The Italian Almanac

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chinese medicines

Italian News - December 4

Florence University is soon to become Europe's first higher education institute to offer a specialization course in Chinese herbal medicine. Organizers say the move is a reflection of the growing interest western academics are taking in oriental therapies and booming patient demand.

The university's pharmacy department will start its first Chinese herbal medicine course for graduate students in January. "It is an initiative of great cultural importance that meets the concrete needs of Tuscany's increasingly large Chinese community," explained Professor Franco Vincieri, the course's director. "Our aim is to train skilled professionals who are capable of handling the various problems related to the preparation and sale of traditional Chinese plant-based therapeutic products in order to guarantee quality and safety."

Chinese herbal treatments are prescribed to correct imbalances in Qi - the energy that runs through invisible meridians in the body. Although the underlying philosophy may sound bizarre to western ears, studies have shown Chinese herbal medicines are successful in treating a range of illnesses. In fact, western scientists are increasingly interested in studying how Chinese cures work so they can develop new drugs.

The disorders these medicines are used to treat include stomach upsets, gynaecological problems, respiratory disorders like asthma, arthritis, PMT, depression and anxiety. Supportive Chinese herbal treatments have even been beneficial, in some cases, to HIV sufferers. The products can come as powders, pastes, lotions or tablets, depending on the plant they are based on and their intended use.