The world's largest producer of products for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) opened stores this week in New York and California to capitalize on the growing interest in the alternative medicine practice.
Beijing-based Tongrentang Group Co Ltd, or Tong Ren Tang (TRT), also is opening an outlet in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Sunday. The New York stores are in Manhattan and Flushing, Queens, which has a large population of Chinese. The California outlets are in Los Angeles and San Francisco, also home to a large Chinese community.
In addition to products, Tongrentang also provides health services like acupuncture and massage therapy.
Founded in 1669 by the Yue family in a Beijing storefront, Tongrentang was appointed to provide medicine for the royal pharmacy of the imperial palace of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) for eight generations of Qing emperors spanning 188 years. Tongrentang began expanding overseas in 1993 when it opened a retail pharmacy in Hong Kong before it returned to China in 1997.
"Tongrentang is a time-honored brand in China so most Chinese Americans, even second and third generation, will recognize our name," said Helen Wang, director of overseas investments for the company.
She said the company hopes to build off that brand recognition. "We think the increasing interest in acupuncture will motivate Americans to consider TCM," Wang said.
TCM originated in ancient China and has evolved over thousands of years. Practitioners use herbal medicines and various body practices, such as acupuncture, to treat or prevent health problems, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the US government's lead agency for research on medical practices that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.
TCM has been gaining acceptance in the US and other Western nations, but is still considered primarily a complementary approach to health care. The use of acupuncture as a pain-management tool has been increasing along with Chinese herbal therapy which represents a major part of TCM.
In 2014, the Cleveland Clinic, a major US medical center, opened a herbal clinic as part of the hospital's Center for Integrative Medicine.
Wang said a Tongrentang outlet is not like a traditional US pharmacy. "We are similar to a natural health store in that we sell herbal supplements and provide services like acupuncture and massage," she said. "All of our service providers meet the license requirements that are mandated in each location."
Shares of the company began trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2013.
The Tongrentang location on Madison Avenue in New York City is an established TCM clinic, which will be expanded to include a retail operation, according to Wang.
"This was an acquisition for us. In addition to acupuncture and massages, it will offer Chinese medical consultation and products for herbal treatments," she said.