (RATIMED)

Stephan Kloos, Senior Researcher at the Austrian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Social Anthropology (ISA) and a member of the PharmAsia Network, has received an ERC Starting Grant to study the transnational Tibetan medicine industry in Asia.

The five-year (2014-2018) project titled “Re-assembling Tibetan Medicine: The formation of a transnational Sowa Rigpa industry in contemporary India, China, Mongolia and Bhutan” (RATIMED) will be carried out by an international, interdisciplinary team of four researchers, including fellow PharmAsia members Calum Blaikie and Harilal Madhavan, as well as Mingji Cuomu. With a total budget of 1.46 million Euros, this is the only Austrian ERC Starting Grant 2013 in the social sciences and humanities.

‘Traditional medicine’ has recently emerged from a marginalized position to become a rapidly expanding and highly innovative multi-billion dollar global industry. However, despite growing academic, economic and public interest in the ‘traditional’ pharmaceutical industry, we know little about its larger dynamics, shape, and wider consequences. This ERC project aims to fill this gap by focusing on the Sowa Rigpa industry as a particularly illustrative and timely case. In particular, this study will focus on Sowa Rigpa’s raw materials, pharmaceutical production, markets and legal administration as parts of a pharmaceutical assemblage. Like this, a hitherto non-existent ‘big picture’ of this complex phenomenon can be generated and linked to contemporary global society, economy and politics at large.

Stephan Kloos received his PhD in medical anthropology from UC San Francisco and Berkeley in 2010, and has since worked at ISA in Vienna. He has worked on Tibetan medicine for over 12 years, funded among others by Fulbright, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the FWF, and an EU Marie Curie Fellowship. For more information as well as open access to most of his publications, see www.stephankloos.org.

ERC Advanced Grant Awarded to J.-P. Gaudillière

ERC Advanced Grant Awarded to J.-P. Gaudillière

From International to Global: Knowledge, Diseases, and the Postwar Government of Health (GLOBHEALTH)

Jean-Paul Gaudillière, Director of the Center for Research on Medicine, Science, Health and Society (Cermes3) in Paris and a member of the PharmAsia Network, has received an ERC Advanced Grant to study the rise and implications of global health.

This five-year (2014-2018), 2.5 million Euros project titled “From International to Global: Knowledge, Diseases, and the Postwar Government of Health” (GLOBHEALTH) aims at a socio-historical study of the transition between the two regimes of knowledge and action, which have characterized the government of health after World War II: the regime of international public health, dominating during the first decades of the postwar era, which was centered on eradication policies, nation-states and international UN organizations; the present regime of global health, which emerged in the 1980s and is centered on risk management and chronic diseases, market-driven regulations, and private-public alliances.

The project seeks to understand this transition in terms of globalization processes, looking at the making of knowledge, the production and commercialization of health goods, the implementation of public health programs, and routine medical work. It will focus on four fields of investigations: tuberculosis, mental health, medical genetics and traditional medicine in order to understand how categories, standardized treatment regimens, industrial products, management tools or specific specialties have become elements in the global government of health. The project associates historical and anthropological investigations of practices in both international and local sites with strong interests in the changing roles of WHO and the developments taking place in non-Western countries, India in the first place.

Of direct concern to the PharmAsia Network is the traditional medicine axis of this ERC project, titled “Traditional Herbal Therapeutic Preparations: Globalizing Alternative Industrial Products”. From the late 1970s onward, WHO, nation-states like China and India as well as local firms and practitioners of non-western medicines have sought to put the question of the making, evaluation and uses of herbal preparations on the agenda of international health. In 2010, this seems to be a huge success: bio-prospection and ethno-botanical surveys in collaboration with industry flourish; the protection of traditional knowledge is an object of international negotiations; the markets for mass-produced herbal medicines link Europe, the United States, Asia and Latin America; they are subjects to international regulations for production, registration and quality control; they are elements in heterogeneous treatment strategies targeting chronic disorders juxtaposing biomedical and so-called alternative and complementary therapies.

Coordinated with the help of PharmAsia founding member Laurent Pordié (CNRS-Cermes3, Paris), this segment of the project will explore this dual industrialization and globalization, taking India and China as case studies. Here the focus will be placed on the relations between: a) multilateral agencies, the state and the private sector; b) apparently incommensurable systems of medical knowledge. These questions will be approached through three intertwined sets of practices: therapeutic evaluation, international and national market regulation, public health policies and integration.