New garden aims to sow interest in herb cures

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 April, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 April, 2003, 12:00am

The first public garden to grow herbs for traditional Chinese medicine will open in two months' time in a government-funded attempt to popularise the ancient art and improve scientific research into it.

The garden is about half the size of a football pitch and is located outside the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences at 2 Caine Lane in Mid-Levels.

'The concentration of so many herbal plants and its proximity to population centres will mean that traditional medicine students no longer have to brave inclement weather, tackle steep mountain paths and wade through thick vegetation to acquaint themselves with the plants used in practising traditional Chinese medicine,'' said a spokesman for the museum's herbal garden committee.

He said tours would be organised for members of the public as well as research students when it opens.

The garden will grow thousands of plants from hundreds of species. It will have 10 sections and will specialise in rare and toxic plants, those commonly used in combination to treat various ailments, roots with tonic properties, and herbs grouped under the 12 auspicious animals of the Chinese zodiac. A computer database on the herbs, noting their characteristics and medical uses, will be compiled.

Traditional Chinese medicine has been heavily promoted by the government, which has also offered tens of millions of dollars in university research funding since the handover. The cost of the garden is not yet clear.

In December 2001, Hong Kong began to register its 7,500 traditional Chinese medicine practitioners. Some hospitals such as Kwong Wah, Baptist and Tung Wah offer Chinese medical consultation.

A licensing examination system has been introduced and graduates of degree programmes in Chinese medicine at the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University and Baptist University are required to sit for the exams. The three universities have their own herbal research facilities but they are not open to the public.