How China Is Treating COVID-19 With TCM

How China Is Treating COVID-19 With TCM
April 7, 2020 welleum


TCM’s Role and Results 

Chinese Herbs

Given COVID-19, aka the Coronavirus, began in China, it’s no surprise that more and more treatment information comes out of the region each day. While there are no real perks to being the first in a pandemic, it does mean that China has had more patients and more time to study possible treatment options. While scientists and medical teams are working hard to find a cure, no definitive answers have been given, but there have been some learnings.

Compared to Western nations relying almost exclusively on modern medicine, China is taking a more holistic approach with the inclusion of TCM. Local health officials have said that more than 80% of people with coronavirus are being treated with a combination of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western medicine, with 92% recovery rate. If you’re like most Westerners, TCM and Eastern Medicine may seem a bit foreign, so we’re breaking down how TCM is viewing and treating the Coronavirus.

TCM’s Approach to Coronavirus

Yu Yanhong is part of the Party Group of the Health and Health Committee, and secretary of the Party Group of the Chinese Medicine Bureau. At a March 6, 2020 press conference she announced that TCM was primarily focused on easing the symptoms of the novel coronavirus, as was done with previous outbreaks such as SARS pandemic in the early 2000’s. TCM practitioners agree that the focus of ancient treatment methods is to boost patient’s immunity and strengthen their ability to resist the coronavirus rather than to eradicate the virus altogether. 

This stance is evident through the Chinese government’s communications regarding the suggested combined efforts of TCM and Western medicine. While TCM eases symptoms and boosts resistance, Western medicine cures can be used to help destroy the virus. Several different TCM solutions have been tested and used widely during the pandemic. Experts also believe that the combination of humidity and cold could be responsible for the spread of coronavirus, and advise patients to stay warm. This coincides with many Western medicine doctor’s speculations that as the weather begins to warm up, we might see a decline in the virus, similarly to the flu and other illnesses.

TCM Treatments for Coronavirus 

Chinese Immunity SoupZhong Nanshan is a famous respiratory specialist in China. In a public meeting, he noted several ongoing TCM studies to fight the novel coronavirus. While there has been no official, proven solution to coronavirus, TCM practitioners have been researching and testing many approaches. Thus far, acupuncture, moxibustion, and herbal treatments have all been suggested to use against coronavirus. 

One suggested herbal remedy by China’s National Health Convention is a “lung-cleansing and detoxifying soup” (some reports refer to it as Qingfei Paidu Soup) that consists of 29 different herbs such as ephedra, cinnamon twigs, and licorice root. This combination is said to disrupt the ACE2 receptor in the coronavirus (which is responsible for infecting host cells), thus making it an effective treatment option. 

Liushenwan and Lianhuaqingwen are two other herbal mixtures that are already within common use in TCM. They are both currently under analysis for use as a specific treatment for coronavirus symptoms, particularly for their ability to potentially reduce massive inflammation in the body (one of the common issues leading to death in some coronavirus cases). Other reported herbal treatments being used on coronavirus patients include Xin Guan-1 Formula, Xin Guan-2 Formula, Qing Yi-4, Tan Re Qing Injection, and Lian Hua Qing Wen Capsule. 

Acupuncture has also been used in treatment, primarily to improve and deepen sleep for coronavirus patients in an effort to give the body more concentrated recovery time. As with all acupuncture treatments, the specific points used vary depending on the symptoms of the patient. Some report primarily using ear acupuncture points, while others are gravitating towards general immunity-boosting points. In conjunction with acupuncture, moxibustion is sometimes used to help purify the air. Moxa sticks or cones can be burned in the home to detoxify the air, as studies have shown they kill airborne bacteria. This is often used to help reduce the spread of illness and protect caregivers.

TCM Diagnosis of Coronavirus

According to Adjunct Professor at Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr. Joy Yang, the coronavirus is able to be diagnosed through classic TCM methods. She notes that novel coronavirus presents itself through a “specific, unusual pulse” as well as the color and appearance of the tongue.

According to Yang and her associates’ experiences thus far with coronavirus patients, they’ve noted that the pulse will be slippery at the CUN position and tight and fast at the Guan and Chi positions. The tongues of coronavirus patients have been layered with a heavy coating, varying between yellow or white in color and some have had the appearance of “thorns” . 

Dr. Yang said that when combining each of these diagnostic methods, a TCM practitioner can clearly see the differences between a patient with the flu and the coronavirus. On the other hand, Western medical doctors say that their primary red flag that differentiates the coronavirus from the flu is dry coughing and shortness of breath. 

