This is part 1 of a series of articles on this topic. Animal poaching greatly upsets me. Whether it’s a rat, an opossum, a rhinocerous, or a beautiful tiger, it upsets me. We need to value all life, and to support poaching by purchasing products made with, or containing, animal parts, is just plain wrong. We are so focused on ourselves and what we perceive as best for us (I’m talking globally), that we will believe whatever claims are made regarding cures of this, that, or the other, without regard for how the product is made or what it contains. I must admit, to some extent I have been guilty. I am a huge fan of homeopathic medicine. However, before I purchase anything else, I will know what is in it, and where the product comes from.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 80 percent of the world’s population depends for its primary health care needs on medicines derived from plants and animals.
Seized pelts and bones from poached tigers on display, Nepalâ€”D. Champaignâ€”Wildlife Conservation Nepal, HO/AP. –
This is especially true in countries where traditional medicines are widely used. Increasingly, however, modern medicines and remedies also contain animal and plant derivatives. Given growing populations, increasing wealth, and the spreading popularity of natural remedies around the world, the demand for these medicines and remedies is rising. The rising demand, combined with reduced habitat, has caused an alarming increase in the number of plant and animal species (used for medicinal purposes) at risk. This article highlights some of the threatened and endangered animal species used in traditional Chinese medicine, the most widely practiced traditional system.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
TCM is a health care system in which patients are treated with natural plant, animal, and mineral remedies. It assumes, for a person to be healthy, that vital energy or force (qi) must be able to move smoothly through the body and that yin and yang forces (cold and hot; passive and active; and absorbing and penetrating) are in balance. Imbalance causes illness or injury. TCM is all about restoring smooth movement of vital energy and the balance between yin and yang forces in its patients.
TCM’s origins are lost in the mists of time. Shennong, born in the 28th century BCE, according to legend, is credited with compiling a catalogue of 365 species of medicinal plants that became the basis of later herbological studies. Most medical literature, however, is founded on the Neijing (3rd century BCE; “Esoteric classic”), which is still regarded as a great authority. During its centuries of development, TCM spread throughout China and then into Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia. It has been a major part of traditional Chinese culture and continues to play an important role in medical treatment in China today.
TCM uses approximately 1,000 plant and 36 animal species, including the tiger, rhinoceros, black bear, musk deer, and sea horse; the tiger, rhinoceros, and sea horse are endangered.