Why the price hike in traditional Chinese medicine?

Various factors have driven up the prices for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) over the past few years according to various traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.

The price for sour jujube seeds alone has increased tenfold since past years, reported China Press.

“The depreciation of the ringgit, transportation costs, and panic buying have contributed to the increase in TCM material prices,” said Federation of Chinese Physicians and Medicine Dealers Associations of Malaysia (FCPMDAM) president Boon Yip Heng.

Boon revealed that currently, the most volatile prices are Ophiopogon root, which has surged from over RM50 per kilogram to RM120 per kilogram, while Cicada has risen from over RM300 per kilogram to over RM500 per kilogram.

Ophiopogon root or dwarf lilyturf is known for its efficacy in nourishing the body, moistening the lungs, and nourish the heart. It is often used to cure symptoms such as dry throat, dry cough due to lung dryness, restless heat caused by deficiency, depletion of fluids from febrile diseases, and constipation caused by intestinal dryness.

He also mentioned that codonopsis root has increased from over RM80 per kilogram to RM135 per kilogram, while medicinal materials such as Polygonatum odoratum (Solomon’s seal), which can regulate bodily functions and be used in cooking, have risen from over RM40 per kilogram to over RM60 per kilogram.

“Because Codonopsis root and Atractylodes rhizome are used to treat illnesses, boost immunity, and regulate blood and qi, such as in the preparation of Eight Treasure Soup and Ten Flavor Decoction, the demand has increased for both medicinal materials,” Boon said.

Codonopsis root or Dangshen functions can strengthen the spleen, and nourish the lungs and blood. It is primarily used to treat conditions such as weakness of the spleen and stomach, deficiency of both qi and blood, asthmatic cough, internal heat with thirst, blood deficiency leading to sallow complexion, palpitations with insomnia, fatigue, reduced appetite, loose stools, and chronic diarrhea with prolapse of the rectum.

Atractylodes rhizome or better known as Bai Zhu clears food and energy accumulation, promoting spleen health, reducing fluid retention, and supporting long-term digestive and weight management goals. It is used to treats reduced appetite, indigestion, tiredness and a wan complexion.

Federation of Chinese Physicians & Acupuncturists Association of Malaysia (FCPAAM) chairman Dr Ng Po Kok said prices for some Chinese herbal medicine production may be affected by the climate and increased overseas demand.

“In Malaysia, factors like the drop in the Ringgit exchange rate, transportation costs, hot weather, or outbreaks of diseases have led to increased demand for some cooling Chinese herbal medicines,” he said.

Malaysian Chinese Medical Association (MCMA)president Dr Heng Aik Teng addressed a video alleging that the prices of Chinese medicinal herbs increased because a Japanese pharmaceutical company paid exorbitant prices to purchase Chinese medicinal herbs during a phone interview with China Press.

He said that whole the claim in the video that the price of sour jujube seeds is accurate, the price already increased tenfold back in 2023.

In the same phone interview, he said there has been some decline in the price of sour jujube seeds.

“This is economics, when shop rentals rise, surrounding products become expensive, transportation costs and employee wages increase, and government taxes go up.

“Although the government exempts us from service tax, the production of medicines involves many processes, so taxes are unavoidable,” he said when asked whether there was businesses that used this opportunity to increase prices, emphasising that price is not due to a singular factor.