Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM) are rapidly gaining attention in the West as sources of new drugs, dietary supplements and functional foods. However, lack of consistent manufacturing practices and quality standards, fear of adulteration, and perceived deficiencies in scientific validation of efficacy and safety impede worldwide acceptance of TCM. In addition, Western pharmaceutical industries and regulatory agencies are partial toward single ingredient drugs based on synthetic molecules, and skeptical of natural product mixtures. This review concentrates on three examples of TCM-derived pharmaceuticals and functional foods that have, despite these usual obstacles, risen to wide acceptance in the West based on their remarkable performance in recent scientific investigations. They are: Sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua), the source of artemisinin, which is the currently preferred single compound anti-malarial drug widely used in combination therapies and recently approved by US FDA; Thunder god vine (Tripterygium wilfordii) which is being developed as a botanical drug for rheumatoid arthritis; and green tea (Camellia sinensis) which is used as a functional beverage and a component of dietary supplements.
Keywords: Artemisia annua, artemisinin, Camellia sinensis, (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), functional foods, nutraceuticals, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), tripdiolide, Tripterygium wilfordii, triptolide