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Table of Contents
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 37-45

The introduction and localisation of traditional Chinese medicine in Malaysia

1 International Education College, Technology and Humanities, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 201203, China
2 Institute of Science, Technology and Humanities, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 201203, China

Date of Submission02-Jun-2020
Date of Acceptance21-Jan-2021
Date of Web Publication31-Mar-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Hai- Li
Institute of Science, Technology and Humanities, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 201203
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/CMAC.CMAC_2_21

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This thesis discusses how traditional Chinese medicine was introduced to Malaysia. History records show that traditional Chinese medicine was first introduced to Malaysia in the year 1405 while 1796 saw the establishment of Malaysia's first Chinese medicine shop. With the popularization of Chinese medicine, Chinese medicine education and organizations were established. Traditional Chinese Medicine has gradually been recognized by the Malaysian government due to the efforts of the practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine. In 2004, the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Department was established at the prestigious National Cancer Institute to improve quality of life as well as provide opportunities for cure to cancer patients.

Keywords: Chinese medicine, localization, Malaysia, South East Asia

How to cite this article:
Lee SW, Li H. The introduction and localisation of traditional Chinese medicine in Malaysia. Chin Med Cult 2021;4:37-45

How to cite this URL:
Lee SW, Li H. The introduction and localisation of traditional Chinese medicine in Malaysia. Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Jan 24];4:37-45. Available from: https://www.cmaconweb.org/text.asp?2021/4/1/37/312773

  Introduction Top

Malaysia (formerly Malaya) is a Southeast Asian country whose geographical location is close to the equator. Malaysia's population comprises three main ethnic groups (Malays, Chinese, Indians) as well as other smaller ethnic groups and indigenous groups. The Malaysian Chinese are the second largest ethnic group in Malaysia, accounting for 24.6%[1] of the total population. Most of the ancestors of the Malaysian Chinese came to Southeast Asia to make a living and to escape from the hard life conditions in the then South China.[2] The Chinese traditional culture of health preservation is both deep-rooted in their culture and effective, and the Chinese who have left their native land have inherited these customs and habits of health preservation. This is why, wherever there are Chinese people, there must be Chinese culture and the Chinese medicine tradition of maintaining good health. These phenomena are due to the Chinese people's tradition of keeping to their roots and origin wherever they go.

History of the introduction of Chinese medicine to Malaysia

According to Han Shu “Di Li Zhi” (《汉书·地理志》 Treatise on Geography, the Book of Han”), some Chinese monks and businessmen arrived at the Malay Peninsula by sea when they traveled to India in 206 BC. In 618 A.D. they found a small number of monks and businessmen already living in the Malay Peninsula. They claimed to be the first Chinese settlers in the Malay Peninsula.[3] Chinese medicine followed in their footsteps. In 1405, Zheng He (郑和) of the Ming dynasty made seven voyages to the Indian Ocean, six voyages of which were to Malacca (a state of Malaya). His fleet carried many sailors, food, ceramics, and Chinese herbal medicines.[4]

Chinese businessmen and Zheng He's voyages to the Indian Ocean stimulated cultural exchanges among different countries at that time and encouraged many Chinese who had gone to Southeast Asia to seek a better life in Malaya. Due to Malaya's proximity to the sea, the climate is often quite humid. Despite this, the weather is never too hot and the temperatures range from a mild 20°C to 30°C on average throughout the year. This means that there is only monsoon season and dry season in Malaya. Zheng He brought back some herbs to China from Malaya which included yellow ripe Chen Xiang (沉香 Lignum Aquilariae Resinatum), Chen Xiang (沉香 Lignum Aquilariae Resinatum), Mu Xiang (木香 Radix Aucklandiae), Bing Lang (槟榔 Semen Arecae), Yan Wo (燕窝 Nidus Collocaliae) and etc. Some of the medicines that he brought from China were well received because they were in line with the living conditions and daily needs. Due to the increase in demand for Chinese herbal medicines, Koo Suk Chuan (古石泉), a Malayan Chinese, purchased Chinese medicines from China in 1796 and shipped them to Penang, where he established a Chinese medicine hall– Yin Ai Tong (仁爱堂)[5] [Figure 1]. Even today this historical herbal medicine hall is still run by Koo's descendants.
Figure 1: Yin Ai Tong (仁爱堂)

