TCM remedies cure and improve more COVID-19 patients with national promotion

By GT staff reporters Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/20 19:43:40

○ Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been widely used in treating COVID-19 pneumonia in China

○ National healthcare authorities have been promoting prescriptions to prevent and cure the disease in different stages

○ Doubts against Chinese medicine still exist today, while experts have called for deepened understanding of TCM

Photo: VCG

China's efforts to mobilize traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners to find a cure for COVID-19 have yielded optimistic results in the fight against the virus which originated from Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province. TCM treatment has helped stabilize conditions, despite doubt by some skeptics.

Clinical treatment and recovery using TCM was included in the latest version of the COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment scheme released by the National Health Commission on Wednesday.

The central government group that guides the epidemic control work required greater efforts of treatment integrating TCM and Western medicine on February 13.

To echo the call, provincial regions such as East China's Zhejiang and Shandong, South China's Guangdong and Northwest China's Gansu and Qinghai on Wednesday announced further practice of TCM in the COVID-19 treatment.

TCM doctors and experts said that a positive combination of TCM with Western medicine has proven the ability to shorten the treatment process. Amid the COVID-19 epidemic, experts are calling for deepened understanding of TCM.

Renowned Chinese respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan said on a Tuesday press conference in Guangdong that he values the positive effectiveness of TCM in treating patients in their early and middle stages, including killing the virus, reducing opportunities of the virus entering bodies and decreasing the occurrences of Cytokine storm, the Shenzhen Economic Daily reported on Wednesday.

Widely practiced

The 5th Pulmonary Department was temporarily formed at the TCM Hospital of Hubei in the wake of the epidemic. From the very beginning, the department combined Chinese and Western medicines to save lives.

"TCM and Western medicine are equally important in treating COVID-19. The combination could shorten the treatment process and quickly ease the symptoms," Feng Yi, a chief doctor on Pulmonary Medicine at the TCM Hospital of Hubei, told the Global Times.

The department received patients with mild or severe symptoms, and has kept them in stable conditions. A total of 26 patients from the department have been discharged and 36 are still under treatment.

Feng said apart from respiratory tract, TCM works well on dealing with symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation. It can also hinder the illness developing to a critical stage.

TCM has been employed in the treatment of more than 85.2 percent of the COVID-19 confirmed cases across the country as of Monday, Jiang Jian, an official with the National Administration of TCM, said on Monday. Outside Hubei, 87 percent of patients have been cured or had their conditions improved thanks to TCM.

As of Monday, more than 3,100 medical personnel from more than 630 Chinese medicine hospitals across the country have been sent to aid Hubei Province in the fight against the epidemic, said Jiang. 

Ma Xiaowei, director of the National Health Commission, also reiterated the importance of the combination of TCM and Western medicine on Wednesday during his visit to Leishenshan Hospital, the second specialized emergency hospital built in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

Doctor Wen Minyong is now in charge of an inpatient area with 70 beds at the Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese & Western Medicines, which treats patients in severe and critical conditions.

A doctor checks a patient of COVID-19 at Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese & Western Medicines. Photo: Courtesy of Wen Minyong

"The current therapies of TCM have seen a good result as most patients have been relieved from pain, cough, expectoration, and shortness of breath, and had better appetites," Wen, the captain of a supporting medical team the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine dispatched to Wuhan, told the Global Times.

Wang Zhen, chief doctor at the respiratory department of the Chiense Medicine Hospital of Zhejiang Province, told the Global Times that 95.83 percent of COVID-19 patients in Zhejiang have taken TCM treatment.

 "Whether for COVID-19 pneumonia, SARS, H1N1 or bird flu, traditional Chinese medicine has showed pretty good effectiveness in the treatment," he noted.

The Jiangxia makeshift hospital in Wuhan has been taken over by the national TCM team. The team uses methods such as acupuncture, massage and tai chi to treat patients and makes sure each patient has a TCM decoction specifically prescribed according to their symptoms.

Tradition of healing

Over thousands of years, TCM has accumulated rich experience in treating epidemics, and it has been developed through curing epidemics, Liu Jinmin, director at the Dongfang Hospital of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, told the Global Times.

The TCM treatment plans recommended by the National Health Commission include multiple herbal prescriptions targeting fever, heavy coughing, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and tiredness, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

The recipes cover five stages of the treatment with medical observation, early, midterm, critical and afterward recovery.

Wen said that since no specific drugs have been found for the COVID-19 in Western medicine so far, the Western medicine plays a supporting role in the hospital Wen works at. 

