Traditional Chinese medicine helps fight COVID-19 around the globe with eastern wisdom


Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has won more and more recognition around the world for its important role in treating the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Photo shows a TCM pharmacist preparing traditional Chinese medicine in Zhangshu hospital of TCM in Zhangshu, east China’s Jiangxi province. (Photo by Zhou Liang/People’s Daily)

In many countries across the globe, including the U.S., Laos, Iran and South Korea, TCM has been helping with the global fight against the pandemic in various ways.

It is widely believed that bringing into play the strengths of TCM, treating COVID-19 patients through a combination of TCM and Western medicine, has been a highlight of China’s experience in fighting the virus.

During the early stages of the pandemic, Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei province and also the worst-hit Chinese city by COVID-19, suffered extremely serious epidemic circumstances.

Hospitals were packed with patients, and many fever clinics saw hundreds of patients waiting in lines, according to Zhang Boli, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and president of Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

“What’s particularly worrying was that patients and their family who came with them all stayed at the same place,” Zhang said, referring to the situation he saw when he arrived in Wuhan in late January.

After two months, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals around the city dropped from more than 60,000 to around 1,000, while the number of severe patients reduced from 12,000 to about 490.

Isolation and the use of TCM for all COVID-19 patients have helped curb the spread of the virus, said Zhang, referring to this revelation as the foundation of victory over the outbreak.

In a few days, Wuhan had managed to basically isolate its infected patients from the healthy population, which has been proven significant for blocking the spread of the disease.

“Although we didn’t have specific medicine for the disease, we have TCM, Using this, we distributed TCM decoctions and Chinese patent medicine among patients,” Zhang recalled.

Only 3,000 people in the 13 districts of Wuhan accepted this medicine on the first day, according to Zhang, who added that after seeing the effects of TCM, many patients asked for the treatment, resulting in a total of more than 600,000 people receiving the medicine.

Western medicine has been given priority and TCM has played the supporting role when treating severe COVID-19 patients, Zhang disclosed, adding that the use of TCM can be critical for improving the condition of patients.

Many designated hospitals for treating COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, including the Jinyintan Hospital, Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, and Leishenshan Hospital, have used TCM in the treatment of COVID-19, and achieved great results, Zhang said.

As COVID-19 patients recover, a majority still have some symptoms after entering the rehabilitation period, such as lack of strength, poor appetite, anxiety, shortness of breath, sleeplessness, and depression, according to Wang Rongbing, chief physician of the department of integrated Chinese and Western medicine of Beijing Ditan Hospital in Beijing.

TCM has also played an important role in eliminating these symptoms of COVID-19 patients during this stage.

To eliminate these symptoms, one needs the help of TCM, Wang said, adding many TCM therapies and methods, such as acupuncture, cupping, massage, and ancient Chinese martial art Tai Chi and Ba Duan Jin are all helpful for the quick recovery of patients.

“I didn’t know much about TCM as I was abroad. I’ve never imagined that it can have so amazing effects,” exclaimed Li Hua (pseudonym), who felt that his condition had significantly improved after receiving TCM treatment for no more than two days.

After arriving in Beijing from overseas not long ago, Li was hospitalized by Beijing’s Xiaotangshan Hospital, which was previously used to quarantine SARS patients and is now a designated hospital for the screening and treatment of imported mild and common COVID-19 cases, suspected cases and those who need to be tested.

“The strengths of TCM have been fully demonstrated in Wuhan’s fight against the COVID-19,” said Yuan Qing with confidence, chief physician of the department of respiratory medicine of Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, who wrote the prescription for Li.

Yuan advises each patient he receives at Xiaotangshan Hospital to first read information about TCM’s roles in the treatment of COVID-19 online, and then writes prescriptions of TCM decoction for them.

“All the patients have been happy to receive TCM treatment after learning about the efficacy of TCM,” Yuan said, disclosing that it makes him more confident that many patients, including the first one to be cured, said that they never imagined TCM could work so well.

To treat the COVID-19 when there’s no specific medicine and vaccine, TCM doctors in China selected three patented Chinese medicines and developed three new TCM prescriptions, according to Zhang.

All six medicines, namely Jinhua Qinggan Granule, Lianhua Qingwen Capsule, Xuebijing Injection, Lung Cleansing and Detoxifying Decoction, HuaShiBaiDu Formula, and XuanFeiBaiDu Granule, have been proven effective in clinical practice and scientific research, Zhang noted.

A control clinical trial conducted in Wuhan showed that Jinhua Qinggan Granule reduced the proportion of mild and common COVID-19 cases, disclosed Zhang.

The medicine also cut patients duration of fever by 1.5 days and significantly improved white blood cell counts, neutrophil and lymphocyte that reflect the immune function of the body, Zhang said.

“TCM and Western medicine are significantly different in the mode of treatment. Most of the chemicals used in Western medicine are single-target drugs, while TCM and Chinese medicine are multi-targeted,” said Qiu Haibo, vice president of Zhongda Hospital affiliated to Southeast University.

“The method of TCM is more like teamwork,” Qiu explained.

At present, as countries and regions around the world fight the pandemic together, China is willing to carry out international cooperation with countries in need on efforts to use TCM in prevention and control of the pandemic and provide as much help as it can, said Yu Yanhong, Party chief of the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

China has shared it experience in the use of TCM in epidemic prevention and control with the World Health Organization (WHO) in a timely manner and released the latest English version of its TCM treatment plan for COVID-19 on the website of National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine and new media platforms, Yu disclosed.

The country has also shared its experience in the treatment of COVID-19 with countries including Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran, and Singapore via videos, according to Yu.

Relevant Chinese organizations have donated TCM products such as patented Chinese medicine, acupuncture needles and medical instruments to over 10 countries and regions around the world, including Italy and France, while dispatching TCM doctors to countries including Italy, Cambodia and Laos to assist in the fight against COVID-19, Yu said.

(From People's Daily)

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