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In 1873, with the help of his knowledge of Chinese medicine, Eu Kong (余广) went to Southeast Asia to make a living. He set up a medicinal hall named 'Yan Sang' in Gopeng, Perak. This hall was named “Yan Sang,” which literally means 'caring for mankind' in Chinese.[6] In order to commemorate his father, Mr Eu's son renamed the medical business as “Eu Yan Sang” (余仁生) and the name has remained to this day[7] [Figure 2]. In the late 1880s, the economy was depressed. At that time the owner decided to use the name “Eu Yan Sang.” A small medical hall thus changed itself into a Chinese medicine health care chain store known to every household in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. Today, “Eu Yan Sang” is located in every state and in a lot of shopping malls in Malaysia. They have become one of the top choices whenever Malaysian Chinese want to send a health care gift to their relatives and friends. Apart from selling Chinese patent medicines, “Eu Yan Sang” has set up private clinics and traditional Chinese medicine clinics in Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia.
Figure 2: Eu Yan Sang (余仁生)

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As time went on, the number of migrant workers increased. Due to nonacclimatisation or injury at work, there was a surge in medical demand. In 1878, a citizen of Kuala Lumpur set up Malaya's first Chinese medicine clinic-Chha Yong Fay Choon Kuan to provide medical services for fellow townsmen. Pooi Shin Thong, was founded in 1881 by Kapitan Yap Kwan Seng, and In 1894 it was converted into a non-profit organization and its name was changed to Tung Shin Hospital (同善医院)[8] [Figure 3]. Tung Shin Hospital is one of the earliest Chinese medicine hospitals established in Malaysia.
Figure 3: Tung Shin Hospital (同善医院)

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Traditional Chinese Medicine followed the footsteps of our ancestors to Malaysia and gradually took root. In 1924, the earliest Malayan TCM organization, namely Muar Chinese Medicine Institute was established in Muar by practitioners of TCM. Soon afterward, other states also witnessed the founding of their own Chinese medicine organization. In 1948, the Chinese Physicians' Association of Central Malaya was established. In 1989, it was renamed to be the Malaysian Chinese Medical Association (MCMA). In 1955, all individual states' TCM associations jointly formed a national federation of Chinese medicine---the Federation of Malayan Chinese Medicine.[9]

Before 1955, most TCM courses were run by private TCM associations. With time passing by, there appeared more education institutes of Chinese medicine. In an effort to reform traditional medicine, the Government of Malaysia issued the Bachelor degree of Chinese Medicine program standards in 2007. Those universities that still provide a TCM program are listed below: International Medical University (IMU), Management and Science University, INTI International University and Colleges (INTI), Southern University College (Southern UC), University Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR Sungai Long Campus) and Xiamen University Malaysia (XMU).[10] Malaysia's Ministry of Higher Education and Traditional and Complementary Medicine Division (T&CMD) also recognizes the certificate or diploma in Traditional Chinese Medicine Education obtained in China. Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine , and Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine are the five Chinese medicine universities recognized by the Malaysia government.[11] At present, most of the teaching materials used by Chinese medicine programs in Malaysia are from China, just the same materials used in most Chinese universities. English is the main teaching language at IMU while some people use Mandarin in teaching. The use of English has increased the opportunities to learn about TCM, and has further enhanced the understanding and acceptance of TCM by other ethnic groups in Malaysia.

