In the United States, Western medicine is the mainstream medicine and other medicines are called alternative medicine. As for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Americans recognize acupuncture and moxibustion, and most insurances includes acupuncture treatment. But when talking about Chinese Herbal Medicine (“Herbal Medicine”), the United States health legislation officials neither understands the theory nor recognizes it as medicine. What they have done is to classify Herbal Medicine as Dietary Supplement.
What does this mean? It means that Herbal Medicine can be bought by the public easily without restrictions and the US government has no regulation on it, except for some endangered animals and plants since sometimes rare animals and plants can be made into Herbal Medicine. A few things with toxicity or contains heavy metal are also strictly regulated or banned, because the known toxicity is deemed worse than unknown toxicity from certain pharmaceutical drugs, and they certainly would not understand the principle of toxicity and effectiveness could go hand in hand for treating severe diseases, just like pharmaceutical drugs. It is known to us all that only medicine needs the regulation, Herbal Medicine is not recognized, so it is not regulated.
As a result, there is no TCM license or trusted herbology license in the United States, only license for acupuncture, for which even the simplest herbology exam is not required. If you see a licensed acupuncturist in the US, never assume they understand even the basics of herbal medicine. Many acupuncturists realize the limits of acupuncture and moxibustion, especially the ones who were well-trained and practiced herbal medicine back in China, so they may add some herbal medicine during the treatment. Just that the medication is never in the scope of insurance.
Will it be possible that the United States high power organizations will admit Herbal Medicine is Medicine? We think it is impossible in the foreseeable future. The most important reason is that nobody can get huge profit from herbs; herbs can be picked from the earth easily so no one can monopolize the resources from it.
The industries of Western medicine are many these days and they have to benefit themselves. For example, pharmaceutical companies can set a very high price for drugs by applying for patents, and consumers have no choice but to buy the drugs they need, netting the pharmaceutical companies a substantial profit. However, Herbal Medicine has the highest degree of free market competition because of its natural characteristic. Because it is determined that Herbal Medicine can’t make such a high level of profit, it is a bad business.
For instance, it is said that the bark of yew, which can cure cancer, is used to make decoction by doctors of TCM. Almost all pine products such as frankincense, rosin, platycladus orientalis, cypress kernel and so on are effective anti-cancer medicines. But pharmaceutical companies want to obtain certain compounds. If everyone can get the yew bark rather than buy the drugs with the certain compounds, where will the huge profit be at?
If one day, there was a way to monopolize the supply of Herbal Medicine completely, then the Western world would recognize Herbal Medicine and pharmaceutical companies would provide the perfect data of the drugs and find ways to verify that it is effective medicine that can cure diseases.