TCM for Prevention of Coronavirus 

The very foundation of TCM is about maintaining health year-round rather than only worrying about caring for our bodies when we do get sick. With this in mind, practicing TCM methods for maintaining general health and a strong immune system can prove to be beneficial when avoiding falling ill with the coronavirus. 

A study on coronavirus released February 17, 2020 analyzed data from records and human evidence during the SARS and H1N1 influenza to gain insight into the TCM preventative measures that could apply to coronavirus. While they noted that there needed to be prospective and rigorous population studies to confirm, TCM herbal formulas could be an alternative method of coronavirus prevention in high-risk populations. 

Woman Stretching

TCM maintenance includes caring for your mind, body, and spirit to maintain balance of qi. In short this means eating nutritious foods, moving your body frequently, and staying even-keeled in your emotional states. For a specific, individualized prevention plan you should consult with your TCM practitioner. This plan will likely consist of a combination of herbal treatments, acupuncture, moxibustion, and diet or lifestyle changes. Check out our complete list of suggestions to prevent infection and boost immunity to learn how you can incorporate TCM practices in your daily life to stay safe from coronavirus. It’s also advised to stay up-to-date on official statements from the CDC

TCM and Coronavirus Timeline 

  • December 2019 – First cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) occur in Wuhan, China.
  • January 7, 2020 – The announcement was made that a new iteration of coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 (formerly known as 2019-nCoV) had emerged.
  • January 21, 2020 – The very first cohort of TCM practitioners began their examinations of coronavirus patients in Wuhan, China. They analyzed the pulses and tongues, and questioned around 70 people. At this time, the TCM diagnosis resulted that coronavirus was caused by the internal imbalance referred to as “damp evil”.
  • January 22, 2020 – The third revised version of the novel coronavirus pneumonia diagnosis and treatment plan is released by the National Health Commission. This plan is the first to include TCM prescriptions.
  • January 27, 2020 – The fourth revised version of the novel coronavirus pneumonia diagnosis and treatment plan is released by the National Health Commission. This version provides specific herbal formulas and measurements such as the mix Shuanghuanglian.
  • February 3, 2020 – Zhang Boli announced at a news conference that the herbal mix Shuanghuanglian had only been proven to have an inhibitory effect in pharmacological tests but not effective in treating novel coronavirus clinically.
  • February 11, 2020 – The World Health Organization (WHO) officially named the “Wuhan pneumonia” as Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19).
  • February 17, 2020 – The National Health Commission (NHC) of the People’s Republic of China said that 60,107 confirmed COVID-19 patients (85.20% of total confirmed cases) had been treated with TCM.
  • February 19, 2020 – The sixth revised version of the novel coronavirus pneumonia diagnosis and treatment plan is released by the National Health Commission. This version includes further specifications regarding the combination of modern medicine and TCM treatments, including the use of Qingfei Paidu Decoction when observing new patients.
  • February 24, 2020 – 757 TCM practitioners divided into five teams are sent to Wuhan as well as other afflicted cities. While in Northern China, 84 TCM practitioners finish their 8 days of development on a new prescription for the virus. 
  • March 1, 2020 – It’s reported that 303 ongoing clinical trials have been launched in China to determine the efficacy and safety of treatments for CoV-19 patients. 50 of those trials are specifically regarding the use of TCM treatments for coronavirus (including studies on the herbal treatments Xin Guan-1 Formula, Xin Guan-2 Formula, Qing Yi-4, Tan Re Qing Injection, and Lian Hua Qing Wen Capsule).
  • March 5, 2020 – Chinese study shows that children are just as likely to contract coronavirus as adults. Data was pulled from Shenzen, China.
  • March 13, 2020 – U.S. President Donald Trump announces a national emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • March 16, 2020 – Beijing officials advertise TCM as the ‘Chinese solution’ to coronavirus.
  • March 17, 2020 – First U.S. clinical trial of potential novel coronavirus vaccine begins (on Moderna’s mRNA-1273) in Seattle, Washington
  • March 19, 2020 – China’s National Health Commission announces that for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, there are no new cases of coronavirus in China. 
  • March 23, 2020 – The United Nations calls for a global ceasefire for any current conflicts in order to direct all human attention towards fighting the pandemic.
  • March 24, 2020 – The 2020 Olympic Games are postponed to 2021 due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • March 27, 2020 – President Trump signs a $2 trillion stimulus deal into law after being proposed by Congress only two days prior. 
  • April 2, 2020 – 6.6 million US people filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending March 28th making history as the highest number of initial claims in history. 
  • April 7, 2020 – The first day that China reported zero COVID-19-related deaths since the beginning of the outbreak.



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