Leading lights of Malaysia Chinese medicine

Malaysian TCM education can be divided into two stages, with 1955 as the watershed. Before 1955, those Chinese who came to Malaysia were more likely to do physical work. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine were the most widely used ways to supplement their physical strength and to cope with the injuries and tiredness they endured in their work as physical jobs consumed a lot of muscles and this made the workers become exhausted so they used acupuncture that could help them to recover. Because of the social environment at that time, most of the medical skills were passed down from generation to generation or carried out in the form of succession from teachers. Due to the lack of relevant historical records, it is difficult or even impossible at present to trace the first imported books of traditional Chinese medicine in Malaysia. Communication between China and Malaysia was disrupted by the British colonial government's Immigration Restrictions Act of 1952. To solve the problem of shortage of doctors and to train more Chinese medicine practitioners in Malaysia, the Chinese Physicians Association of Central Malaya established the first college of Chinese medicine in Malaysia---The Chinese Medical Institute of Malaya, which was later renamed to be Chinese Medical Institute of Malaysia.[12]

In the early days, teachers of various subjects wrote their own lecture sheets or asked senior TCM practitioners to write lecture sheets before printing and distributing them to students.[13] In 1954, the Chinese Physicians Association of Central Malaya established the Chinese Medical Aid Department to give medicine to those in need. Due to an increase in the number of patients and gaining support of people from all walks of life, the Chinese Medical Aid Department was granted 6700 square feet of land for building a new building on Hang Jebat Road. Later on, this house became the clinical teaching base for for Chinese Medical Institute of Malaysia's students in Malaysia. In March 2012, the Chinese Medical Aid Department established its first branch in Brunei West Road in Pudu. The Chinese Medical Aid Department and the Chinese Medical Institute of Malaysia [Figure 4] and [Figure 5] are the brainchildren of Professor Ngeow Sze Chan (饶师泉) [Figure 6], father of the development of traditional Chinese medicine in Malaysia. Professor Ngeow was committed to the promotion and cultivation of the next generation of TCM practitioners in Malaysia. In 2015, in memory of Professor Ngeow, and to praise his contributions and efforts in developing Malaysia TCM, the MCMA set up the first Ngeow Sze Chan Spirit Award, the highest award in the field of Chinese medicine in Malaysia. The MCMA also demonstrated the dedications and hard work of Professor Ngeow in developing Chinese medicine in Malaysia in the form of a stage drama to help the younger generation understand how difficult it used to be in setting up proper TCM practice and education and in cultivating the young generation to become traditional Chinese medicine practioners.[14] In 2016, after 6 months of preparation and data collection, the first Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine History and Culture in Malaysia officially opened with the mandate of preserving a historical record of traditional Chinese medicine in Malaysia.
Figure 4: Speech by the late Dr. KO Che-kwong (高哲光), the former Head of Malaysian Chinese Medicine Association during the first full-time Chinese medicine course opening ceremony of Traditional Chinese Medical Institute Malaysia in 1990

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Figure 5: Group photo during the opening ceremony of Chinese Medicinal Aid Hall in 17/3/1954

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Figure 6: Professor Rao Shiquan (饶师泉)

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Localization of traditional Chinese medicine in Malaysia

Traditional medicine served the Malaysian people well since the beginning of the 20th century. Based on this, the government decided to control the quality of traditional medicines and Chinese herbal medicines in 1922. In 1997, the government of Malaysia began to monitor the quality of herbal medicines and proprietary medicines to ensure that the ingredients of these products lived up to the standard. In 2000, the Herbal Medical Research Centre was established in Malaysia. A dedicated division called the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Division under the Ministry of Health (MOH) was subsequently set up in 2004. It officially began operation in December of the same year.[15] Chinese medicine in Malaysia took a big step forward in January 11, 2006, where the Malaysian Cabinet had agreed with the proposal of the MOH to establish T&CM units to include Chinese medicine as part of the medical services offered in public hospitals. To better regulate traditional and complementary medicine and to ensure both the safety of patients and the standard and quality of practitioner, Malaysia passed and enacted the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Act in Parliament on 1 August, 2006. All traditional and complementary medicine practitioners were urged to register with the relevant authorities. Before this, the Government had approved of three Chinese medicine organizations, namely the Federation of Chinese Physicians and Acupuncturists Association of Malaysia (FCPAAM), the MCMA, and the Federation of Chinese Physician and Medicine Dealers Association of Malaysia (FCPMDAM) to voluntarily register their member practitioners. Until March 20, 2020, a total of 3740 TCM practitioners had registered with the FCPAAM, 2096 TCM practitioners had registered with the MCMA and 6100 TCM practitioners had registered with the FCPMDAM, the data being obtained from the three major TCM organizations' websites.[16]

