World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Traditional Korean medicine

Article Id: WHEBN0001167614
Reproduction Date:

Title: Traditional Korean medicine  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Traditional Medicine, Siddha medicine, Oriental medicine, Dongui Bogam, Alternative medicine
Collection: Korean Culture, Traditional Korean Medicine, Traditional Medicine by Location
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Traditional Korean medicine

Doctor's office in South Korean folk village.

Traditional Korean medicine (Hangul: 한의학, Hanja: 韓醫學) refers to the traditional medicine practices that developed in Korea. [1] Traditional Korean medicine is popular in Korea and among Korean communities elsewhere. Traditional Korean medicine emphasizes perceived interactions within the body rather than functional mechanisms.


  • History 1
  • Current applications 2
  • Methods of treatment in general 3
    • Herbal medicine 3.1
    • Acupuncture 3.2
    • Moxibustion 3.3
    • Aromatherapy 3.4
    • Meditation 3.5
  • Education 4
    • Graduate School of Korean Medicine 4.1
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Korean medicine traditions originated in ancient and prehistoric times and can be traced back as far as 3000 B.C. when stone and bone needles were found in North Hamgyong Province, now in present-day North Korea.[2][3] In Gojoseon, where the founding myth of Korea is recorded, there is a story of a tiger and a bear who wanted to reincarnate in human form and who ate wormwood and garlic. In Jewang Ungi (제왕운기), which was written around the time of Samguk Yusa, wormwood and garlic are described as 'eatable medicine', showing that, even in times when incantatory medicine was the mainstream, medicinal herbs were given as curatives in Korea. Moreover, the fact that wormwood and garlic are not found in ancient Chinese herbology shows that traditional Korean medicine developed unique practices, or inherited them from other cultures.

In the period of the Three Kingdoms, the traditional Korean medicine was being influenced by other traditional medicines such as ancient Chinese Medicine. In the Goryeo dynasty with the influence of others like Chinese medicine, more intense investigation of domestic herbs took place, and the result was the publication of numerous books on domestic herbs. Medical theories at this time were based on medicine of Song and Yuan, but prescriptions were based on the medicine of the Unified Silla period such as the medical text First Aid Prescriptions Using Native Ingredients or "Hyangyak Gugeupbang (향약구급방), which was published in 1245.

Medicine flourished in the period of the Joseon. A book named “the Classified Collection of Medical Prescriptions” (醫方類聚, 의방유취) was also memorable. This work was written by Kim Ye-mong (金禮蒙, 김예몽) and other Korean official doctors from 1443 to 1445. It collects more than fifty thousand prescriptions from one hundred and fifty-two medical works of ancient China before the fifteenth century. It also collects prescriptions from a Korean medical book “the Concise Prescriptions of Royal Doctors” (御醫撮要方, 어의촬요방) which was written by Choi Chong-jun (崔宗峻, 최종준) in 1226. The book “the Classified Collection of Medical Prescriptions” has very important research value, because it keeps the contents of many ancient Chinese medical books which had been lost for a long time.[4]

After this, many books on medical specialties were published. There are three physicians from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) who are generally credited with the development of traditional Korean medicine. They are Heo Jun, Saam, and Lee Je-ma. After the Japanese invasion in 1592, Dongeui Bogam (동의보감) was written by Heo Jun, the first of the major physicians. This work further integrated the known Korean and Chinese medicine of its time and was influential to Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese medicine at that time.

