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‘Opportunities, challenges and solutions for traditional medicine integration into western medicine’

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Science Direct:

Traditional pharmacopeias have been developed by multiple cultures and evaluated for efficacy and safety through both historical/empirical iteration and more recently through controlled studies using Western scientific paradigms and an increasing emphasis on data science methodologies for network pharmacology.

Traditional medicines represent likely sources of relatively inexpensive drugs for symptomatic management as well as potential libraries of new therapeutic approaches. Leveraging this potential requires hard evidence for efficacy that separates science from pseudoscience.

From ‘Awa to kava to Happy Camper. An extraction of Piper methysticum is used in several indigenous Pacific cultures as a drink associated with ritual, conflict resolution and socialization. The drink is known by the following names in the Pacific: ʻawa (Hawaiʻi), ʻava (Samoa), yaqona (Fiji), sakau (Pohnpei), seka (Kosrae), and malok or malogu (Vanuatu), with kava being a generic term (Showman et al., 2015). ‘Awa is non-psychoactive and non-stimulant, providing instead sensations of well-being, calm and is a mild soporific. It has a low side effect profile, with 1999–2001 reports of hepatotoxicity being now overwritten, and chronic use associated with a reversible icthyoform dermopathy in some Pacific populations (Kuchta et al., 2015; Showman et al., 2015).

Materials and methods

We performed a review of non-Western medical systems and developed case studies that illustrate the epistemological and practical translative barriers that hamper their transition to integration with Western approaches. We developed a new data analytics approach, in silico convergence analysis, to deconvolve modes of action, and potentially predict desirable components of TM-derived formulations based on computational consensus analysis across cultures and medical systems.

Abstraction, simplification and altered dose and delivery modalities were identified as factors that influence actual and perceived efficacy once a medicine is moved from a non-Western to Western setting. Case studies on these factors highlighted issues with translation between non-Western and Western epistemologies, including those where epistemological and medicinal systems drive markets that can be epicenters for zoonoses such as the novel Coronavirus. The proposed novel data science approach demonstrated the ability to identify and predict desirable medicinal components for a test indication, pain.

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