He said traditional Chinese medicine believes that illness is caused by the malfunction of one or multiple organs influenced by factors such as dampness or internal heat. The concept of Chinese medicine is to restore organ functions through specific therapies. A healthy and functional organ helps disperse these external factors known as viruses in Western medicine and called "evils" in traditional Chinese medicine, Wen said.

A pharmacist weighs Chinese herbal medicines for patients infected with the novel coronavirus at Anhui Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Hefei, east China's Anhui Province, Feb. 18, 2020. (Xinhua/Bai Bin)

For mild and moderate cases, traditional Chinese medicine has been found to have significant effects, while Western medicine lags in these areas. For critical patients, some antivirus medicines and hormones will be used together with TCM.

Lei Genping, deputy director of the Affiliated Hospital of Shaanxi University of Chinese Medicine, told the Global Times that Western medicine requires scientific explanations on the medicine's working mechanisms, which is the shortcoming of traditional Chinese medicine. However, it cannot be ignored that traditional Chinese medicine does solve problems.

"After days of ward rounds, we found that almost every patient has glossy coating on their tongues, which means that they are affected by dampness," Lei told the Global Times.

"Some patients have cough, and bitter and dry mouth together with fever. We believe the patients lack yang, so we added bupleurum root and cassia twig into their prescriptions," Lei said.

Dealing with doubts

Doubts have always been cast on traditional Chinese medicine, with even some doctors raising critiques.

A medicine has to pass at least three phases of clinical trials before it can be applied, Tao Lina, a former fellow with the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Global Times on Monday. It's a strange logic to say TCM can prevent and cure the coronavirus since TCM does not have the concept of microorganisms, Tao said.

Treatment during emergency epidemic control should be result-targeted, refuted Cao Hongxin, former head of science and technology at the State Administration of TCM.

"Western medicine intervenes after sorting out a virus' characteristic maps and pathogenesis, while TCM interprets a pandemic from the principle of how human beings adapt to the alternation of seasons and natural change," Cao said.

Wen believes the doubts regarding traditional Chinese medicine are due to lack of indicators to show that it can kill virus.

Traditional Chinese medicine doctors distribute packages of herbs to workers at a machine factory in Fuzhou, East China's Jiangxi Province on Tuesday. The herbs will help strengthen workers' immunity after they returned to work. Photo: cnsphoto

He said both Chinese and Western medicines have advantages and disadvantages. "I think the best way is to integrate them and give full play to their advantages," Wen said.

"In modern society, TCM should not be limited," said Wang Tong, chief doctor at ICU of Dong Fang Hospital in Beijing. "Nowadays it is more than decoction. Decoction is a method in Chinese medicine, so is using respiratory machines, blood purification meter and all kinds of imaging equipment," he said, noting that TCM should be combined with modern medicine for better improvements.

"Doubts and protests come from incomprehension," said Liu Qingquan, director of the Beijing Hospital of TCM and Jiangxia makeshift hospital, calling for more and deeper understandings to the ancient wisdom.

Reasonable mind

Despite those who doubt traditional Chinese medicine, others have deep trust in it.

People rushed to pharmacies in late January after some reports said that Chinese patent medicine, Shuanghuanglian oral liquid, containing three herbal ingredients, is effective in containing the novel coronavirus infection. Some even queued outside pharmacies late into night.

Some "doctors" or "experts" are also promoting strange treatment methods in the name of Chinese medicine. One man claimed that he cured several patients by using bees to sting the patients.

Doctors said those who are not infected with the virus should keep a reasonable mind.

Wang Zhen said that his hospital has promoted TCM method to prevent the COVID-19, mainly targeting people such as medical staff and public security officers who are in higher risk of infection.

"In Chinese sayings, medicines all have some toxic elements. If you stay at home all day, I do not recommend that everybody takes medicine."

Feng said that some herbs could serve as nutrition or food so people who are not patients could also take some simple recipes to strengthen immunity.

Sidebar: TCM prescription for midterm stage patients

Clinical symptoms: fever, cold, dry cough, expectoration of yellow sputum, abdominal distension and constipation, chest distress, shortness of breath, Red tongue with yellow, thick and greasy coating

Recommended prescription: Almond 10 grams, Gypsum Fibrosum 30 grams, Fructus Trichosanthis 30 grams, Radix Et Rhizoma Rhei 6 grams, Herba Ephefrae 6 grams, Roasted Herba Ephefrae 6 grams, Semen Lepidii 10 grams, Semen Persicae 10 grams, Fructus Tsaoko 6 grams, Semen Arecae 10 grams, Rhizoma Atractylodis 10 grams.

Newspaper headline: Traditional treatment


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