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China Looks to Traditional Chinese Medicine to Treat Coronavirus


As the deadly coronavirus ripped through central China, health authorities scrambled to implement effective protocols for treating the sick and infirmed and helping as many patients as possible on the road to recovery. Health officials tried a number of approaches, all with varying degrees of success.

Chinese medical authorities even revisited older pharmaceutical solutions, like that of Chloroquine Phosphate, an antimalarial drug which has been in use since the 1930’s. Officials were pleasantly surprised at its effectiveness in treating the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19.

Interestingly, the Chinese government’s mobilization efforts have not only been centered around allopathic treatments for the affected, but they’ve also deployed substantial resources from the field of traditional Chinese medicine.

China Daily reports…

On March 1, 16 patients with novel coronavirus pneumonia were discharged from the temporary Leishenshan Hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. Six of them had been treated with traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM.

In addition to being prescribed herbal formulas, they were given acupuncture, acupressure and foot massages after being hospitalized.

The six were the most recent group to recover from the viral infection after receiving TCM. On Feb 26, a total of 23 patients were discharged from Jiangxia Hospital, a mobile facility in Wuhan operated by TCM professionals.

In all, 60,107 patients with the virus had been treated with TCM nationwide as of Feb 17, accounting for 85.2 percent of the total number of infections, according to the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Although no specific cure has yet been found for the virus, experts said there has been a high recovery rate, either by using TCM on its own or combined with Western medicine. For example, health authorities in Beijing announced on Feb 24 that 92 percent of patients in Beijing treated with TCM had shown improvement.

Since the epidemic emerged in January, the central government has placed great emphasis on using a combination of TCM and Western medicine.

More than 4,900 medical workers from 600 TCM hospitals across the country and five national medical teams comprising 757 TCM specialists from the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences and other institutions are treating the outbreak in Hubei.

(…) In 2003, TCM played an important role in treating patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, with official statistics showing that it was used in 3,104 of the 5,326 confirmed cases, or 58.3 percent of the total on the Chinese mainland.

However, with the emergence of novel coronavirus pneumonia, the TCM community has taken stronger action.

(…) On Feb 14, 50 patients were admitted to a mobile hospital in Wuhan’s Jiangxia district, the first such facility to start operating in the city.

“It is also the first hospital at which the medical staff are all from hospitals using TCM,” Liu said.

The facility, which has been named Dahuashan, was transformed from a local outdoor sports center.

Headed by Zhang Boli, from the Chinese Academy of Engineering, 209 experts from top hospitals in Tianjin and Jiangsu, Henan, Hunan and Shaanxi provinces are working at the makeshift hospital. Liu and Wang Qinghua, the Party chief of Jiangxia district, are its executive directors.

“We want to use the characteristics and advantages of Chinese medicine to fully carry out some treatment and also integrate some modernized Western treatments. The priority is always to cure patients,” Liu said.

While no special medicines and vaccines have been developed to treat the virus at present, Liu said TCM can prevent a patient’s condition deteriorating, which is vital in ultimately winning the battle.

Zhang Boli said that in 2003, when he joined the fight against SARS, two TCM treatment areas were set up in Tianjin, which both achieved good results. “This time, we are here to replicate the experience of Tianjin and give full play to the role of Chinese medicine in fighting the epidemic,” he said.

“My inner clothing was completely soaked in sweat after I carried out checks at the hospital, but I felt very happy, as it meant the indoor temperature was more than 25 C, which is highly beneficial for patients’ recovery,” he added.

TCM experts believe that humidity and cold can cause the virus to spread, so keeping warm is key to controlling the disease.

Liu said Chinese medics have adopted some Western treatment methods, including oxygen inhalation, to gain more time for patients to rebuild their immune system.

“The key to defeating the virus is still the patient. The principle of TCM treatment is to mobilize the patient’s immunity and resistance through a variety of methods, not to eliminate the virus,” he added.

(…) Western medicine uses a more targeted and antagonistic method. “For example, if you have an inflammation, you will use an anti-inflammatory drug. If you contract a virus, then the body will produce certain antibodies,” he said, adding that the two medical systems are more complementary than contradictory…

Continue this story at China Daily

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