History of Kampo


Japanese herbal medicine ‘Kampo’ originated in medieval Chinese medical methods. Herbal formulae were prescribed by practitioners through local examinations of, for example, abdominal palpation, tongue inspection and pulse diagnosis. It is often described as favourable for treating chronic diseases, especially subtler conditions, and as having less strong side effects. In the UK and other European countries, more Western practitioners are now interested in using Kampo medicine in the context of raising awareness of complementary and alternative medicine in recent decades.

Past and present

As a history, the use of Kampo in Japan was for a time withdrawn and replaced by Western medicine in the context of modernisation from the beginning of the nineteenth century. However, in recent decades, Kampo has been officially regarded as a complementary medical option for improving the quality of modern healthcare in Japan. Currently, more than 80% of practitioners in Japan prescribe Kampo medicine and the national health insurance scheme in Japan has offered Kampo. In addition, research on herbal ingredients and more scientific research on clinical practice has been taking place at institutes and universities in Japan.

International development

Although, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is already well established among general practitioners in European countries, studying Kampo for Westerners may be easier as Kampo uses only 300-400 crude drugs as compared to 3000 in TCM. Additionally Kampo is moving to westward; the International Society for Japanese Kampo Medicine (ISJKM) was founded in Tokyo in 2009. There were approximately 300 participants at ISJKM’s recent international symposium in Munich in 2011. There are currently more than 20 Kampo practitioners in the UK. The next symposium of ISJKM will be in Vienna in 2015. Previous meetings were held in Tokyo, Tromsø in Norway, Chengdu in China, Munich and London.