Development of a traditional Chinese medicine taxonomy for Embase

Tags: Oral
Hu R1, Li X1, Li X2, Mensonides F3, Krstic I3, Liu J1, Fei Y1
1Centre for Evidence-Based Chinese Medicine, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, 2School of Humanities, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, 3Embase, Elsevier Information Systems GmbH, Frankfurt


As global interest in traditional and complementary medicine grows, the need to search online information, especially subscription databases, is increasing. The traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) market is currently valued at 121 billion USD. Searching and retrieving TCM evidence outside China remains a challenge. In October 2017, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM) and the Embase team from Elsevier agreed to work together to facilitate comprehensive and efficient searching of TCM literature by enriching Emtree, the main Embase taxonomy. This covers a broad range of biomedical subjects with TCM content.


To create a new taxonomy for TCM to enhance the existing Emtree and facilitate more comprehensive and accurate TCM literature searching in Embase.


We set up a working group including five specialists from BUCM and two experts from Embase. The BUCM team are professors of evidence-based Chinese medicine and TCM medical English, three of whom are registered TCM practitioners. The Embase team are managers of Emtree. BUCM postgraduate students also volunteered and Embase provided online training. Integrating TCM-specific characteristics, the BUCM team drafted a protocol based on the Embase standards, which was revised by the Embase team until agreement was reached.


We developed methods for building TCM Emtree. TCM concepts will be integrated to the existing concept-based Emtree taxonomy structure. We integrated terms and structures from six international standards or dictionaries, including WHO International Standard Terminologies on Traditional Medicine in the Western Pacific Region, WHO ICD-11 Beta Draft (TCM chapter) and four other references. Preferred labels (the most frequent terms), alternative labels (synonyms) and broader-narrower relationships will be assigned. The taxonomy will be provided in English and researchers also can search the spelling of Chinese characters (pinyin).


About 6000 terms are to be added. The TCM taxonomy will be online in 2019. It aims to be the most comprehensive taxonomy for TCM in English databases.

Patient or healthcare consumer involvement:

Researchers have been interested in TCM. TCM practitioners and patients are users. They were consulted when developing the protocol and will be involved when assigning the preferred labels and branches.