TCM gains more acceptances overseas in fighting COVID-19
Therapy hailed by former Ukrainian PM, Russian elites
Published: Oct 19, 2020 02:17 AM

Photo: VCG

"The traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) helped me conquer COVID-19!" 

After recovering from being seriously ill with COVID-19, former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko became a fan of TCM and called on the international society to earnestly study TCM and apply it to the fight against COVID-19 and other diseases.

Tymoshenko was confirmed to have contracted with coronavirus on August 23 and was in serious condition. She was put on ventilators and decided to seek help from China. With the help of the Chinese Embassy in Ukraine, Tymoshenko's medical team reached out to Chinese experts to negotiate suitable treatment using TCM, the Global Times learned from Cai Chuangqing, a TCM doctor who treated her remotely from China, on Sunday. 

"She took the first dosage on September 5 and felt better, and it only took her seven days to fully recover and have her COVID-19 test results negative," Cai said. 

China is sharing the experience of using TCM in the treatment of COVID-19 with foreign countries as clinical observation shows that in Hubei, the province hit hardest by the virus, more than 90 percent of the infected patients received TCM treatment that was proven effective. 

A recent example of how popular TCM is in China in preventing and treating COVID-19 is that after Zhong Nanshan, China's top respiratory expert, said on Tuesday that Banlangen granules, a common TCM in treatment of cold, might be able to inhibit coronavirus, the medicine immediately sold out across China.

Most of the medical teams dispatched by the Chinese government include TCM doctors and Chinese organizations and institutions have donated TCM medicines, herbs, acupuncture needles and other instruments to more than a dozen countries and regions including Iran, Thailand, France and Russia.

During this global health crisis, TCM appears to be winning more acceptances overseas, not only among the public, but also government officials. 

The Global Times learned from the Chinese Embassy in Ukraine on Sunday that Tymoshenko sent a video link to the embassy, appreciating China's effort in helping her recovery and acknowledging the curative effect of TCM in treating COVID-19. 

She also expressed her gratitude towards TCM experts who gave her instructions on taking TCM when she was suffering from the most severe symptoms of the disease.  

Doctor Cai said the medicine he gave Tymoshenko was based on a prescription from ancient China that dates back to the Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220). 

By combining features of the coronavirus with the prescription, the medicine could target the highly contagious nature of the virus, and prevent its rapid development and attack on people's immune systems. 

The prescription adheres to TCM's principle of strengthening the body while fighting off virus by cutting off the spread of the coronavirus within the body and then improving immunity and restoring normal functions, according to Cai. 

Before taking the prescriptions, they must go through ingredient analysis and toxicology tests, Cai explained.

"Tymoshenko told me that Chinese medicine and treatment has withstood the test of time and she is set to promote TCM to the rest of the world," Cai said. 

Cai Chuanqing, 49, is an expert in TCM who serves as the head of the Jintai Institute of Culture and Economics in Beijing, a social service organization founded in 2013, dedicated to the promotion of traditional Chinese culture.

Some articles circulating online said that he is believed to be one of the "top four" TCM doctors in China's capital city.

Popular among Russian elites 

The Global Times has learned that the wide use of TCM, such as Lianhua Qingwen Capsule, a Chinese herbal product, to treat COVID-19 has also helped TCM gain more attention in Russia.  

As early as in April, Lianhua Qingwen capsule has been approved for use in COVID-19 treatments in China. Beijing TCM authorities said the capsule can alleviate COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough and fatigue.

Zhang Boli, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told the media in April that Russia is considering approving the capsule as a medicine. 

A Global Times reporter in Moscow noticed that a few Russian medicine websites translated the specification of the capsule in detail and the medicine can be purchased online.

Huang Guorong, a Moscow-based Chinese doctor who graduated from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, said that more Russians have been trying TCM to prevent COVID-19 since the epidemic developed in the country.

"Compared with the Western medicine using antibiotic, the TCM focuses on the mediation of the whole body, which defends the body through strengthening your immunity," he told the Global Times.

Even though there have been introductions on TCM on Russia's TV or newspapers from time to time, and most people in the country have heard about it, only a small number have tried it.

"In Russia, TCM is not cheap," he said. "And some kinds of herbs have not been approved by the medicine authority in Russia yet."

But it is widely-recognized that, "the rich and powerful people would introduce their friends to try TCM once they found it useful," Huang said.

Li Yunhai, another prestigious Chinese doctor in Moscow, said some Russian officials came to TCM doctors during the epidemic for prevention and treatment. 

Li has received a Russian official who suffered from high blood, weakness and asthma after recovering from COVID-19. Li gave him skin scraping, acupuncture and herbs, and after one course of treatment, the official's health returned to normal. 

Huang would not disclose how many clients from the high-level governments he has, but said they include members of Moscow's district-level governments and the State Duma.

Though he has not heard if President Putin has accepted TCM treatment, he does know a Russian friend who wrote to the president office to advocate the use of TCM in COVID-19 prevention and treatment across the country. "But we haven't received a reply yet," Huang said.

Former Russian president Boris Yeltsin had a TCM therapist, Huang said, "Because he was not well often." The 1990s was the time when the TCM was introduced to Russia and became popular among the officials and business people, he said.

Moreover, Tibetan medicine, similar in some ways to TCM, is also very popular in Russia, Huang said.

Huang, now the headmaster of a TCM school in Moscow, says he has more than 1,000 students in the area, mostly Russians and those from other former Soviet countries.

Li Shulan, a retired TCM doctor in Moscow, said that TCM could be found in almost every city in Russia. But the TCM section is not yet regulated. Some masseuse and beauticians also call themselves TCM doctors. "But good doctors always have patients," she said.

Rising worldwide recognition 

Despite the bias and questioning from some foreign media over TCM and its effectiveness in treating the disease, it is still receiving rising recognition in many countries and regions worldwide.

Lianhua Qingwen capsule has been licensed in more than 10 countries and regions including Canada, Indonesia, Brazil and Romania, and has started its registration work in more than 30 countries around the world, according to the company.

Demand for TCM in Italy and other infected countries surged in June, as different from Western medicine that initiate treatment when patients get confirmed by a test, TCM therapies offer treatment based on symptoms not only for confirmed but also suspected cases. 

In August, Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretary General Vladimir Norov delivered a special award to a TCM producer Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical Co for its contribution to the prevention and control of the COVID-19 epidemic in SCO member states, marking a growing recognition of the TCM and its role in treating the disease not only in China but also overseas.