HOME > Med in Japan Newsletter No.2 September 2012 > Health Tips: Kampo, Traditional Japanese Medicine

Health Tips: Kampo, Traditional Japanese Medicine

Not only is Japan a leader in many areas of modern medical science, but it also home to a long tradition of natural and homeopathic remedies known as kampo. While kampo has been gaining attention as a viable form of alternative medicine, it is still not well known or understood outside of Japan.

A form of traditional herbal medicine that was originally passed on to Japan from China, kampo has been in use in Japan since the 7th century. Since the beginning of the modern era, kampo has been used concurrently with modern western medicine in Japanese hospitals. Table 1 lists some of the kampo remedies commonly prescribed by medical doctors.

Kampo is derived entirely from natural ingredients using certified manufacturing practices and is subject to modern quality control and laboratory testing (GMP, GLP). Kampo remedies are favored by many people as alternatives to synthetic pharmaceuticals because they are well known to produce fewer side effects than many of those more modern medicines. A Keio University group, headed by Dr. Watanabe, reports that there have been over one hundred clinical trials involving kampo conducted internationally.

Prescription, manufacture, and sale of kampo is strictly regulated by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Typically, a doctor prescribing kampo will keep his patient under observation for about two weeks to determine the medicine’s effect before making further prescriptions. Kampo provides yet another treatment option for foreign visitors in search of healthcare.

[1] Watanabe K, Matsuura K, Gao P, Hottenbacher L, Tokunaga H, Nishimura K, et al. Traditional Japanese Kampo Medicine: Clinical Research between Modernity and Traditional Medicine—The State of Research and Methodological Suggestions for the Future. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:513842.
[2]Gao J, Song P, Qi F, Kokudo N, Qu X, Tang W. Evidence-based research on traditional Japanese medicine, Kampo, in treatment of gastrointestinal cancer in Japan. Drug DiscovTher. 2012; 6(1): 1-8.
[3] Nagata Y, Goto H, Hikiami H, Nogami T, Fujimoto M, Shibahara N, Shimada Y. Effect of Keishibukuryogan on Endothelial Function in Patients with at Least One Component of the Diagnostic Criteria for Metabolic Syndrome: A Controlled Clinical Trial with Crossover Design. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012; 2012:359282.

The purpose of this article is to illustrate the depth and scope of healthcare available in Japan. Please be advised that Med in Japan is not able to provide referrals or support services to patients seeking treatment solely by traditional means, including kampo. Support services will be extended, however, to those patients for whom the use of kampo has been recommended by a physician, for example, as an antidote to side effects caused by conventional therapies or medications.


Kampo List





Med in Japan Newsletter No.2 September 2012