Hai-O Enterprise is another famous chain medicine shop in Malaysia whose establishment was to provide Malaysians the access to TCM. In 2002, Hai-O joined venture with Beijing Tong Ren Tang (北京同仁堂), the largest and long-serving pharmaceutical manufacturer in China to set up Peking Tong Ren Tang Malaysia Pte Ltd.[17] Beijing Tong Ren Tang is widely trusted around the world, and its medicines are sold all over the world. In Malaysia, Peking Tong Ren Tang pays close attention to the traditional management concept of “integrated clinical services” where medical consultations are carried out by the qualified traditional practitioner and the dispensing of prescribed herbs and drugs is available in one location. In 2013, Peking Tong Ren Tang and UTAR Sungai Long Campus signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The two sides agreed to conduct clinical and academic exchanges in the field of TCM and to jointly promote the development and future of TCM in Malaysia. The cooperation projects in the memorandum mainly involve three areas, namely, Peking Tong Ren Tang will assist Chinese medicine students from UTAR to conduct clinical internships at designated places of the company; Peking Tong Ren Tang will facilitate academic exchanges between the two sides, including mutual visits of academic staff, teaching research and participation at seminars or workshops, etc. Moreover, UTAR will arrange for their academic staff including lecturers and professors to attend medical services in Peking Tong Ren Tang. The opportunity to cooperate has laid a more solid foundation for the localization of Chinese medicine in Malaysia.

On December 13, 2017, UTAR and Guangxi University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (GXUCM) strengthened their cooperation in scientific research, training, culture, and medical treatment by signing a 3-memorandum of understanding. The China-Malaysia Centre for TCM was subsequently built at the UTAR Sungai Long campus.[18] This center is responsible to promote the excellent traditions of oriental medicine including TCM, and the development of the local traditional medicine industry to enhance the level of health of the Malaysian people. On September 11, 2018, the China ASEAN Traditional Medicine book announced its book launch in Nanning, China.[19] This book is the first systematic introduction and documentation of traditional medicines in China and in the ASEAN countries. The book contains 746 high-resolution color pictures as well as a total of 104 families and 350 species of traditional medicine that are commonly used in China, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Cambodia, and the Philippines.

On August 8 of the same year, the 17th Consortium for Globalization of Chinese Medicine (CGCM) was held in Kuching, Sarawak.[20] The conference was organized by the CGCM Committee and hosted by the Malaysian Institute of Pharmaceuticals and Nutraceuticals (IPharm) and the National Institutes of Biotechnology Malaysia. In contrast to the past conferences of its kind, the 2018 conference featured two different themes including a poster presentation and a forum on herbal research and industrial development in Malaysia. These valuable activities have infused endless energy into the Malaysian TCM community and encouraged the localization of TCM in Malaysia.

