In everything from neurology to medicine, the West is now starting to listen to wisdom from the East. A major drug company is using Chinese medicine, which relies on natural ingredients, in its search for new medicines.

He describes how Chinese botanist Shen Jingui is searching for a tiny flower called the snow lotus, that has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. For the last 30 years, he has been traveling across China in order to locate the rare plants and herbs that are used in traditional medicine. He then sells these to the giant Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, which is spending millions of dollars to finance the work of Chinese botanists who are searching out these plants throughout China.

In the November 15 Wall Street Journal, Nicholas Zamiska quotes Novartis research chief Paul Herrling, as saying, “China has thousands of years’ experience of using plants in Chinese traditional medicines. The idea was, why not use the Chinese experience as a kind of filter?”

Novartis has a new malaria drug called Coartem that originated from a traditional Chinese cure for fever. The plant, sweet wormwood, was found in a Chinese medicine book that was written on silk, and found a tomb of the West Han Dynasty, which ruled beginning about 200 BC. In China, in the 1970s, doctors used the plant to develop a drug to treat Chinese soldiers who caught malaria in Vietnam.

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