For some time, the scientific community in the West looked upon traditional remedies in the East with suspicion. The former could not accept the claim of the latter without objective scientific evaluation. In recent decades, however, there has been a healthy crossover from Western biomedicine to Chinese traditional medicine. Pharmacologically, the cross-fertilization came earlier. Aspirin, one of the West's popular pain-relieving compounds, for instance, has its origin in a tree bark.
Biomedicine is increasingly looking toward traditional medicines for possible solutions to some of the intractable chronic illnesses. As life expectancies lengthen, chronic illnesses will increase. As environment-related diseases increase and lifestyle-related illnesses become more prevalent, Chinese traditional medicine, which takes a more holistic view of health and has had thousands of years of empirical successes, should offer different approaches to the treatment of diseases and advice for health preservation and promotion.
At the end of the twentieth century there was an explosion of interest in herbs as food supplements for better health. The trend of self-help for better health fueled this interest. Ginseng is an example of an herb that is widely accepted as an agent to help fight cancer as well as to add vitality to life. While many Chinese herbal medicines have proven to be effective, however, quality and dosage control remains a serious concern.
Pharmaceutical companies have to comply with governmental regulations on the production of drugs, but food supplements are not subject to similar review and control for quality and proper dosage. The perception that all herbs, because they are natural, have no side effects is erroneous and some herbal substances are toxic. It is important therefore to be educated about herbs before consuming them.