Clinical application of traditional Chinese medicine in Malaysia

At present, the graduates of TCM can start their own business or work in public hospitals, private hospitals, or private TCM clinics. The government has also set up a traditional Chinese medicine unit in the most authoritative National Cancer Institute to improve the quality of life and to provide opportunities for the cure to cancer patients. According to the data from the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Division in Malaysia, acupuncture was used more often to treat chronic pain and stroke sequelae in public hospitals in 2008.[21] The data also shows that more women are getting acupuncture treatment for chronic conditions, while men are more likely to get acupuncture treatment for stroke sequelae, and women are more likely to choose Chinese herbal medicine for cancer treatment.[22] Most of the patients that sought treatment in private clinics were diagnosed with pain syndrome (such as headache, stomach-ache or a sore neck, shoulder, lumbago or leg), limb and joint diseases (such as disc protrusion, rheumatoid arthritis), neurological diseases (such as stroke sequelae, insomnia, facial paralysis) and gynecological diseases (such as irregular menstruation, dysmenorrhea). In addition to the usual traditional Chinese medicine raw herbs, patients in Malaysia now have the option of scientific Chinese medicine such as powder and capsule so that it is more convenient for patients to take the medicine.

Bak Kut Teh (肉骨茶)

Malaysia's climate and the working environment of ancestral Chinese have enabled Malaysians to integrate Chinese medicinal materials into their daily meals. Among these, the most famous dish is Bak Kut Teh. At that time, most of the Chinese who came to Malaysia worked in rather poor conditions because of their low-level knowledge and skills. They worked hard as three-wheeled cart coachmen, as laborers at wharf, as miners at the tin field, and as laborers of other difficult and dirty jobs. A kind-hearted tin mine boss who slightly understood the knowledge of Chinese medicine felt compassionate for these employees who worked under wet and humid environment. So he ordered the kitchen to boil a pot of medicinal bone soup for the workers according to a Chinese medicine prescription.[23] This recipe is said to consist of such ingredients as Hu Jiao (胡椒 Fructus Piperis Nigri) from Malaysia, Dang Gui (当归 Radix Angelicae Sinensis), Chuan Xiong (川芎 Rhizoma Ligustici Chuanxiong), Gan Cao (甘草 Radix Glycyrrhizae) and Rou Gui (肉桂 Cortex Cinnamomi). These medicines could make the workers gain more strength, dispel damp-cold and which could also improve work efficiency. Gradually, the news about this nutritious bowl of soup spread among the laborers. In the end, Bak Kut Teh has become a favorite dish among Malaysian Chinese. The ingredients and herbs used in Bak Kut Teh are more inclined to nourish the body. Therefore, people who have damp-heat constitution should pay attention to the amount of Bak Kut Teh consumed so as to avoid the accumulation of damp-heat in the body.

Herbal tea and Gui Ling Gao (龟苓膏)

Malaysians have also developed the habit of drinking herbal tea due to the sultry climate and the habits of their Chinese background. Today, there are different types of herbal teas in Malaysia, such as centella asiatica tea, bitter-taste tea, sugar cane and imperatae rhizome tea, and monk fruit tea. Generally, herbal tea has a dark appearance, bitter taste with a little sweet note at the end and the elders say that drinking these herbal teas can clear heat and remove dampness. These herbal teas are recommended to be taken when they are still warm instead of leaving it cold. In ancient times, herbal tea was packed by herbalists and sold in herbal tea shops. Although such herbal tea packaging is still available, bottled herbal drinks are getting popular to keep up with the fast pace of modern life. In order to be adapted to the market, merchants have produced bottled tea drinks to make it easier for consumers to take. In addition to bottled drinks, herbal tea bags are another popular herbal tea product in Malaysia. Among the many herbal tea bags, the brand known by almost every household in Malaysia is Ho Yan Hor Herbal Tea [Figure 7]. Ho Yan Hor had come out with individual packing of herbal teas where consumers can get a cup of fresh herbal tea simply by brewing the teabag in hot water. In addition to herbal tea, Malaysian herbal tea shops also sell Gui Ling Gao, while supermarkets sell both homemade Gui Ling Gao powder and canned Gui Ling Gao. This is because the Gui Ling Gao and herbal tea have the same effect of clearing heat and dampness from the body. Due to the fact that one of the raw material of Gui Ling Gao---the Cyclemys trifasciata---is an enlisted protected animal, and that there are more people adopting plant-based diet, most of the Gui Ling Gao brands that are now sold in the market does not contain it.[24] Although there is a lack of one ingredient in the making of Gui Ling Gao nowadays, it does not affect much the effect the Gui Ling Gao produces.
Figure 7: Ho Yan Hor

