The Boundary of Medicine: Nutraceuticals and their Impacts on Health and Environment - Tokyo College

The Boundary of Medicine: Nutraceuticals and their Impacts on Health and Environment

TSAI Hung Yin

In my research, I explore historical and contemporary encounters in the field of medicine to uncover its cultural, political, economic, social, and epistemological facets. In particular, I show how global exchanges have re-defined our views on matters ranging from the functioning of our bodies and the causes of disease to normative claims about life. My current project focuses on the issues of nutraceuticals.

Nutraceuticals are purportedly healthful substances fabricated, with modern technology, mostly from such traditional herbs and foods as Asian reishi mushrooms (for the immune system) and South American maca (for men’s stamina). I focus how our understanding of health has changed because of the curious place that nutraceuticals occupy somewhere between the boundaries of medicine and those of non-medicine. In exploring these boundaries, I analyze the regulatory and business frameworks of nutraceuticals, and the scientific practices behind them. 

Also, nutraceuticals today are likely—though perhaps unreasonably—the most popular way in which people try to enhance their bodies. These enhancements take many forms: weight loss and fat burning, high energy levels after long workdays, the avoidance of hangovers following a night spent drinking. Nutraceuticals are a substantial component of human enhancements, linking them to our daily lives. Nutraceuticals often involves in bioprospecting, which is the systematic search for natural resources such as plants, microorganisms, and animals that scientists can transform into commercial products across borders. I also explore these substances from these two perspectives of human enhancement and bioprospecting in Science and Technology Studies (STS), since an analysis of nutraceuticals can shed light on their involvement in accessibility, inequality, and sustainability issues, many of which have been underexplored in the current literature.