The next major influence to traditional Korean medicine is related to

External links

  • Jeon, Sang-woon (1998). A history of science in Korea. Seoul: Jimoondang.  
  • Kang, Gun-Il. “A Korean Skeptic’s Report: New Ager-Occupied Territory.” The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry 10.1 (March 2000). 22 February 2008 .
  • Kim, Miyong, et al. "The Use of Traditional and Western Medicine among Korean American Elderly.” Journal of Community Health 27.2 April 2002: 109-120.
  • Kim, Yong-Suk, et al. “Korean Oriental Medicine in Stroke Care.” Complementary Health Practice Review 10.2 (April 2005). 25 February 2008 .
  • ---. “The Practice of Korean Medicine: An Overview of Clinical Trials in Acupuncture.” Oxford Journals 2.3 (3 August 2005). 25 February 2008 .
  • Micozzi, Marc S., and Lisa Meserole. “Herbal Medicine.” Fundamentals of Complementary and Integrative Medicine. Ed. Marc S. Micozzi and C. Everett Koop. St. Louis: Saunders El Sevier, 2000.
  • Pizzorno, Joseph E. Jr. and Pamela Snider “Naturopathic Medicine.” Fundamentals of Complementary and Integrative Medicine. Ed. Marc S. Micozzi and C. Everett Koop. St. Louis: Saunders El Sevier, 2000.
  • Rodgers, Denise. “Mind-Body Modalities.” Fundamentals of Complementary and Integrative Medicine. Ed. Marc S. Micozzi and C. Everett Koop. St. Louis: Saunders El Sevier, 2000.
  • Yoon, Sung Chan, et al. “Antitumor Activity of Soamsan, a Traditional Korean Medicine, via Suppressing Angiogenesis and Growth Factor Transcription.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 93 (22 April 2004). 25 February 2008 .
  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Micozzi 164-167
  7. ^ Lin ZB, Zhang HN (November 2004). "Anti-tumor and immunoregulatory activities of Ganoderma lucidum and its possible mechanisms". Acta Pharmacologica Sinica 25 (11): 1387–95.  
  8. ^ Kuo MC, Weng CY, Ha CL, Wu MJ (January 2006). "Ganoderma lucidum mycelia enhance innate immunity by activating NF-kappaB". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 103 (2): 217–22.  
  9. ^ Kobayashi H, Matsunaga K, Oguchi Y (1995). "Antimetastatic effects of PSK (Krestin), a protein-bound polysaccharide obtained from basidiomycetes: an overview". Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 4 (3): 275–81.  
  10. ^ Hetland G, Johnson E, Lyberg T, Bernardshaw S, Tryggestad AM, Grinde B (2008). "Effects of the medicinal mushroom Agaricus blazei Murill on immunity, infection and cancer.". Scand J Immunol 68 (4): 363–70.  


See also

The South Korean government decided to establish a national school of traditional Korean medicine to establish its national treasure on the solid basis after closing of the first modern educational facility (Dong-Je medical school) hundred years ago by Japanese invasion. In 2008, the School of Korean medicine was established inside Pusan National University with the 50 undergraduate students, and moved into Yangsan medical campus. The new affiliated Korean Medical Hospital and Research Center for Clinical Studies are under construction. Compared with common private traditional medicine undergraduate schools (2+4 year), this is a special graduate school (4+4).

Graduate School of Korean Medicine


Meditation is a self-directed practice for the purpose of relaxing and calming the mind and body. It has been known to calm the mind, reduce pain, and help lower blood pressure and anxiety. Methods include concentrating on a single word or thought for a specific length of time. Some focus on physical experience such as breath or a sound or mantra, but all have a common objective of stilling the mind so that one's focus can be directed inwardly (Rodgers 293).


Aromatherapy is a method of treating bodily ailments using essential plant oils (Micozzi S. Marc, Chambers Dictionary 1988). Roots, bark, stalks, flowers, or leaves, may be applied to the body through massage with a vegetable oil. The oils can also be inhaled, used as a compress, mixed in with ointment, or inserted internally through the rectum, vagina, or mouth (Hoffman 207–212).


Moxibustion is a technique in which heat is applied to the body with a stick or a cone of burning mugwort. The tool is placed over the affected area without burning the skin. The cone or stick can also be placed over a pressure point to stimulate and strengthen the blood (Kim).


Acupuncture needles are a medical instrument used to cure ailments by the method of withdrawing blood and stimulating certain points on humans and animals by inserting them on specific pressure points of the body. Acupuncture enhances the flow of vital energy (also known as "Qi") along pathways (called meridians). Pressure points can be stimulated through a mixture of methods ranging from the insertion and withdrawal of very small needles to the use of heat, known as moxibustion. Pressure points can also be stimulated by laser, massage, and electrical means (Pizzorno 243).


An example of herbal medicine is the use of medicinal mushrooms as a food and as a tea. Clinical, animal, and cellular research has shown mushrooms may be able to up-regulate aspects of the immune system.[7][8][9][10] A notable mushroom used in Korean medicine is Phellinus linteus also known as Song-gen.

