Traditional Chinese Medicine scores KO in fight against coronavirus

Ke Jiayun
More than 80 percent of patients in Shanghai infected with the coronavirus have received traditional Chinese medicine as well as Western medicine.
Ke Jiayun

More than 80 percent of patients in Shanghai infected with the coronavirus, including both domestic and inbound cases, have received traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapy as well as Western medicine, the deputy head of the city's health commission Zhang Huaiqiong has said.

According to Zhang, by Thursday, Shanghai had treated 628 patients with the coronavirus, comprising 339 domestic cases and 289 from overseas. 

More than 92 percent of domestic cases accepted traditional Chinese medicine treatment, while 210 of the 289 inbound patients accepted or are to undergo TCM treatment. This includes a number of foreigners.

Zhang Wei, chief of the respiratory department at Shuguang Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, said the inbound cases comprise Chinese students who had been studying overseas, Chinese living overseas and foreigners.

"Most of the Chinese students were willing to take traditional Chinese medicine," he said. "Some of them recovered and were discharged from hospital very soon after using the TCM therapy. A number of overseas Chinese also welcomed traditional Chinese medicine. One patient with a high fever and in a serious condition decided to have TCM and finally got better. Likewise, two foreigners in critical condition received a combination of Western and traditional Chinese medicine and gained relief instead of being transferred to the intensive care unit."

In traditional Chinese medicine treatment, every patient has his or her own prescription, with different types and amount of herbs and different way of giving the drugs, including oral, nasal or an enema, in accordance with their condition and the severity of the illness. The prescription is always adjusted to changes in the illness.

Twenty-nine of the city's 31 patients in critical condition had received traditional Chinese medicine therapy throughout their treatment. For some with abdominal distension and high fever, the TCM therapy helped prevent the symptoms worsening.

Traditional Chinese medicine relieves symptoms including fever, coughs, throat soreness, poor appetite, weakness, constipation, abdominal distension and diarrhoea. Based on rough statistics, nearly 90 percent of coronavirus patients with abdominal distension had relief from symptoms, as well as some 70 percent with digestive or respiratory problems.

About half of those with a fever had their temperature return to normal level after TCM therapy, while eight patients' kidney functions improved, doctors said.

TCM therapy also helped children with coronavirus. Nearly half of the child patients had TCM therapy introduced into their treatment, with two only using TCM treatment, all with good clinical results.

Shi Kehua, chief of the respiratory department at Shanghai Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, has released a report on a recent case of a patient undergoing TCM treatment.  

"The patient suffered constipation when receiving treatment with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and fell into a critical condition," said Shi. "We provided TCM treatment at once and he was able to empty his bowels smoothly the next day. He continued to have TCM treatment with prescriptions adjusted every day and has since been discharged."

Zhang Wenhong, chief of the infectious disease department at Huashan Hospital who heads the Shanghai medical team to fight the coronavirus, likens different types of medicines to genres of the Chinese martial arts kung fu

"The coronavirus outbreak is an unexpected battle for us and we rushed to treat it. In further treatment, the beneficial effect of traditional Chinese medicine has gradually shown. It's like kung fu skills, some have instant effect and others have slow effect. With the combination of Western and traditional Chinese medicines, the latter now takes effect sooner."

Zhang Wei agreed, and likened Western medicine such as ECMO to the kung fu style of Shaolin, which is hard and fast, while  traditional Chinese medicine is like tai chi, which is soft and slow.

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