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How COVID-19 is Currently Treated in China with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

TCM doctors treat patients holistically rather than dispense a one-remedy-fits-all solution. However, with COVID-19, these are unusual times. Which makes the next stages more difficult to treat, partly because the progression of the disease can be fast. The symptom picture changes quickly as the virus enters into the deeper levels of the body and the practicalities of administering herbs remotely becomes a challenge. The other problem we have in the UK is that much of our materia medica has been banned and unfortunately some very useful herbs like Ephedra, Gypsum, Wild Ginger and Aconite are not accessible. (Another time, another blog!)

Based on the experience of TCM and the SARS epidemic (remember COVID-19 is 96% the same virus), Dr Deng Tietao of Shaanzi University of TCM and Pharmacology, has identified some useful formulas to address the appropriate disease stage.

In TCM we believe Elimination of Pathogens Does Not Happen by Killing Germs, but by Providing Pathogens with an Exit!

The reason epidemics are so contagious is related to the extremely toxic nature of the pathogenic influence, in conjunction with weakened Zheng Qi (immune system). Therefore to treat successfully, part of the recovery must be to enhance the body’s response and facilitate the pathogens (phlegm, heat, damp) to exit. (Apologies for the TCM language..)

EARLY STAGE - typically 1-3 days, presenting with fever, headache, mild aversion to cold, body aches, poor appetite, and stuffy chest, sometimes accompanied by diarrhoea. The treatment method is primarily to transform damp, release the exterior and reduce fever. He suggests using a combination of 2 classic formulas: Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San - clear external cold invasion with interior dampness, accompanied by symptoms of nausea, poor appetite, gastric upset. Chai Ge Jieji Tang - release exterior, clear heat and relieve muscle aches.

As i mentioned before, although not ideal giving a set formula for an individual, this formula would be helpful to lessen the viral load and therefore reduce its ability to go deeper into the body.

I can order this formula either in tablet, raw herbs or as a concentrated powder.

I think at this stage if you did want to use TCM it would be better to get a consultation for the next stage, but here are some ideas for treatment.

MIDDLE STAGE - approx 4-7 days since the onset of initial symptoms. Typical symptoms present with fever accompanied by heat sensations or alternating hot and cold sensations, fatigue, dry cough, a dry and bitter taste in the mouth, poor appetite, shortness of breath, thirst without desire to drink. This requires a different treatment method to clear internal heat and out thrust pathogens (sticky/greasy Damp Heat) (trapped in the Source Membrane/Shao Yang).

Two formulas are suggested: San Xiao Yin - treats epidemic disease on multiple levels by guiding interior and exterior pathogens out.

(This formula originates from the Discourse on Epidemic Pestilence Xiao Chai Hu Tang - releases epidemic pathogens stuck in Shao Yang, open upper burner and drains fluids.

SEVERE STAGE - lasts approx 7-14 days and typically presents with height fever, ragged, short and suffocated breath, cyanosis, and a scorching heat sensation in the chest or abdomen etc There are formulas suggested but most patients at this stage will be under the care of western medicine and here we struggle to get the appropriate herbs administered to the patients.

Next we shall talk about Recovery Phase.

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