knowledge-1052010_1920There’s been increased interest in studying traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), with over 700,000 students currently pursuing credentials in China. Over 5,000 of these students are coming from overseas, according to a recent report published by World Education Services (WES).

In 2015, World Education Services witnessed an almost 100 percent increase in applications from students seeking evaluations of credentials in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) earned in China. The numbers keep growing as international students look to China for education in TCM practices, rather than enrolling in programs offered in other countries, according to credential analysts Claire Mengshi Zheng and Jee Lee, co-authors of the report.

Most international students enroll at the bachelor’s level, and 89 percent of the international students fund their own education, according to the Chinese State Administration of TCM. Though it is hard to pinpoint the exact reasons why more international students are seeking TCM education in China several factors – both in and outside of China – likely contribute, the report says.

One reason could be China’s recent effort to position itself, via its “Study in China” initiative, as a major destination for international students. Another may be Chinese government’s recognition that TCM is a substantial economic engine. In 2014, the total reported value of TCM was roughly $110.8 million USD, according to the director of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine. China’s government recently introduced a 15-year plan for the development of the TCM sector. The plan states the TCM industry provide 30 percent of the medical industry’s gross output by 2020.

In a 2011 study, researchers evaluating TCM both locally and internationally called TCM education in China more authentic, noting that TCM education in other countries tends to focus on acupuncture, and neglects other aspects of practice, such as herbal pharmacology, moxibustion, and therapeutic massage or body work. Students may be looking to TCM in China to receive a more comprehensive education, says Zheng.

Additionally, the demand for qualified TCM practitioners in the U.S. is on the rise, especially with the increased mainstream acceptance of “complementary” or “integrative” health interventions. In June 2016, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) unveiled its strategic plan, calling for additional research into TCM practices to help patients who, despite medical treatment, continue to experience symptoms and a diminished quality of life.

The Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee also called for a programmatic solution to chronic pain management that does not rely on opioids in its March 2016 strategy, as a response to the nationwide opioid epidemic.