Article: Does Traditional Chinese Medicine use Endangered Rhino Horn?

In Articles, Environment & Ecology, Society & Culture by TechnoOwl

Claim: Chinese medicine prescribes Rhino horn as an aphrodisiac or for male virility. China’s consumption of Rhino horn is putting the animal endangered.

Origin: There is likely not one clear origin to which this rumour can be attributed, but it likely arises from the fact that Traditional Chinese Medicine often incorporates a variety of exotic materials.


  • The buying and selling of rhino horn is illegal in China. In 2018, there was a western media outcry when China seemingly reversed a ban on rhino horns, but this was largely misconstrued. The ban on rhino horns is still active and enforced, what was changed was that the new rules make exceptions for farmed rhinos raised specifically for the purposes of scientific and medical use.
  • “There is also no evidence of rhino horn being prescribed as an aphrodisiac in Chinese traditional medicine books, nor any pharmacists selling rhino horn for that purpose. However, there is historical evidence of powdered rhino horn being used as an aphrodisiac by some people in India. The Gujarati people may have believed that powdered rhino horn could work as an aphrodisiac, but its use likely ended in the late 1980s or early 1990s when the supply of rhino horn decreased and the price skyrocketed, causing social customs to change.” (Source)
  • “experts say neither Chinese nor Vietnamese traditional medicine ever viewed rhino horn as an aphrodisiac to boost flagging libidos.” (Source)
  • Because of the myth perpetuated in Western media that the Rhino horn is prescribed as a sexual stimulant, it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy in places such as Vietnam. “There is a belief in Western countries that rhino horn is used as an aphrodisiac and sexual stimulant, but this is not correct and seems to have been misunderstood or misinterpreted by Western media. However, research has shown that people in Vietnam are starting to believe this rumour as they are consuming it for new reasons.” (Source)
  • “Vietnamese buyers who believe in rhino horn’s aphrodisiac powers may have picked up on a media obsession with the idea. Other conservationists have also criticized media outlets for incorrectly tying the aphrodisiac issue so exclusively to Asian traditional medicine or folk therapies. “Use of rhino horn as an aphrodisiac in Asian traditional medicine has long been debunked as a denigrating, unjust characterization of the trade by Western media. But such usage is now, rather incredibly, being documented in Vietnam as the media myth turns full circle,” according to the TRAFFIC report.” (Source)
  • Vietnam is the largest importer and user of Rhino horn. ” medicinal and recreational use of rhino horn, mostly in Vietnam, is directly responsible for high levels of poaching in southern African countries, which continues to threaten the species with extinction.” (Source1) (Source 2)
  • In traditional Chinese medicine powdered horn is typically prescribed for the reduction of high fevers. (Source)
  • Practitioners of Chinese medicine have actively contributed to the reduction for demand in Rhino horns, for example by removing Rhino horn as a medical ingredient from TCM’s pharmacopeia ” traditional Chinese medicine experts have increasingly joined the fight to reduce the demand for rhino horn. When China officially banned the international trade in 1993, it followed up by removing rhino horn as a medical ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine’s pharmacopeia and curriculum. Practitioners promoted alternative ingredients such as water buffalo horn and herbal substitutes.”

Scientific America