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19 Feb 2020

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TCM medications made available in Wuhan’s cabin hospitals

By Yan Chengyi

Fudan University released two Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) formulae for COVID-19 prevention and treatment.


“12g of heterophylly falsestarwort roots, 15g of astragalus roots, 12g of white atractylodes rhizome…” 


Professor Dong Jingcheng, Huashan Hospital, Fudan University

The team of Dong Jingcheng, professor of Integrative Medicine at Huashan Hospital, Fudan University, recently released two TCM formulae targeting COVID-19. Both the therapeutic formula and preventive formula, previously circulated only among medics in Huashan Hospital, are now available at the mobile cabin hospitals in Wuhan. 

A mobile cabin hospital is a type of field hospital with square cabins built for novel coronavirus patients in mild condition. It is a modular health unit for emergency treatment, surgical treatment and clinical testing. 

The formulae, based on TCM theories and modern interpretations of TCM, can accelerate the recovery of COVID-19 patients with minor symptoms. At this very moment, medications based on the two formulae are being produced and will soon be available at Wuhan’s cabin hospitals supported by Huashan Hospital. 

TCM is playing a vital role in the battle against novel coronavirus. 90% of confirmed cases at designated hospitals in Shanghai have been treated with TCM. Patients in Guangdong and Hunan Province have also received TCM treatment. Two days ago, a group of 122 TCM experts from Shanghai headed to Wuhan. 

Dong explained as follows how and why his TCM formulae could help in the epidemic control.

17 years ago Dong, then the deputy director of Shanghai’s expert team for SARS prevention and control, commenced his research. Back then, he searched within established TCM formulae for anything that might help build up resistance against SARS virus. Now he has also adapted the formulae for COVID-19 from traditional formulae including Jade Wind-Barrier Powder, Lonicera and Forsythia Powder and Decoction of Aged Tangerine Peel and Agastache, based on modernized TCM research that has undergone tremendous progress over the past years.


 
Stragalus root (Photo source: mt.sohu.com)
White atractylodes rhizome (Photo source: blog.sina.com.cn)


Both formulae include stragalus root and white atractylodes rhizome. According to TCM, astragalus root, as the primary ingredient, is sweet and mild. They may replenish qi in the spleen and lung and stop sweating. White atractylodes rhizome is the secondary ingredient that may strengthen the spleen, nourish qi and enhance the effect of astragalus roots. Modern studies have also shown that both ingredients are good for enhancing humoral immunity and cellular immunity and preventing the virus from establishing infections in the respiratory tract.  

 
Heterophylly falsestarwort root (Photo source: www. ecnol.com)
Cyrtomii rhizoma (Photo source: m.sohu.com/a/125986282_463562)
Herba epimedii (Photo source: detail.1688.com)


TCM practitioners have found it more important to restore rather than boost the immune system when treating patients with inflammation. Therefore, Professor Dong’s therapeutic formula, different from the preventive formula, contains cyrtomii rhizoma (to resist virus) and herba epimedii (to prevent inflammation and restore the immune system), but excludes heterophylly falsestarwort root which has the function of improving immunity. The wisdom of TCM lies in regulating the immune system through striking a balance between pro-inflammation and anti-inflammation.

“COVID-19 is a self-limited disease, that is, patients could only gain full recovery by themselves. And there is no wonder drug neither in Chinese nor Western medicine. Medical intervention can only relieve symptoms as the immune system kills the virus,” said Dong. “That is why TCM guided by the Doctrine of the Mean (the Confucian philosophy upholding moderation) can help so much.” 

So far there are many cases where infected patients died from severe inflammation triggered by inflammatory cytokines secreted from immune cells. This is referred to in TCM as “extreme imbalance between pro-inflammation and anti-inflammation”, or “cytokine storm” in modern medicine, which also explains why SARS had such a high fatality rate 17 years ago. 

“Modern medicine highlights efficiency to its utmost while TCM pursues moderation. Some TCM medications improve immunity but only to a certain degree,” Dong said. “But that is not to say that TCM is always the better solution.” He reiterated that it was significant to combine TCM and Western medicine for an effect better than using either one of the two. 


Note: This is a translation based on an abridged version of the original article published in Wenhui Bao.


Editor: Deng Jianguo, Wang Mengqi, Li Yijie


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