TCM’s role in Covid-19 treatment

Traditional Chinese medicine is seen included in care packages to be delivered by the Taoyuan health department to people who have been ordered to be under self-quarantine, in Taoyuan, Taiwan, March 25,2020. Photo taken on March 25,2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang

TRADITIONAL Chinese medicine (TCM) has a history of over 5,000 years and it is still widely used.

Getting medicine for common illnesses in China such as fever,

flu or cough is not as easy as in Malaysia where we can just take from the shelves at any convenience store.

In China, medicine can only be purchased at pharmacies.

I was coughing some time back and when I walked into the pharmacy, all I could see were boxes of TCM drugs.

One pharmacist attended to me and introduced several types of medicine.

For my symptoms, she said I have to take two types for better results. I took a box each and paid over 100 yuan (RM62) for a three-day prescription.

For each medicine, which I had to take three times a day, I had to consume some 70 granules as big as the poh chai pills I usually take whenever I was suffering from diarrhoea in Malaysia. That episode frightened me.

So the following trip back home, I made sure I returned to Beijing with paracetamol, cough syrup and antihistamine.

But for sure the prescribed ones are actually quite convenient and tasty. They come in two types – liquid or granules which dissolve in hot water.

With doctors’ prescriptions, patients could buy the medicine online or directly from hospitals.

At home, patients only need to soak the pack in hot water, cut open and drink the medicine.

When the country was under attack by the deadly coronavirus, nearly 5,000 medical staff in the TCM field were sent to Hubei, the worst-hit province and where the epicentre of the outbreak, Wuhan City, is located.

Patients with mild symptoms were prescribed with TCM formulae while critical ones received a combination of treatment with Chinese medicine as a supplement alongside Western medicine.

Some 74,200 people or 91.5% of the total patients nationwide received TCM treatment, revealed Yu Yanhong of the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

She was part of the team of TCM experts battling Covid-19 in Wuhan.

“TCM prescriptions have helped relieve symptoms, slowed the progression of the disease and improved the recovery rate, ” she claimed at a press conference last week.

Zhang Boli, president of Tianjin University of TCM, said apart from medicine, psychological treatment was equally important to raise the patients’ morale.

“We interacted with our patients frequently, celebrated birthdays with them and led them to do exercise together.

“The patients felt the place was more like a big community than a hospital, which was very helpful in their recovery, ” he pointed out, adding that massage and guasha (scraping therapy) were also given to the patients.

“Patients in the rehabilitation stage may still experience fatigue or cough, and their lung inflammation has not fully recovered.

“In this case, we combine Chinese and Western medicine, help them do some breathing exercises in addition to acupuncture, massage and other therapies, ” he said.

Qiu Haibo, vice-president of Zhongda Hospital of Southeast University, explained that Western medicine, mostly chemical drugs, were designed to hit a single target, while TCM drugs work like a team and acted on multiple targets.

“In the case of Covid-19, the virus can cause inflammation and immune disorder, leading to impaired organ function, including the lungs and heart.

“Western medicine focuses on one area while TCM can treat various problems, ” he said.

Liu Qingquan, president of Beijing Hospital of TCM, said the treatment for infectious diseases mainly focuses on three methods – clearing heat, eliminating dampness and detoxification.

“TCM is able to quickly mobilise the body’s defence system to evict invading enemies and prevent viruses from causing significant damage to the body.

“Eliminating dampness boosts immunity to fight the virus while clearing heat can change the internal environment of the body so that the virus cannot escape or hide, ” he said.

At the press conference, the TCM experts also shared the ”three drugs and three prescriptions” they used in Covid-19 treatment.

The drugs were commonly used by the public to treat cold and flu as well as relieving fever and cough while the prescriptions were developed by the team based on existing formulae used in lung cleansing and detoxifying, controlling inflammation and increasing lymphocytes.

Now that the virus has spread to the world, China is ready to work with countries that need assistance and guidance on TCM treatment.

Yu said they had been cooperating with the World Health Organisation, sharing information on the use of TCM in epidemic prevention and control.

“We have also provided technical solutions and shared our experiences with Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Singapore and other countries.

“Our experts have headed to Italy and Cambodia to help in their fight against the virus, ” she said.

She pointed out that TCM products had also been donated to more than 10 countries and regions, including Italy and France.

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