Many herbalists consider using the patient's direct involvement in their own healing process and may use the patients intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual attention to the process as critical. All methods of these are delivered differently depending on the herbal traditions of that area. Nature is not necessarily safe; special attention should be used when grading quality, deciding a dosage, realizing possible effects, and any interactions with herbal medications.[6]

Non-oral herbal uses consist of creams, baths, oils, ointments, gels, distilled waters, washes, poultices, compresses, snuffs, steams, inhaled smoke and aromatics volatile oils.

Herbal medicines may be presented in many forms including fresh, dried, whole, or chopped. Herbs may be prepared as infusions when an herb is soaked in a liquid, or decocted which is when an herb is simmered in water over low heat for a certain period of time. Some examples of infusion are chamomile or peppermint, using flowers, leaves and powdered herbs. For decocting examples may be rose hips, cinnamon bark, and licorice root consisting of fruits, seeds, barks, and roots. Fresh and dried herbs can be tinctured where herbs are kept in an alcohol or made into ace tracts where it is contained in a vinegar extract. They can be preserved as syrups such as glycerites in vegetable glycerin, or put in honey known as miels. Both of which have a sweet taste and the lack of alcohol being a more suitable choice for children. Powdered and freeze dried herbs can be found in bulk, tablets, troches similar to a lozenge, pastes, and capsules. Fluid and strong extracts being a stronger concentrate tend to work more rapidly finding a quicker result.

Herbalism is the study and practice of using plant material for the purpose of food, medicine, or health. They may be flowers, plants, shrubs, trees, moss, lichen, fern, algae, seaweed or fungus. The plant may be used in its entirety or with specific parts being used. In each culture or medical system there are different types of herbal practitioners: professional and lay herbalists, plant gatherers, and medicine makers.

Herbal medicine

Methods of treatment in general

With the increase in the number of Korean immigrants coming to the United States in recent years it has become important for modern medicine to understand these traditional healing techniques and how they are used by the Korean community. Studies have shown that as many as half of Korean immigrants living in the United States practice some form of traditional healing at least part of the time, often concurrently with Western techniques. It has been speculated that the continued use of traditional techniques has much to do with the lack of familiarity with Western customs among new immigrants, but evidence has shown that the use of traditional techniques is often continued among second and third generation Korean immigrants. It has been suggested that this is due to a cultural difference in medicinal approaches that revolves around treating an entire individual, rather than one aspect of them or just their disease. Many Korean immigrants have spoken in similar terms, and have suggested that it is not just American doctors themselves but the manner in which they treat their patients which is "distant" and "disconnected" from the spiritual basis of the human body. Statistical analysis of experiments involving more traditional remedies including herbal supplements and acupuncture have found that a patient's mental state is more relaxed and their emotional well being often improves after being treated with more traditional remedies rather than with Western medicines, in which case some decrease in mental and emotional stability has been seen. Medical facilities who specialize in geriatric care have reported success with the use of traditional Korean medicine not only in their Korean patients but also among Caucasian Americans. It has become clear to many in the medical profession within the United States that in order to promote the well being of their Korean patients as well as their elderly patients "new" techniques involving the use of traditional Korean methods may not only be preferred by their patients but necessary for continued health (Kim et al. 109-119).

Current applications

In the late Joseon dynasty, positivism was widespread. Clinical evidence was used more commonly as the basis for studying disease and developing cures. Scholars who had turned away from politics devoted themselves to treating diseases and, in consequence, new schools of tradition medicine were established. Simple books on medicine for the common people were published. In the early nineteenth century, the Sasang typology (사상의학) was written by Lee Je-ma, the third historical physician who developed much of traditional Korean medicine. Lee classified human beings into four main types, based on the emotion that dominated their personality and developed treatments for each type. The four types are Tae-Yang ( 태양, 太陽) or "greater yang", So-Yang (소양, 小陽) or "lesser yang", Tae-Eum (태음, 太陰) or "greater yin", and So-Eum (소음, 小陰) or "lesser yin".

The next recognized individual is Saam, the priest-physician who is believed to have lived during the 16th century. Although there is much unknown about Saam, including his real name and date of birth, it is recorded that he studied under the famous monk Samyang. He developed a system of acupuncture that employs the five element theory.


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.