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The use of plants and animals for traditional medicines is a high-profile driver of the global trade in wildlife (Baker et al. 2013). Among traditional medicines, the sourcing of wildlife-origin medicinal materials for Traditional Chinese Medicine (“TCM”) gives rise to an international trade that can negatively impact upon a substantial diversity of animal species. A growing body of work highlights that both consumers and practitioners of “TCM” would be prepared to accept medicines made with plant-origin substitute ingredients in place of wildlife-origin medicines, but a potential barrier to the wider uptake of plant-origin alternatives is the extent to which their suitability has been researched and tested. The extent to which research into substitutes for wild animal-origin medicines by TCM scholars in the Chinese traditional medicinal scientific literature has considered plant-origin materials is unknown. We performed a non-exhaustive literature review to provide an indication of this extent. The literature search located 17 published manuscripts which detailed 38 substitute medicinal materials for nine threatened animal species. All of the substitutes for wildlife-origin medicinal materials were of animal origin, except for three synthetic alternatives, and one plant-origin substitute. While our literature search was not intended to be exhaustive, the sample of papers derived indicate that current scholarship in China, regarding substitutes for wildlife-origin medicinal materials in “TCM”, is currently targeted towards the investigation of animal-origin substitute materials, rather than of plant-origin substitute materials.

Original publication




Journal article


Global Ecology and Conservation

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