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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kampō (or Kanpō, 漢方) medicine is the Japanese study and adaptation of Traditional Chinese medicine. The basic works of Chinese medicine came to Japan between the 7th and 9th centuries. [1] Since then, the Japanese have created their own unique herbal medical system and diagnosis. Kampo uses most of the Chinese medical system including acupuncture and moxibustion but is primarily concerned with the study of herbs.

Unlike the United States, where most herbal preparations are regulated as dietary supplements (technically foods, not drugs), herbal medicines in Japan are regulated as pharmaceutical preparations. Both the industry and the government conduct extensive monitoring of agricultural and manufacturing processes as well as post-marketing surveillance to guarantee the safety of these preparations. Furthermore, access to Kampo herbal medicines is guaranteed as part of Japan’s national health plan for each of its citizens. In the West, however, Kampo still remains a secret to all but a few. Kampo, like the traditional medicines of modern China, Vietnam, and Korea, has roots that extend back to ancient China’s Han Dynasty (200 BC to 220 AD). The term Kampo itself incorporates 2 characters: (kan) for the Han dynasty and (po) denoting “way” or “method.” Thus, Kampo means “the way of the Han Dynasty.” Although Kampo has developed within Japan’s borders and within Japan’s culture over the past 1400 years, only recently have Kampo practitioners expressed interest in sharing Kampo’s unique insights with the world.


Approved kampo medicines

Today in Japan, Kampo is integrated into the national health care system. In 1967, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare approved four kampo medicines for reimbursement under the National Health Insurance (NHI) program. In 1976, 82 kampo medicines were approved by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Currently, 148 kampo medicines are approved for reimbursement.[2]

Rather than modifying formulae as in Traditional Chinese medicine, the Japanese kampo tradition uses fixed combinations of herbs in standardized proportions according to the classical literature of Chinese medicine. Kampo medicines are produced by various manufacturers. However, each medicine is composed of exactly the same ingredients under the Ministry's standardization methodology. The medicines are therefore prepared under strict manufacturing conditions that rival pharmaceutical companies. Extensive modern scientific research in Japan has validated the effectiveness of kampo medicines. In October 2000, a nationwide study reported that 72% of registered physicians prescribe kampo medicines.[3]

Regulations, and therefore safety is much stronger and tighter for Japanese Kampo than Chinese traditional medicine due to strict enforcement of laws and standardization.

Herbs used in kampo medicines

The 14th edition of the Japanese Pharmacopoeia (JP) (日本薬局方 Nihon yakkyokuhō) lists 165 herbal ingredients that are used in kampo medicines.[4][broken]

Lots of the Kampo product are routinely tested for heavy metals, purity, and microbial content to eliminate any contaminant. Kampo medicines are tested for the levels of key chemical constituents as markers for quality control on every formula. This is carried out from the blending of the raw herbs to the end product according to the Ministry’s pharmaceutical standards.

Medicinal mushrooms like Reishi and Shiitake are herbal products with a long history of use. In Japan, the Agaricus blazei mushroom is a highly popular herb, which is used by close to 500,000 people.[1] In Japan, Agaricus blazei is also the most popular herb used by cancer patients.[2] The second most used herb, is an isolate from the Shiitake mushroom, known as Active Hexose Correlated Compound.

Kampo outside Japan

In the United States, kampo is practiced mostly by acupuncturists, Chinese medicine practitioners, naturopath physicians, and other alternative medicine professionals. The only available brand of the products in the US is under Honso distributed by Honso USA, Inc. out of Phoenix, Arizona. In year 2002, Honso USA revealed its professional Kampo herbal formulas to licensed healthcare professionals in the US. These products have been used by Japanese physicians under prescription for many decades. Kampo herbal formulae are studied under clinical trials, such as the clinical study of Honso Sho-saiko-to (H09) for treatment of hepatitis C at New York Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and liver cirrhosis caused by hepatitis C at UCSD Liver Center. Both clinical trials are sponsored by Honso USA, Inc., a branch of Honso Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., Nagoya, Japan.

The Kampo herbal combination Sho-saiko-to (SST) has been used extensively in China and Japan to treat chronic liver disease and other inflammatory diseases. Over 200 research papers has demonstrated SST's therapeutic roles of anti-inflammatory, anti-fibrotic, and chemopreventive properties that both pre-clinical and clinical research suggest are effective for various forms of liver diseases, including chronic hepatitis.


  • Wen, Dan. "Sho-saiko-to, a Clinically Documented Herbal Preparation for Treating Chronic Liver Disease". HerbalGram: The Journal of the American Botanical Council, Issue: 73 Pages: 34–43, 2007.
  • Rister, Robert. Japanese Herbal Medicine: The Healing Art of Kampo. Avery, 1999. (ISBN 0-8952-9836-8)
  • Tsumura, Akira. "Kampo: How the Japanese Updated Traditional Herbal Medicine." Japan Publications, 1991. (ISBN 0-8704-0792-9)
  • Shibata, Yoshiharu and Jean Wu. "Kampo Treatment for Climacteric Disorders: A Handbook for Practitioners." Paradigm Publications, 1997. (ISBN 0-9121-1151-8)

See also

External links


  1. ^ Takaku T, Kimura Y, Okuda H (May 2001). "Isolation of an antitumor compound from Agaricus blazei Murill and its mechanism of action". The Journal of Nutrition 131 (5): 1409–13. PMID 11340091.  
  2. ^ Hyodo I, Amano N, Eguchi K (April 2005). "Nationwide survey on complementary and alternative medicine in cancer patients in Japan". Journal of Clinical Oncology 23 (12): 2645–54. doi:10.1200/JCO.2005.04.126. PMID 15728227.  


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