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TCM Helps Taikonauts Achieve Healthy Blast-offs
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China's astronauts have been testing new varieties of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that could help further treatment for osteoporosis, insomnia and improve immunity.

Doctors with the China Astronaut Research and Training Center say the new remedies would be placed on sale following further tests during the country's third manned space program in 2008.

The medicines were tested in pill and capsule forms to aid the astronauts taking them into space.

The medicines variously improve cardiovascular and heart and blood vessel functions during short space flights or space walks, said Li Yongzhi, doctor with the center, adding that human trials had been completed satisfactorily.

"The medicine is expected to be on the market in the next two years to the benefit of all members of the general public, not just astronauts," she said.

Living in zero gravity can lead to cardiovascular problems, lower immunity and bone mineral loss, said Li, adding that "we can't say the astronauts would be ill as it is the normal physical reaction of a healthy body to an abnormal environment."

"Western medicine lacks effective remedies containing no side effects, but traditional Chinese medicine can fill in this gap with its good over-all recuperation," she added.

Li's center has applied traditional Chinese medicine to the health care of astronauts since 1997.

"Our astronauts are very healthy, so the Chinese medicine they have taken is used to improve their adaptability and endurance," said Li.

China has a team of 14 astronauts. Li and her colleagues have spent a decade tracking their metabolisms and physical conditions during training and space flight, with the doctors composing different regiments for each astronaut.

"The astronauts only take traditional Chinese medicines when needed," said Li.

"The astronauts began to drink what we call 'medical tea' 90 days before the Shenzhou VI space mission in 2005. It's herbal soup," she said. "They all love it and said they slept better and were more energetic after drinking the tea."

Li said Russia and other European countries had begun research into traditional Chinese medicine for space programs.

(Xinhua News Agency August 29, 2007)

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