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How Helpful Is Chinese Medicine In Fighting Coronavirus?

In light of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) showing no signs of slowing down, health officials in China want traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to play a substantial role in disease mitigation, along with Western medicine. 

According to Xinhua Net, the official state-run press agency of the People’s Republic of China (it’s the the largest news agency in the world), health authorities are calling for the establishment of coordination mechanisms between traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Western medicine in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases including the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pneumonia.

Health authorities are calling for the establishment of coordination mechanisms between traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Western medicine in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases including the novel coronavirus

“A certain number of TCM experts should be included in provincial level expert groups,” read a report published by The National Health Commission and the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 

“Medical institutions for infectious diseases should make institutional arrangements to include TCM into their treatment plans,” the report said, adding, “Local authorities should establish and improve joint consultation systems for TCM and Western medicine doctors, calling for efforts to ensure the deep involvement of TCM in preventing, controlling and treating infectious diseases.”

The report also stressed the need for more detailed methods to introduce TCM into treatment.

And according to the Chinese messaging and social media app giant WeChat, some hospitals in China are already turning to TCM to keep health practitioners safe. A report published online at Taiwan News, says that the director of a county hospital in the province of Henan, which neighbors Hubei province, epicenter of the Covid-19, is providing the hospital’s doctors and nurses with TCM. 

Cinnamon For Coronavirus? 

The report in Taiwan News lists some traditional remedies for staff who don’t come in direct contact with infected patients. Ginger soup and licorice are two examples. Licorice root, according to TCM theory clears heat and toxicity, two pathologies which are associated with viral attacks. In addition, licorice may also ease symptoms expelling phlegm and arresting coughs. Another way licorice root may help is by tonifying Spleen Qi. Viral attacks weaken Spleen Qi, thereby interfering with digestion and the production of blood and overall Qi energy. 

[The easiest way to consume Licorice Root: With this instant herbal tea.]

But the Taiwan News report also mentions remedies doctors working in fever clinics should take: Gui Zhi, better known as cinnamon twig; Fu Ling, which in English is known as the fungus, Poria, as well as Bai Zhu, an herb often used for immune support and strengthening spleen function.

The director of the hospital in Henan province quoted in the Taiwan News report says, “This time at the front of the battlefield against the new coronavirus, Chinese medicine must not be absent.” 

To be clear, there remains no known cure for the novel coronavirus, which, since its initial outbreak in China, has now spread to over two dozen countries. Due to the ongoing struggle to contain the virus and the lack of a clear allopathic (pharmaceutical) solution, more doctors in China are turning to ancient Chinese herbal remedies. 

Although TCM lacks medicines that can be offered as cures for diseases, the system may help because it not only identifies symptoms, but also targets the holistic pattern of the disease. In other words, TCM doesn’t merely treat symptoms, it’s goal is to also bring the body back to a state of balance (homeostasis). 

Does TCM Have A Proven Track Record With Infectious Diseases?

Yes. According to Taiwan News, TCM was used during the 2003 SARS outbreak (SARS is also a coronavirus, though it differs from Covid-19). Specifically, TCM was used to treat patients who experienced bone density loss after receiving anti-inflammatory steroids. Because of the success TCM demonstrated in 2003, The Health Commission in China is eagerly promoting for Covid-19. 

Another reason Chinese health authorities want TCM to play a critical role in containing Covid-19 is because the development of new pharmaceutical solutions for novel viruses is quite a lengthy process; it could take perhaps a year or more until a vaccine makes it to market. 

TCM and modern medicine do have a history of co-existing peacefully, especially in China. Most public hospitals use an integrative approach, combining TCM with western medicine. TCM doctors also train in western medicine. 

TCM & Western Medicine: The Best Approach To Treating Coronavirus? 

A report published on the English-language, German news site, DW.com, quotes a Beijing-based TCM practitioner, Shelly Ochs, a Ph.D. from the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences. Ochs says, “Given there’s no definitive cure yet, a mixed approach [is] a good option for treating the symptoms of the coronavirus, depending on their severity.”

Ochs claims she has faith in the health benefits of TCM for her family. Among the remedies she recommends for her family: drinking pear juice to moisten the lungs, and taking Yu Ping Feng San, an herbal formula for immune support, at the first sign of a cold.

However, Ochs acknowledges that when it comes to containing a potential global pandemic, TCM practitioners shouldn’t ignore the emerging science from Western medicine. 

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