Europe takes a rather cautious approach to herbal medicines. Traditional Herbal Medicines are regulated via European Union-directive 2001/83/EC, especially articles 16a‐h. For Asian medicines, this new regulation poses several challenges, specifically the requirements on medicine ‘quality’ and on requirements of a proven record of at least 15 years of tradition or use within the EU. This makes it very hard for most of the medicines of Asian tradition to enter the EU market as medicines. The notion of ‘tradition’ in this directive may have been taken from a definition given by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Traditional Medicine or from the existing label Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Both concepts, although labelled as ‘traditional’, link themselves to a modernised and standardised practice of complementary medicine in a globalised setting. This essay investigates the function of the label ‘traditional’ in the European frame in connection with Tibetan medicine.
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