COVID-19 Frontline: How to treat COVID-19 with TCM?

Editor's note: On March 12, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and as of Saturday (May 23), about 200 countries and regions have confirmed over 4,995,000 cases, according to the WHO. On CGTN's live program "COVID-19 Frontline," we invited medical workers and experts from China's epicenter Wuhan and from all over the world to share their experiences and take questions from social media, in the hope of providing more information for those who are battling against the pandemic.

In the latest episode of CGTN's live stream program "COVID-19 Frontline" on Friday, May 22, CGTN invited Dr. Fang Bangjiang, who served on the front line of the fight against COVID-19 in Wuhan's Leishenshan Hospital, and other medical workers from overseas to exchange expertise on the use of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) against COVID-19.

Live: The effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine in treating COVID-19 patients

CGTN's live stream program "COVID-19 Frontline." /CGTN

CGTN's live stream program "COVID-19 Frontline." /CGTN

Clinical practice of prevention and treatment of COVID-19 based on TCM theory

Doctor Fang Bangjiang, director of the emergency department in Longhua Hospital Affiliated to Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, introduced the treatment of the novel coronavirus by integrating TCM and western medicine.

He said the etiology and transmission of infectious diseases has been recorded in many classical TCM books. "Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine," the fundamental doctrinal source for TCM, says: "The uprightness exists in your heart, so the evil won't disturb you, then you don't get infected," which means the enhanced immunity can ward off the disease and virus. It also says "saints prevent diseases rather than cure them," which suggests people to pay attention to the prevention of the disease.


In the past, people steamed clothes of infected family members to prevent the rest of the family from getting sick. Wu You-ke, a renowned physician of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), suggested people should avoid going out during the plague, try to go out late and go home early. He also suggested to burn atractylodes in the room or chew garlic in the mouth.

The principles of TCM treatments include supporting the healthy Qi first, which means strengthening immunity.

Doctor Fang said that raw rhubarb is efficient in treating COVID-19 symptoms and giant knotweed can also resist novel coronavirus. Besides, guidelines for novel coronavirus diagnosis and treatment (7th edition) of China's National Health Commission suggests blood purification to remove inflammatory mediators and block "cytokine storm," it can be used for the early treatment of cytokine storm in severe and critical patients.


Vaccine and TCM treatment for COVID-19

Laura Ciminelli, dean of Villa Giada Institution of TCM in Italy, said many people suspect that the novel coronavirus will come back stronger around August. So she wanted to know whether the vaccine will be the best solution and whether it can cause harm to human's immune system. She also wondered how TCM treats COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Fang said as the WHO had stated, not to expect too much from the vaccine or specific drug at the moment. The safety and efficacy of vaccines in clinical application need to be further confirmed. He said some patients couldn't eat nor sleep well, which seriously affected their immune systems. In this regard, acupuncture can be used. Patients with mild symptoms can be treated with TCM such as American ginseng, astragalus, radix pseudostellariae, and lucid ganoderma. For patients in critical conditions, raw rhubarb is recommended to use for good result. 


Other TCM treatment of COVID-19

Dr. Regis, president of Brazilian School of Chinese Medicine, said the COVID-19 situation in Brazil is grim and the death toll is rising. He wanted to know more about TCM formulas to treat COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Fang said COVID-19 can cause blood clotting problems, and some patients may develop cyanosis in their extremities, or even stroke. He said he had met some of patients whose tongues appeared purple and dark in Leishenshan Hospital. Besides raw rhubarb, other herbs, such as giant knotweed, motherwort and panax notoginseng powder are also used to promote blood circulation.

"In Leishenshan Hospital, 90 percent of our patients receive acupuncture," Dr. Fang added. He also said the acupuncture treatment should not be carried out directly without protection measures.


Books about TCM treatment against COVID-19

French doctor Thomas Tatulli asked about the books on TCM treatment of COVID-19, so people can search for the formulas more easily.

Dr. Fang said there are many clinical studies on COVID-19, but they are relatively scattered. He wrote the first manual on the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 by integrated traditional Chinese and western medicine in China and the manual was published in February this year. He and other doctors are compiling another book which is going to be published this month. "I often communicate with my counterparts overseas, including the medics in the United States and in the European countries, and I am actively promoting this work. Once it's finished, I can recommend it to you if you need it," Dr. Fang said.

CGTN's live stream program "COVID-19 Frontline." /CGTN

CGTN's live stream program "COVID-19 Frontline." /CGTN

In later episodes of "COVID-19 Frontline," more front line doctors and experts from Wuhan will join in to share their experience with their colleagues from other parts of the world. If you have any questions regarding COVID-19, you can share with us using #MyOpinionOnCOVID19 on Facebook.

Videos by Zhang Rongyi

Cover image by Du Chenxin