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Malaysia native herbs

Dengue fever is very common in Malaysia because of the hot weather and too much rainfall. This climate provides the best breeding ground for mosquitoes. Currently, there is no effective treatment for dengue fever in clinical practice around the world. As a result, Malaysian people choose folk medicine which can treat dengue fever such as Mu Gua Ye (木瓜叶 Carica papaya) and porcupine dates to treat dengue fever [Figure 8]. Scientists around the world have proven that Mu Gua Ye (木瓜叶 Carica papaya) have anti-inflammatory effect, strong anti-thrombocytopenia, and immunomodulatory activity, which could help to increase the number of white blood cells.[25] Although the use of porcupine dates has a long history there is no written or formal documentation until recently when experiments on it have shown that porcupine dates do possess anti-cancer efficacy. However, more experiments with higher vertebrae models are still warranted to validate its traditional claims as an anticancer agent.[26] Porcupine dates and Niu Huang (牛黄 Calculus Bovis) are both animal gallstones. Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (《神农本草经》 Shennong's Classic of Materia Medica) stated that Niu Huang (牛黄 Calculus Bovis) can eliminate heat, dissipate phlegm, clear the wind-fire and recover one's sanity. These functions coincide with the use of porcupine dates in the treatment of dengue fever which belongs to febrile disease

The combination of Malaysian people's understanding of the living environment and the knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine is reflected in the use of indigenous herbal medicines in daily life. Some of the Malaysians have the habit of growing the local herbs in their gardens to relieve their ailments. These herbs include Black Face General(黑面将军 Strobilanthes Cripus), [Figure 9]. Snake grass (忧遁草 Clinacanthus nutans) [Figure 10], and Cat whisker (猫须草 Clerodendranthus spicatus) [Figure 11], etc. These herbs were used by the ancestors through wisdom and experience in life and were able to treat common ailments and injuries in daily life. People believe that the so-called Black Face General Leaves could relieve dizziness and urinary infections, and the Snake Grass could treat cuts and injuries.[27] The official Malaysian Herbal Monograph had documented Black Face General as laxatives and could treat malaria, coldness and coughing in children. Our country has also conducted some preliminary pharmacological experiments on the bioactive components of Black Face General, such as anti-oxidation, anti-ulcer, anti-diabetes, cytotoxicity, lipid-lowering, wound healing and inhibition of angiogenesis. These experimental data have not really been established on more human trials, because its pharmacological active ingredient analysis results also show it may be a potential future pharmaceutical market, and it is included in the national research and development direction.[28]
Figure 8: Porcupine dates (豪猪枣)

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Figure 9: Black Face General (黑面将军)

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Figure 10: Snake grass (忧遁草)

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Figure 11: Cat whisker(猫须草)

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In 2003, Li Jinrong and Huang Yunxuan used the collection of their 28 years of experience in identifying Chinese herbal medicines in Malaysia and published the illustrated plants of Malaysia for the benefit of the public. They hope when all those who encounter minor ailments in their life they will have the ability to treat them on their own. This book contains 100 kinds of herbs which belong to 47 families which can be found in Malaysia. It has listed the Latin names, Chinese names and also English names of the plants. The book contains also a detailed record of the collection and processing method, the properties of each herb, such as smells, indications, dosage, application methods, and some fun and tips about those medicinal plants. This book can be a comprehensive reference manual for understanding medicinal plants in Malaysia. Malaysia's native herbs are mostly able to clear heat and detoxify, which coincides with the hot climate, high rainfall and more damp-heat diseases in Malaysia.

