Research into Chinese Medicine

Tu Youyou: Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2015 for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria, based on Chinese Medicine.

Image: Tu Youyou – Facts. Nobel Media AB 2021. Thu. 17 Jun 2021.
Quote: Tu, Y., 2011. The discovery of artemisinin (qinghaosu) and gifts from Chinese medicine. Nat Med 17, 1217–1220.

Chinese Herbal Medicine Research

Chinese Herbal Medicine is a long-established tradition in China and a well-established practice in the West. Much of the evidence for its effectiveness comes through case studies from hundreds of years of clinical practice, all of which contribute to the skill of Chinese Herbal Practitioners with formulating herbal combinations to meet the needs of each individual patient throughout their course of treatment.

With the introduction of evidence-based practice to biomedicine in the 1990’s, Chinese Herbal Medicine has increasingly been subject to investigation using modern research methods such as randomised controlled clinical trials, systematic reviews and meta-analyses. There have been a number of positive Cochrane Reviews ( of Chinese Herbal Medicine, making it worthy of consideration for many biomedical conditions.

RCHM Members

The RCHM supports practitioners who want to undertake research and makes a yearly research fund available. A number of our members have undertaken doctoral level research in the UK at the University of Westminster, University of Southampton and University of Portsmouth. See research profiles of RCHM members here.


More and more research is showing how using Chinese Herbal Medicine can improve treatment outcomes during IVF cycles. Here are some examples:

CHM IVF 1 (Pan et al, 2022) A retrospective cohort study of patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) treated with a Chinese Herbal Formula in conjunction with IVF. The study concluded that CHM may significantly increase the pregnancy rate through decreasing AMH levels in follicular fluids. The study additionally concluded that CHM is a safe intervention for PCOS patients undergoing IVF.

CHM IVF 2 (Guo et al, 2014) The study concluded that patients treated with CHM in conjunction with IVF showed improved embryo quality and fertility. The findings demonstrated the trial group had significantly increased endometrial thickness and increased implantation, thus improved conception rates in comparison to the control group.

CHM IVF 3 (Xia et al, 2017) The study backs up findings of CHM IVF 4. CHM was given prior to IVF cycles where TCM pattern differentiation of Liver Qi Stagnation, Blood Stasis, Kidney Deficiency were identified. The study demonstrated that CHM (alongside auricular acupuncture) in the 3 months prior to the IVF cycle significantly increased pregnancy rates as compared to IVF alone.

CHM IVF 4 (Xu at al, 2015) The study evaluated the outcomes of CHM treatment in females where previous IVF cycles had failed. The CHM treatment was based on TCM pattern differentiation of Liver Qi Stagnation, Blood Stasis, Kidney Deficiency. The study demonstrated that CHM in the 3 months prior to IVF cycle significantly increased pregnancy rates as compared to IVF alone.

CHM IVF 5 (Ma et al, 2021) The study examined the mechanisms and outcomes of cases of infertility in geriatric females (age over 35 years), based on a TCM pattern differentiation of Kidney Deficiency. The study showed that adjunctive treatment of IVF with a Chinese herbal formula significantly increased pregnancy rates in comparison with IVF alone.

CHM IVF 6 (Jiang et al, 2021) The study suggested that a CHM formula may improve oestrogen levels during IVF, with an increased number of oocytes and higher-quality embryos. It also improved the endometrium and increased endometrial receptivity by increasing endometrial blood blow. Additionally in patients undergoing mild ovarian stimulation, the CHM formula raised the likelihood of fresh embryo transfer in a single treatment cycle.

Research into COVID-19, SARS and Seasonal Influenza

The RCHM is keenly monitoring the research and reports of the use of Traditional Herbal Medicine in the fight against the current COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst many of these reports are encouraging, please be aware that resources regarding the treatment of Covid-19 are for informational purposes only. The RCHM does not recommend that practitioners claim to be treating or preventing Covid-19 at this stage.

Diagnosis and Treatment Protocol for Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia - National Health Commission & State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine on March 3, 2020 - Open PDF

Clinical characteristics and therapeutic procedure for four caseswith 2019 novel coronavirus pneumonia receiving combined Chinese and Western medicine treatment - Link to study

Traditional Chinese Medicine in the Treatment of Patients Infected with 2019-New Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2): A Review and Perspective. Yang, Y, et al. nt J Biol Sci 2020; 16(10):1708-1717. doi - Link to study

Can Chinese Medicine Be Used for Prevention of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)? - A Review of Historical Classics, Research Evidence and Current Prevention Programs - Link to study

Antiviral Action of Tryptanthrin Isolated from Strobilanthes cusia Leaf against Human Coronavirus NL63 - Link to study

Traditional Chinese Medicine in the Treatment of Patients Infected with 2019 - New Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2): A Review and Perspective - Link to study

Traditional Chinese medicine for COVID-19 treatment - Link to study

Research studies into specific uses for Chinese Herbal Medicine


Safety and Tolerability of an Antiasthma Herbal Formula (ASHMI) in Adult Subjects with Asthma: A Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled, Dose-Escalation Phase I Study

Complementary and alternative medicines are increasingly used for the treatment of asthma in Western countries. A novel three-herb antiasthma herbal medicine intervention (ASHMI; Sino-Lion Pharmaceutical Company; Shan Dong China) was demonstrated to be effective and safe in a murine model of asthma and in a preliminary clinical study in China.

Link to the study

Urinary Tract Infections

Acute urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common bacterial infection that affects 40% to 50% of women. Between 20% and 30% of women who have had a UTI will experience a recurrence, and around 25% will develop ongoing recurrent episodes with implications for individual well-being and healthcare costs. Prophylactic antibiotics can prevent recurrent UTIs but there are growing concerns about microbial resistance and side effects from treatment. This review assesses Chinese herbal medicine for the treatment of recurrent UTIs both as a stand-alone therapy and in conjunction with other pharmaceutical interventions.

Link to the review

Antimicrobial Resistance

A paper from the European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association (EHTPA) for the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology’s antimicrobial resistance (AMR) inquiry.

In light of growing concerns relating to microbial resistance to antibiotics increasing attention is being given to the role that herbal medicines may play as autonomous antibacterial agents or as adjuvant treatments used to potentiate conventional drugs. This paper selectively reviews the evidence for herbal medicine as a valuable resource to combat bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

Download the paper

Research on herbal medicine in general

Herbal medicines are frequently used in the treatment of long-term conditions which are inadequately managed by conventional biomedicine. These have been termed ‘effectiveness gaps’ and include many of the chronic degenerative diseases that are now making the most pressing demands on healthcare systems in the developed world. Herbal medicine may be used autonomously in these contexts or to support biomedical treatment and counteract the side-effects of conventional drug therapy.

The link below is a selective review of evidence for the effectiveness of herbal medicine generally (so not just that practised within the Chinese tradition) conducted in 2014 on behalf of the European Herbal and Medicine Practitioners Association (EHTPA) here.

Download the review

Research on acupuncture

There has been considerable debate over the results of research conducted on the effectiveness of acupuncture. The mechanisms and effects of this form of treatment are complex and still relatively poorly understood, and researchers have found it difficult to study acupuncture using standard evidence-based research methods. Despite this, some positive evidence is beginning to emerge from the thousands of studies that have been made of acupuncture's use in treating different conditions. The RCHM wholeheartedly supports the work of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) and Evidence Based Acupuncture in collating and promoting the research base as it emerges.

Link to the BAcC's Research Fact Sheets