The Incredible And Fascinating Story Of Nobel Prize Winner Youyou Tu

The more I learn about Chinese herbal medicine, the more I am blown away by all the amazing things it can do. Many people dismiss herbal medicine as weaker and less effective than Western drugs, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Chinese herbal medicine has been used effectively for thousands of years. It can be used to treat many conditions including pain, respiratory illness, infertility, insomnia, and much more. Instead of pitting Eastern and Western medicines against each other, let's bring them together and celebrate the ingenuity of the human spirit.

A great example of how we can combine ancient wisdom with modern science is the incredible story of Youyou Tu, the first Chinese woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Youyou Tu, along with a team of researchers, developed a treatment for malaria using ancient Chinese herbal knowledge combined with modern technology. Their discoveries have saved millions of lives.

Who Is Youyou Tu?

Youyou Tu is a renowned scientist and herbalist. In 2015, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Born in China in 1930, she began her studies in pharmacology in Beijing. Later, she went on to become a researcher at the Academy of Chinese Traditional Medicine. She is currently 90 years old.

Tu Youyou and her then-tutor Lou Zhicen (1951). Image via Wikimedia Commons
Tu Youyou and her then-tutor Lou Zhicen (1951). Image via Wikimedia Commons

Her Amazing Discovery

In the 1960's, Youyou was tasked with finding a new treatment for malaria. Malaria had grown resistant to existing drugs at this time. Each year this terrible disease killed millions of people worldwide. Researchers had tested thousands of compounds in search of a new anti-malarial drug with no success.

Youyou and her team began screening traditional Chinese herbs for anti-malarial compounds. They turned to ancient Chinese texts for clues, and found sweet wormwood listed as a treatment for malaria. The team identified an active compound, artemisinin, which proved to be effective against malaria. This discovery has saved millions of lives over the past several decades.

The Power Of Ancient Wisdom

Youyou's discoveries highlight China's rich history of medical knowledge. Traditional Chinese Medicine is often dismissed by many Western doctors. However, I believe there is a lot to be learned here.

The earliest documentation of the Chinese herbal pharmacy was written in the 2nd century A.D. Through a long history of careful observation and clinical trial and error, this ancient knowledge has been passed down through generations.

We are only beginning to incorporate ancient Chinese herbal knowledge into modern medicine. Each year there are more and more research studies published looking at the benefits of Chinese herbs from a biomedical perspective. But long before this, traditional Chinese doctors knew that herbs were powerful ingredients with potent effects. We have so much to learn from the past, and I am excited about all the possibilities for the future.

Want to learn more about Chinese herbal medicine? Check out:

9 Medicinal Flowers Used In Chinese Herbal Medicine
How Can Chinese Herbs Make You Healthier And Happier?


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