Traditional Chinese Medicine is a concept in a broad sense, which includes traditional Chinese medicine, folk medicine (or medicinal herbs) and ethnic medicine. A traditional Chinese medicine refers to a natural medicine or a product made from natural medicinal raw materials processed in a standard way, which is extensively utilized, circulated as a merchandise in the traditional Chinese medicine market, written into the traditional Chinese medicine pharmacopoeia and its pharmacological effects should be explained theoretically. It should be applied clinically and supported by a unique theoretical system and a specific way of application.
A folk medicine refers to a natural medicine or its processed product used by herbalists or people for the prevention and treatment of diseases. Medicines of the kind, as a rule, are grown, collected and made by herbalists and for their own use. They are rarely seen in or even not written into the traditional Chinese medicine pharmacopoeia, and their application is restricted to some localities. Their effects are deficient of theoretical study and the processing procedure of these medicines is not unified and standard.
Ethnic medicines are mainly natural medicines used by ethnic groups in China (except the Han people) within their own ethnic regions. These medicines have their own pharmacological systems, and are studied under the guidance of the ethnic pharmaceutical theory and by the experience of practical application. These medicines, as a rule, are collected and used by ethnic people themselves or sold by touring medical teams.
Ethnic medicine is a component part of the traditional Chinese Medicine system, and the existence and development of ethnic medicine not only enrich the treasure-house of traditional Chinese medicine, but also promote the development of traditional Chinese medicine. There are differences among traditional Chinese medicine, folk medicine and ethnic medicine, but they are closely co-related. They are overlapping, inter-permeating and complementary to each other, and have thus enriched and widened the spectrum of traditional Chinese medicine and formulated a traditional Chinese medicine system in a broad sense.