VietnamA Quick Look at Traditional Vietnamese Medicine

A Quick Look at Traditional Vietnamese Medicine

Traditional oriental medicine is a popular treatment chosen by many patients. Even though some people might mistake them for homeotherapy, they are carefully researched practices that have been proven through time. Some iconic features of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine are acupuncture and the way oriental medicine is effectively used. Scroll down for more information about the history and practice of this unique medicine school of Vietnam.

What Is Traditional Vietnamese Medicine?

Traditional Vietnamese Medicine (Dong Y or Y Hoc Co Truyen) has two main branches, one is Traditional Chinese medicine (Northern Herbology or Thuốc Bắc), and the other is known as Southern Herbology (or Thuốc Nam), which is adapted from Chinese medicine. Hai Thuong Lan Ong is the most respected historical figure for having developed and placed the foundation of traditional Vietnamese medicine.

It is the use of the curing and healing experiences from 54 Vietnamese ethnic groups, with their deep understanding of herbal sources and the body’s natural elements, specifically:

  • Yin and Yang: describe the importance of balance between opposite human states, such as Cold-Hot, Interior-Exterior, Deficiency-Excess.
  • Five elements: Major organs such as the brain or heart are grouped into the elements of Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal. These five elements have close connections, which means if a person has one weak element, it will lead to an excess of another one.

the chinese five element system Vietnamese traditional medicine

five elements Vietnamese traditional medicineThe five elements in Traditional Dong Y Theory

Common Herbal Medicine in Traditional Vietnamese Medicine

The ingredients or formula may sound familiar to you after staying in Vietnam for a while. Traditional Vietnamese Medicine usually includes Vietnamese coriander (rau ram), Vietnamese balm (kinh gioi), water spinach/morning glory (rau muong), ginger, or ginseng, which you can find at a Vietnamese wet market. These components usually appear in Vietnamese family meals. Besides, flowers of Magnolia champaca, Jasminum sambac; animal products like silkworms are also used. When you visit a Traditional Vietnamese Medicine shop, you will see that all ingredients are thoroughly dried and put in jars..

Vietnamese coriander Vietnamese traditional medicine

Vietnamese coriander are considered effective traditional medicine, however those who have low blood pressures or are pregnant should avoid this

oriental medicine Vietnamese traditional medicine

Oriental medicine is often dried under the sun, and can also be pan-toasted to bring out its aroma, healing benefits, and make it easier to store for a long time

Some Other Familiar Traditional Vietnamese Medicine:

  • Mint (for colds, flu, stuffy nose, red eyes,…)
  • Lour (for antiseptic, long-lasting cough, chronic bronchitis, itching, scabies)
  • Clerodendron (for detoxifying, reducing inflammation, knee fatigue, high blood pressure, wound treating, itching)
  • Lactuca indica – Dandelion (for detoxifying, blocked milk ducts, mastitis)
  • Pluchea indica (for fever without sweat, joint pain, rheumatism, detoxifying, paralysis)
  • Mulberry tree (for eye-brightening, sore throat, headache, watery/red eyes, reducing cough, asthma,…).

medication Vietnamese traditional medicine

Instead of jars, the medicines are also put in cabinets in a Traditional Vietnamese Medicine pharmacy

Read more about What to Do If You Get Sick in Vietnam

Common Practices in Traditional Vietnamese Medicine

  • Diagnosis and Diagnostics: As opposed to Western medicine, which incorporates many technologies, the doctor in traditional Vietnamese medicine will thoroughly examine your appearance. You might wonder how focusing on parts of the face, eyes, or tongue can tell about your well-being state, but they are carefully trained professionals to tell how the subtle abnormalities can reflect your health.
  • Consultation: a diagnosis based on the patient’s daily habits, diet, or psychophysiology. It is also crucial to know about the medical history and disease progression from the onset.
  • Prescription: the medicine prescribed can either be in dried herbal forms or pills and tablets. Traditional Vietnamese medicine does not usually have a potent symptoms-relieving effect as Western pills, and it usually takes some changes in your daily routine along with the prescription so that you can improve your health.

Traditional Vietnamese Alternative Therapies

Aside from traditional Vietnamese medicine, the locals also abide by these alternative therapies to relax, prevent illnesses, or alleviate pain.

  • Acupuncture: Very thin needles will be inserted into specific points through the skin. The practice is believed to relieve the “chi” inside the body and has been proven to bring the energy back into proper balance and relieve pain.

acupressure points Vietnamese traditional medicine

Acupuncture is said to balance human’s states

  • Vietnamese Massage Techniques: Doctors will massage acupuncture points on the patient’s body. However, even though there is a low chance that massages alone can cure chronic pains, it’s always worth a try after long hours of sitting all day at an office job.

acupressure points Vietnamese traditional medicine

Acupressure practitioners will use their fingers, palms, feet, elbows, or special devices to apply pressure to acupoints on the patient’s body

Some Key Notes if You’re Going to Take Traditional Vietnamese Medicine:

  • The healing time will last longer in comparison with Western medicine. It usually lasts one week to a month (better with in-hospital prescription), which means that patient needs to follow the prescription consistently for the best results.
  • Although most traditional Vietnamese medicines are pretty mild and generally don’t have many side effects, always consult a doctor if you need a prescription for a specific condition.

Traditional Vietnamese Medicine Hospitals/Facilities


  • Central Acupuncture Hospital [view map]
  • National Hospital of Traditional Medicine [view map]
  • Faculty of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine – 108 Military Central Hospital [view map]
  • Military Institute of Traditional Medicine [view map]
  • Traditional Medicine Hospital [view map]

Ho Chi Minh City:

  • Traditional Medical Hospital [view map]
  • Institute of Ethnic Medicine and Pharmacy Center [view map]
  • Institute of Traditional Medicine [view map]
  • District 11 Hospital – Faculty of National Medicine [view map]

Moreover, you can visit the Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine and Pharmacy, or the so-called Fito Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. In Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, the streets that are specialized in traditional herbal medicine are named after the originator of traditional Vietnamese medicine – Hai Thuong Lan Ong.

Conclusion on A Quick Look at Traditional Vietnamese Medicine

Although it is called “traditional” medicine, this Vietnamese medical treatment can also combine with modern therapy nowadays to develop a more effective cure. For non-critical illnesses such as back pains or headaches, try Traditional Vietnamese Medicine instead of using pills to avoid as many side effects as possible.

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