A pharmacist weighs Chinese herbal medicines for patients infected with the novel coronavirus at Anhui Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Hefei, east China's Anhui Province. PHOTO: XINHUA

Traditional Chinese medicine offers cure amid fight against coronavirus

Wuhan's virus control headquarters have ordered integrated treatment of traditional Chinese and Western medicine

Xinhua February 19, 2020
WUHAN: Another 1,701 patients infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) were discharged from hospitals on Monday, bringing the total number of discharged patients in China to over 12,000 since the epidemic.

When scrutinising the commonalities of those people, the contributions of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) cannot go unnoticed.

"Western medicine offers important life-supporting measures such as respiratory and circulatory assistance, while TCM focuses on improving patients' physical conditions and immune function. They complement each other," said Zhang Boli, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Last Friday, the first phase of a sports center-turned hospital began operation in Wuhan, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is the city's first TCM-oriented temporary hospital. A total of 800 patients will receive treatment there once the second phase is completed.

The medical team of 209 doctors and nurses from 20 TCM hospitals in five provinces led by Zhang has since been carrying out TCM clinical treatment and research at the hospital.

The recommended TCM treatment plan includes multiple herbal prescriptions targeting fever, heavy coughing, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath and tiredness.

A specific chapter detailing TCM treatment during a patient's medical observation, clinical treatment and recovery was included in the latest version of the COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment scheme released by the National Health Commission.

Wuhan's coronavirus control headquarters have since ordered integrated treatment of TCM and Western medicine, especially among non-critical patients, and observation of TCM's curative effects at designated hospitals.

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Statistics show that 2,220 medics from TCM hospitals and institutions across China have been sent to aid the epidemic fight in Hubei so far. Over 75 per cent of COVID-19 patients are receiving TCM treatment in Hubei and over 90 per cent in other parts of China.

On February 6 alone, 23 patients in Hubei were discharged after receiving integrated treatment of TCM and Western medicine.

Zhang said patients with mild symptoms showed obvious improvement after TCM treatment, and for critical patients, TCM decreased their lung exudation, stabilised blood oxygen saturation and reduced respiratory support and antibiotic use.

TCM has never missed a single fight against epidemics throughout Chinese history. TCM classics have provided sufficient evidence of how TCM cured epidemic diseases such as smallpox over the past several thousand years.

The 2003 SARS fight was a recent example. TCM offered timely and effective solutions to the treatment and recuperation of SARS patients.

Cured novel coronavirus pneumonia patients, who have received integrated treatment with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Western medicine, are discharged from a hospital in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province. PHOTO: XINHUA Cured novel coronavirus pneumonia patients, who have received integrated treatment with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Western medicine, are discharged from a hospital in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province. PHOTO: XINHUA

"Compared with Western medicine, TCM offers highly varied prescriptions to each and every patient based on their unique conditions during different stages of the disease, which is more flexible and targeted," said Xiong Jibai, a TCM expert and consultant to the coronavirus treatment group of neighboring Hunan Province.

Hunan has sent hundreds of medical workers to help fight the epidemic in the city of Huanggang, one of the hardest-hit cities in Hubei.

Zeng Puhua, vice president of the affiliated hospital of Hunan Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, has been working around the clock in the SARS treatment-model hospital of Huanggang since late January.

"Clinical experience has repeatedly proven that TCM plays an active and effective role in the treatment of pneumonia-related epidemics," he said.

According to Hunan's health commission, TCM was used in the treatment of nearly 95 percent of the admitted patients. Among the discharged, over 90 percent underwent integrated treatment of TCM and Western medicine.

In the city of Bozhou, eastern China's Anhui Province, TCM has shortened the course of treatment and reduced medical expenses for seven discharged COVID-19 patients taking herbal soups or capsules.

"Patients showed quickened fever reduction after using TCM, and obvious alleviation of certain symptoms such as coughing, tiredness and loss of appetite. Some critical patients became non-critical," said Zhang Nianzhi, a chief doctor at the respiratory medicine department of Anhui Provincial Hospital of TCM.

Discharged patients are required to stay home for another 14 days. Zhang said a 14-day herbal compound treatment based on TCM theories is prescribed to help them restore their pre-illness state.

Zhang has planned to include 100 discharged patients into the herbal compound treatment group, to follow their symptoms, physical and chemical indicators, CT results and living quality for one year. Thirty patients have so far been taking the prescription.

Non-drug treatment such as cupping, acupuncture and scraping is another feature of TCM, which can help patients recover more effectively after being discharged from hospitals, said Tong Xiaolin, an academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences and head of the treatment group of the state administration of TCM.


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