Healing with Kampo - Traditional Medicine from China and Japan

by WriterArtist

Kampo has its foundation and origin in Ancient Chinese medicines, to which the Japanese added their unique perspective and applied Traditional Medicine further pragmatically.

None of this undermines the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) because it is complex, ciphered and conserved for generations to experiment and use. Japanese may have simplified the techniques but the extensive composition of Kampo remains documented in Chinese Materia Dietetica.

Many Asian countries have developed the art of healing through herbs based on symptoms, individual’s health assessment and flow of energy. Hence unlike allopathy, the dose of medicines and even the medicines prescribed are different for different people.

Image Credit – Pixabay, Author : kian2018
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Ayurveda Techniques

Oriental Medicine

This technique and practice is also present in Ayurveda and it takes time to perfect the knowledge and expertise with integrative medicine. The Doctors (Vaidya) prescribe the medicine based on patient’s age and health. They alter the composition based on the constitution and habits of the patient too. Further the socioeconomic background also plays a vital role.

Kampo: A Clinical Guide to Theory and Practice, Second Edition

Kampo: A Clinical Guide to Theory and Practice, Second Edition

Traditional Chinese Medicine on Amazon

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) encompasses a wide myriad of medicine forms prevalent in China. Examples are Acupuncture, Acupressure, Massages and Qigong
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Japanese Kampo Medicine on Amazon

Traditional Japanese Medicines are called Kampo. Japanese National Health System recognizes around 148 officially approved formulas integrated into modern health care.
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Healing Art of Kampo

Traditional Chinese Medicine



Chinese were pioneers in traditional medicines. 3000 years ago, they knew how to mix 10 to 15 herbs enhancing the potent of composition by using the prime benefits and properties of plants. Chinese Kampo uses a myriad of at least 10 to 15 herbs. Japanese brought it to their country 1500 years ago. It is interesting to know that Kampo uses 5 to 9 herbs in Japanese Traditional Medicine.

Ancient Japanese people with oriental heritage used herbs for healing. There is a special place for healing with "Kampo" - The Japanese Herb and the knowledge of herbal medicine that lied with the forefathers.

Illustrations from Shiwubencao (Materia dietetica)

This picture is from Chinese Materia Dietetica. Illustrations compasses 4 volumes dating from the Ming period. The authors and artists are unknown, it seems like a collective reasearch work done by many. The catalogue contains beautiful coloured paintings
Chinese Materia Dietetica, Ming; via Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license
Chinese Materia Dietetica, Ming; via Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license

Kampo As Per TCM

Chinese Herbs



Theories for Kampo were propounded during Han dynasty. Needless to say, thorough research was done. Kampo embraces the Chinese principles of ‘Sho’ which roots from ‘Zheng’. It represents and symbolizes 5 elements and Yin-Yang (mind and body). Life manifests with Mind and body. Each of which is incomplete without other. The 5 elements subjected to utilize were Qi, Blood, Body fluids, Essence, Shen. Qi symbolizes the well-being of an individual, his energy levels and health distribution.

Traditional Japanese Kampo Medicine

Japanese Herbal Medicine




Treatment with herbs is nothing new. In China it is popular as Traditional Chinese Medicine, in India it is called Ayurveda and in Japan people know it is as Japanese Kampo Medicines that treat common illness.




The goal of these medicines is to treat the patient as opposed to the treatment of disease and symptoms followed in Allopathy.




If one wants to trace the origins of this word, one finds “Kampo is made of ‘Kan” and “Ho”. Kan is the ancient name for China and Ho means the method. Kampo encompassed Chinese therapies such as acupressure, acupuncture and moxibustion.





This ancient line of defence incorporates lifestyle changes, prominent medicinal plants, animal ingredients, spiritual therapy  and mineral salts from the womb of earth either singularly or in combination.

Kampo Medicine as per Japanese Practice

Japanese Herbs



Kampo in Japan puts focus on three substances (Qi, Blood, Water), eight categories and five parenchymatous viscera (human organ tissues).

Six stages of diseases were identified. As the disease progresses the stages are diagnosed and the prescription given.

The 8 categories are principal indicators of human body. It is made of interior-exterior, cold-heat and deficiency-excess, Yin-Yang.

Five parenchymatous viscera – are the 5 elements of life. In human beings, they correspond to the organs: liver, heart, lungs, kidney and spleen.

Traditional Medicines from Youtube

New Outlook

Kampo Today

Healing with Kampo


 The Meiji Government adopted one license for medical specialists in Japan. Due to which, the physician can also prescribe Kampo drugs while practicing Allopathy. Japan imports 80 % of Kampo ingredients from China although some herbs are grown in local environment. According to Integrative Medicine, the soil and environment can alter the properties of herb and hence the effect. This is an area of research for Kampo Medicines in Japan.


Since the introduction of Allopathy we are losing the touch with Alternative therapies and holistic medicines. Although our ancestors including our Grandma knew that herbs were indeed therapeutical, we continue to not explore their therapeutic advantages.

Sources Consulted

  1. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Kampo: A Review from The Distant Past for The Future, May 2006 34: 231Journal of International Medical Research, Yamaguchi, T Kanda & Others
  2. Kampo Medicine as an Integrative Medicine in Japan JMAJ 52(3): 147–149, 2009 Ko Nishimura, Gregory A. Plotnikoff, Kenji Watanabe
Updated: 05/06/2021, WriterArtist
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?

Have you ever tried traditional Medicines for cure or prevention?

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blackspanielgallery on 05/08/2021

There is often value in some things modern medecine does not understand.

DerdriuMarriner on 05/06/2021

WriterArtist, Thank you for pictures, practicalities and products.
Are there Kampo practitioners in India?
An article elsewhere on Wizzley identifies India as a country that has to rely on imports to meet all tea needs. Would there be concerns -- similar to those experienced by Kampo practitioners who must import four-fifths of their herb repertoire from China -- about property-altering environments and soils affecting quality and results?

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