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Traditional & Complementary Medicine


  • In 2001, the Ministry of Health Malaysia defined Traditional and Complementary Medicine (T&CM) as practices other than that of medicine or surgery, by registered medical practitioners as defined in Medical Act 1971
  • Under the Control of Drugs and Cosmetic Regulations, “traditional medicine” means any product used in the practice of indigenous medicine (a system of treatment and prevention of disease establish through use of naturally occurring substances), in which the drug consist solely of one or more naturally occurring substances of a plant, animal or mineral, of parts thereof, in the unextracted or crude form, and a homeopathic medicine.
  • Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a broad set of health care practices that are not part of the conventional (modern) medical practices. It includes all such practices and ideas self-defined by their users as preventing or treating illness or promoting health and well-being.

About Traditional and Complementary Medicine

  • The term complementary medicine is interchangeable with “complementary therapies” and complementary alternative medicine.
  • Uses a lot of natural resources as medicines (eg: plants, herbs, animal and mineral based substances)
  • Can also involve the use of spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercises
  • TCM is thought to be relatively inexpensive compared to modern medicine, but considerable amount of money spent by patients is sometimes considerable.
  • TCM is widely acceptable, especially in rural areas (because of links to culture and faith).
  • Examples of traditional medicines practiced in Malaysia are:
    • Malay traditional medicine
    • Chinese traditional medicine
    • Indian traditional medicine
    • Iban traditional medicine
  • Some common complementary therapies:
    • Acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic, herbal medicine, homeopathy, hypnosis, massage, meditation, nutritional therapy, osteopathy, reflexology, relaxation and visualization, yoga.

Registration requirement for Traditional Medicine

  • All traditional medicines in Malaysia need to be registered with Malaysian Drug Control Authority.
  • Registration of traditional medicines ensures their safety and quality.
  • Classification of traditional medicines:
    • Products in the form of pills, tablets, capsules, etc. containing natural substances of plant, mineral or animal origin in the unextracted or crude extract form
    • Traditional medicines for external use containing combinations of camphor, menthol and/or essential oils
    • Dietary and health products containing natural substances of plant or animal origin in the unextracted or crude extract form
    • Cosmetic products containing herbal ingredients with claim for treatment
    • Medicated liquors containing substances of traditional medicines
    • Medicinal herbal tea
    • Anti dandruff and anti-pigment preparations, and plasters containing herbal active ingredients

Guide to using traditional medicines (including herbal supplements)

  • Traditional/herbal medicines can act in the same way as modern medicines. Therefore, they can cause medical problems if taken in large amounts or incorrectly used.
  • Although they may be labeled as natural, it does not mean that they are safe or have no harmful effects. For example kava has been linked to serious liver damage.
  • Women who are pregnant or nursing should be very cautious about using herbal supplements. This also applies to its use in children.
  • If you are using herbal supplements, inform your doctor or pharmacists, as they may interact with modern medicines and cause harm.

Some very important interactions

  • Gingko- warfarin, aspirin :
    (potential increased risk of bleeding)
  • Ginseng- warfarin:
    (use with caution- unpredictable effect of ginseng on warfarin)
  • Horse chestnut- warfarin:
    (potential increased risk of bleeding)
  • St. John’s wort- theophylline:
    (may reduce theophylline effectiveness if used together)
  • St. John’s wort- cyclosporine:
    (may reduce cyclosporine effectiveness)
  • St. John’s wort- digoxin:
    (may reduce digoxin effectiveness)
  • St. John’s wort – oral contraceptives:
    (may result breakthrough bleeding and irregular menstrual bleeding)
  • St. John’s wort- warfarin:
    (may reduce warfarin effectiveness)

Some natural resources that are commonly used in traditional medicine in Malaysia

Local name: Hempedu Bumi
Scientific name: Andrographis Paniculata Other common names: Pokok Cerita

Local name: Tongkat Ali ( plant and root)
Scientific name: Eurycoma Longifolia
Other common name:Long Jack

Local name: Emas Cotek(used in women’s health, especially after birth)
Scientific name: Ficus Deltoidea
Other common names: Delima Sudip, Serapat Angina, Telinga Beruk, Telinga Gajah, Telinga Kera, The Sleeping Giant

Local name: Misai Kucing(for joint inflammation) Scientific name: Orthosiphon Stamineus
Other common name: Remujung

Local name: Bunga Raya(roots – for fever and other ailments) (juice from roots and leaves – for skin problems) (petal – cosmetic)
Scientific name: Rosa Sinensis
Other common name: Hibiscus, Kembang Sepatu, Bebaru

Local name: Dukung Anak
Scientific name: Phyllanthus Niruri
Other common names: Amin Buah, Kemin Jolok

Local name: Pegaga
Scientific name:Centella asiatica
Other common names: Pennyworth, Jin Chian Cao (in Chinese), Valarai (Tamil), Brahmi (Sanskrit)

Local name: Gamat
Scientific name: Stichopus horrens
Other common names: Sea Cucumber, Timun Laut


Last reviewed : 20 April 2012
Writer : Che Pun bt. Bujang
Kamariah Shamsinar bt. Kamarul Baharin
Accreditor : Dr. Nour Hanah bt. Othman
Reviewer : Siti Nurul Fathihah bt. Baharudin


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