Demand for TCM surges in New York as coronavirus fears take hold
Updated 22:36, 19-Mar-2020
By Karina Huber

To counter the COVID-19 outbreak, many hospitals have relied on traditional Chinese medicine along with Western medicine to deal with other underlying conditions. In New York, which has been hit hardest by COVID-19, demand for herbal formulas is booming. CGTN's Karina Huber reports. 

Inside the Kamwo Herbal Dispensary in New York's Chinatown, workers are furiously filling orders. 

They are creating formulas that will be sent to traditional Chinese medicine practitioners across the United States. The formulas are designed to boost immune systems. 

"Demand for formulas is off the charts. There's a lot of orders that are coming in. There is a lot more than we can handle right now," said Thomas Leung, the dispensary's owner.  

Krista Retto spent Tuesday morning hunting for Chinese herbs without any luck. 

"I've gone to four stores and all of the places have sold out of all of their herbs. Like, they just said 'No, no, no. Out! Out!' and chased me away," she said.  

Kamwo is only selling to licensed practitioners and has closed its retail business for now. 

Clayton Shiu, who owns the Shiu Clinic on New York's Upper East Side, is offering an herbal formula he calls the "coronavirus shield."

He says demand is so high and herbs so scarce that he's only selling it to people over the age of 60. 

"That's our main target population that we feel actually needs it. We've had patients who are college students or 30-year-old working class and we did not give them that," said Shiu.  

Traditional Chinese medicine like acupuncture and herbal supplements have been in practice for more than 2,500 years. Last year it was formally recognized by the World Health Organization, further helping it to go mainstream. 

The coronavirus outbreak has caused even more interest. 

With no vaccine or antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-19, it seems more Americans are willing to give traditional Chinese medicine a shot. 

Leung and Shiu say the majority of their clients are not Chinese or Chinese American but people used to Western medicine. Both advise using a combination of the two to fight COVID-19. 

"These formulas increase your chances to strengthen your body to fight off the virus but again it's not guaranteed," said Leung. 

Leung says if patients get ill with the virus, they should consult with their doctor and visit a hospital if necessary. 

(Cover photo via VCG)