With the improvement of living standards and consumption ability, people's awareness of health has also been raised. Malaysian people are more inclined to consume medicinal soups for improving health and nourishing the spleen that are suitable for the whole family. People can buy prepacked medicinal soup such as Ning Shen Decoction (宁神汤), Qing Fei Decoction (清肺汤) and Ren Shen Shi Quan Da Bu Decoction (人参十全大补汤) at the medicine hall, the medicine chain store and even at the shopping mall [Figure 12]. Most of these packed medicinal soups consist of Gou Qi (枸杞 Fructus Lycii), Yu Zhu (玉竹 Rhizoma Polygonati Odorati), Fu Ling (茯苓 Poria) and Dang Shen (党参 Radix Codonopsis). Women's menstrual regulating products, which include Bai Feng Pill (白凤丸) and Ba Zhen Decoction (八珍汤) that are also popular among Malaysian women [Figure 13].
Figure 12: Ning-Shen calming soup

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Figure 13: Bak Foong Pill

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Chicken essence is another health supplement product that Malaysians often come into contact with and they will bring this product as a gift when they go to visit someone in the hospital, old folks homes or in confinement [Figure 14]. The Malaysian people believe that chicken essence can reduce fatigue, boost immunity and vital energy, enhance brain function, nourish blood and promote lactation The traditional method of preparing chicken essence requires double boiling fresh chicken with Chinese herbal medicines using such ingredients as Gou Qi (枸杞 Fructus Lycii), Hong Zao (红枣 Fructus Jujubae), Huang Qi (黄芪 Radix Astragali seu Hedysari) and etc. The end product is nutritive gold liquid. In the early 19th century, H.W. Brand, the royal chef of Buckingham Palace invented a fat-free, easily digestible chicken broth for King George IV of England. The sick King George IV regained strength after taking it a few times. In 1835, after his retiring, H.W. Brand set up a company making chicken essence with the name “Brand.” In 1920, the first batch of chicken essence arrived in Asia. Because the traditional way of preparing Chinese chicken soup requires stewing long hours, the new hassle-free concept of this product from a British chef was quickly accepted by the Malaya market. In addition to the original flavour there is also canned chicken essence with added Ren Shen (人参 Radix Ginseng), Chong Cao (虫草Ophiocordyceps sinensis), Dang Gui (当归 Radix Angelicae Sinensis), Ling Zhi (灵芝 Ganoderma Lucidum seu Japonicum), Gou Qi (枸杞Fructus Lycii) sold to cater for different needs [Figure 14]. Some of Malaysia's Chinese medicine chain enterprises such as Eu Yan Sang, and Hai-O are selling these products. Pao Shen (泡参 Adenophora capillaris Hemsl) is another Chinese herbal medicine that Malaysians use in their daily lives. Some Malaysians have the habit of chewing Hua Qi Shen (花旗参 Panax Quinquefolius) in the morning or soaking it in warm water and then drinking the water, believing that they can improve their energy and immunity in doing so.
Figure 14: Product of Chicken Essence

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It is impressive and fascinating how TCM and Chinese herbal medicine have been preserved and integrated into Malaysian life and play an important role in it. Chinese Malaysians are among the few the who have maintained long history of knowledge transfer and cultural interactions with China, while at the same time they have developed a localized TCM culture with its unique characteristics. With the inclusion of Chinese medicine into the International Classification of Diseases by the World Health Organization, it is hoped that Malaysia can learn from the rapid development and integrative experience with western medicine in China so that the development of Chinese medicine in Malaysia can keep pace with time and benefit more people.


This study was financed by a grant from The National Social Science Fund of China (No. 18ZDA322).

Conflicts of interest


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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7], [Figure 8], [Figure 9], [Figure 10], [Figure 11], [Figure 12], [Figure 13], [Figure 14]


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