Toho University Faculty of medicine, Department of traditional medicine

Introduction

 

Research Activities

Creating new horizons beyond the East-West borders – where refined traditional medicine theory meets scientific reasoning.
Oriental Medicine is not just a combination of medicine and pharmacology, but is comprised of multiple disciplines including philosophy, ethnology, cultural anthropology, psychology, botany, zoology, agricultural science, geology, astronomy, mathematics, and physics. For this vast interdisciplinary nature of this medicine, I am always seeking for ways to exchange ideas with professionals of different disciplines.
We aspire to create a new science discipline through the deeper insight Oriental Medicine could deliver to our universal understanding of science.

The strong-point of Oriental Medicine

The strong-point of Oriental Medicine is that it had systemized various psychological and the pathophysiological states of the body at a time where no clinical examination and imagery diagnosis were available. Furthermore, it creates multi-herbal compounds out of a complex variety of Oriental herbal efficacies in accordance with individual conditions. These compounds are still very much effective today – although perhaps not quite as effective against the modern day stress-related diseases, but it creates no resistant strains. This is Oriental Medicine’s forte.
Oriental Medicine may apply ideas not so easy to understand in modern science, but it is worthwhile to scientifically re-evaluate its content. To date, only a handful of scientific research focuses on re-evaluating its theory. Most researches have focused more on the pharmacological aspects of the herbs such as substance analysis of chromatographically extracted components. While this is beneficial to synthesize treatment, further investigation into the theory of, or the pathophysiological reasoning of, the construction of herbal compound could lead to reveal the true culprit of the disease. A paradigm shift could possibly occur. The practicality of the current prescriptive incorporation of these compounds into modern medicine is undeniable, but there may be further benefits still lost in misinterpretation, or the lack there of. The compounded effects of the herbs will be truly appreciated only when the compounded reasoning of the theory involving psychology, physiology and the pathology of the body, and related pharmacology is scientifically understood and evidentially supported. This is the same process taken in learning medicine, where without basic medicine, pathophysiology will not be understood, and that evidence is required in creating a manual in clinical medicine.

Three Pillars of our Oriental Medicine Research

I. Probing deeper into Oriental Medicine (Kampo, Acupuncture):

①Study of Classic Kampo
In Edo era Japan, clinical level of Kampo was high even in comparison with Chinese Medicine. Therefore, one approach to the highest level of Kampo is through studying the publications of the highest level medical doctors of that time, and refining our comprehension of these publications to incorporate its logic into today’s clinical (Kampo and acupuncture) practice. For this, we periodically invite lecturers to enhance our understanding of Japanese and Chinese Classic literature and Chinese language skills.
As study subjects from ancient Chinese classics, we had chosen Song Dynasty pediatrician Qian Yi’s “The key to Therapeutics for Children’s Diseases,” “Shanghan Lun” from Qing Dynasty which details infectious diseases, and Kessyoron (Xue Zheng Lun) written by Dr.Toyosen (Tang Rong Chuan) which details hemorrhagic diseases, and medical articles written by the Japanese doctor, Nanyo Hara.
②Study of herbs’ traditional effects
Our question is, “how were herbs discovered and put to use?” From a cultural anthropologic perspective, Ancient men were not at all barbaric, and while they had not yet invented writing, they instead were more in tuned with the elements and had obtained far more sophisticated levels of knowledge and understanding of nature compared to Modern Day men. Oriental Medicine is a legacy passed down from people already with writing, but it records that intricate pharmacological differentiations were made by shape, taste and aroma of herbs. In other words, they must have been able to make an educated guess of an herb’s efficacy by observation alone. In Edo era Japan also, when a particular herb went short, people would substitute them with different herbs. 350 years ago, people were still in context with the ancient wisdom. We are searching for ways to identify substitutive herbs in modern times by compiling a list of characteristics by shape, taste and aroma.

II. Filtering through different traditional medicine system

Kunio Yanagida, the pioneer in Japan’s ethnology, is quoted in Mikiharu Ito’s book Kunio Yanagida and Tadao Umesao: Jimae no gakumon wo motomete (In search of one’s unique discipline) (Iwanami Shoten, 2011); “I have, as an outsider with the world’s many ethnic culture in mind and with the ethnic culture of my country as a foothold, attempted to find the answer to the question: what is Japan?” In Oriental Medicine, in the same way, one could attempt to find the answer to the question: what is the traditional medicine of Japan?
①To create a refined perception of vitality
India’s Ayulveda and Middle-Eastern Unani medicine are a well-known traditional medicine worldwide, but in Asia, there are many more traditional medicines fostered in different ethnic groups, such as the Tibetan medicine, Mongolian medicine and Thai medicine. Among all the various traditional system, the universal characteristics or the foundation of the systems are in its powerful discernment of the human body, life, and vital phenomenon. It is also one of our objectives to study and seek how these traditional medicines have perceived and conceptualized vitality, so that we may create a more refined perspective on living.
②To understand the pleiotropic effects of herbs
Not only within Asia, but herbs that are used in Oriental Medicine are also used in western medicines. Then there are some that were introduced from the west to the orient. Interestingly, herbs of similar species are used for different purposes in the east and the west.
Herbs are not only for the regional traditional medicine, but used globally. By looking at the commonality and the difference in the usage of herbs between traditional medicines, one can understand the pleiotropic effects of herbs. Common usage suggests it primary effects, and the variety of use would suggest pleiotropic nature of the herb. To study how separate pleiotropic effects are integrated into different traditional medicine, we must acquaint ourselves with the traditional theory of physiology, pathology and pharmacology.

III. Scientific examination

Modern scientific research explains the scientific pharmacologic efficacy of the herb extracts. However, these results do not quite equip us with feedback on how to explain the theory of Oriental Medicine. We need our research results to suggest, for instance, a scientific definition of herbal efficacy toward a specific symptom or disease, with individuated constitutions. When we are able to explain in modern medical terms the experience-based ancient theories, we will be able to deepen our understanding of medicine while still embracing the wisdom of our forefathers. This, in turn, will further incorporate and advance both medicines.
To present, we have studied the difference in efficacy of Rikkunshito (Lio-Jin-Zi-Tang) and Boiogito (Fang-Ji-Huang-Qi-Tang) on enterokinesis and glycolipid metabolism. For Boiogito, gender differences were also considered. Currently, we are starting a new research on relationship between allergy, immune mechanism and Kampo, and soil micro-bacteria.
A respectful appreciation of both traditional medicine and scientific examination will allow us to leap beyond the now-refined east-west border and to enter a new horizon in modern medicine. To be in awe of nature and to dignify life, as stated in the education philosophy of Toho University, is essential in developing and furthering medicine. This is especially true in the field of Oriental Medicine; in which, perception of nature is in recognizing humans as a part of it, and knowing that we may exist only with the help awarded by it.
We will continue to aspire to create new platform beyond the East-West borders where refined traditional medicine theory is in dialogue with the scientific analysis, and we welcome joint research proposals from around the world
Please contact us at;
toyoigaku@med.toho-u.ac.jp