Excellent interview in the New York Times about the Nobel Prize in Medicine given to Prof. Tu Youyou concerning malaria. (Read the whole thing here.)

Tu based her work on materials that were found by studying the pharmacopoeia* of traditional Chinese medicine, which has led to some discussion about whether it validates things like yin/yang and the Five Phase, or the interaction among the five elements: wood, earth, water, fire and metal (very similar to pre-science hypothesis in the west.)

It doesn’t, says Paul Unschuld, 72, who the Times describes as “a leading scholar of the history and ideas that underlie Chinese medicine.” He points out that Tu succeeded only because she tossed out the methods used by traditional Chinese medicine and applied modern biological principles to her work – something that China itself has been doing.

Tu’s discovery had nothing to do with what most Westerners define as traditional Chinese medicine, except that the substance she examined is described in ancient pharmaceutical literature. The Chinese authorities are trying to strip historical Chinese medicine of superstition and nonsense. What is left can exist with molecular biology.

* yes, I had to look up the spelling

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