While there is a lack of outcome data on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there is a very large prevention trial using TCM in 23 provinces in China at present.
When you think about the COVID-19 predecessors (viral sibling SARS-Cov1 and its cousin H1N1), it makes sense that TCM is being employed because these viruses are originating in the mainland of China. As a result, we are seeing real-world scenarios being applied for the first time (and at a massive scale) because novel drugs cannot be produced fast enough for novel pandemics. In other words, herbs and ancient ways of treating illnesses are now being utilized as one of the main ways of treatment because there simply is no other option.
Thankfully, in vitro data, trials in humans, Cochrane reviews (one of the highest quality sources of evidence), and perhaps most importantly, a very long historical record of interventions for pandemics is why TCM might lead the way out of this crisis.
The most compelling science on TCM stems from Hong Kong, where the traumatic memory of the original Coronavirus SARS outbreak of 2003 is still felt. Note, COVID-19 hasn’t taken hold of this very crowded city in the same way it has in the West and Middle East. Why? Because early and aggressive action to block the spread of the virus plus utilization of many ancient medicinal treatments (i.e., TCM, herbs) are one of the main approaches to care.
Cochrane concluded that some forms of TCM were as effective or more so than pharmaceutical antiviral medication. This has important implications for those highest at risk, especially since vitamins and supplements are literally flying off the shelves as I write this.
Dr. Winston Cardwell, a respected Integrative & Internal Medicine licensed Naturopathic Physician and Acupuncturist who is well versed in ancient TCM, recommends the following herbs during this challenging time when supplies for immune support are running low. I will also add my thoughts on some western herbs that could be of benefit as well.
Before I begin, I want to be clear that the ideal scenario is an evaluation by a trained Chinese Medicine clinician who gives individualized herbal “prescriptions” (we hold this in high regard in Integrative & Functional Medicine). If access to a TCM provider is limited, however, Chinese formulas have a long record of effective use in pandemics, including influenza and SARS Coronavirus, and are worthy of our consideration as Western trained clinicians.
Chinese Medicine Considerations for COVID-19:
In 2020 scientist Luo and his colleagues examined three studies using TCM during the SARS Coronavirus pandemic. They found not a single person in the TCM-prescribed groups developed SARS Coronavirus. The largest of these studies (n = 3,561) was in Beijing, followed by another in Hong Kong (n = 1,063). All participants were healthcare providers working on the front lines of SARS Coronavirus. The common intervention used in both groups was Yu ping feng powder, very close to the patent Chinese formula recommended by Dr. Cardwell called Jade Windscreen. The top ingredient in Jade Windscreen is astragalus.
As mentioned in last week’s post, astragalus is an immune-boosting tonic with antiviral effects. It is nontoxic and can be used long-term to increase resistance to infection.
Western botanicals shown to be active against SARS Coronavirus (both in vitro and in vivo) include (Lin et al., 2014):
- Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria Baicalensis; scutellarein appears to inhibit SARS-Cov enzymes)
- Wormwood (Artemisia annua; demonstrated to have anti-SARS effect from screening analysis)
- Thorowax (Bupleurum; prevents early stage infection, including attachment and penetration)
Remember to be mindful when purchasing high-quality products and supplements. Purchasing the whole/plant herb is usually not an option for those of us in the West (simply because they are not conventionally grown to the extent they should be). Furthermore, we lose efficacy when we apply our Western model to Eastern medicine. However, do not panic or fear. In the COVID-19 pandemic, we are doing the best we can with what we’ve got, and the botanicals I listed above are great antivirals.
Prevention of COVID-19 can be simple:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with oil-based soap (i.e., Dr. Bronner’s Castille soap) and water instead with alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Avoid close contact with sick people. ONLY wear a mask if YOU are sick and quarantine yourself as much all possible while ill.
- Hydrate adequately with WATER. Avoid dehydrating beverages (i.e., alcohol, coffee, black tea, soda, fruit juices).
- Fast 14-16 hours at night to reduce pathogen load.
- Avoid consuming animal protein since it is the biggest source of antibiotic-resistance pathogen exposure. This includes meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
- Avoid smoking nicotine, marijuana, and other drugs.
- Avoid heartburn medications (i.e., PPIs/antacids) and NSAIDs (i.e., Aspirin, Motrin, Advil, Aleve). If you do not need to take hormone replacement, birth control pills, or steroids, consider temporarily discontinuing them since they cause immune suppression and malabsorption of critical nutrients and antioxidants.
Information regarding the origin of the virus and how it is spread through the consumption of animal protein as discussed in the video may be warranted along with information on how to strengthen the immune system by not damaging the gut microbiome/GI function through diet (i.e, animal protein, sugar, bread, alcohol, coffee, etc) and drugs such as antibiotics, NSAIDs, PPI's, OCPs, etc. For our recent talk, click on the following link:
VIDEO: How Not To Get Sick From Coronavirus
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Our expert team of integrative holistic practitioners work with patients suffering from chronic health concerns. And we take it a step further. We understand how you fit into the environment around you. We help our patients reverse disease by better understanding how the body optimally functions and providing personalized treatment plans—a plan that removes a lot of the common food items that are making them sick. To learn more and book an appointment, contact Advanced Health or call 1-415-506-9393.
Lin, L. T., Hsu, W. C., & Lin, C. C. (2014). Antiviral natural products and herbal medicines. Journal of traditional and complementary medicine, 4(1), 24-35.
Luo, H., Tang, Q. L., Shang, Y. X., Liang, S. B., Yang, M., Robinson, N., & Liu, J. P. (2020). Can Chinese medicine be used for prevention of corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19)? A review of historical classics, research evidence and current prevention programs. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, 1-8.