According to China Daily,1 traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) decoctions are being successfully used against COVID-19 in China. March 23, 2020, Yu Yanhong, party chief of the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, issued a statement2 saying 91.5% of COVID-19 patients in China have been treated with TCM. Yu claims:
“All TCM prescriptions have effectively relieved symptoms, slowed the progression of the disease, improved the cure rate and reduced the mortality and boosted the recovery of patients.”
Six Traditional Chinese Medicine Remedies for COVID-19
The State Council of the People’s Republic of China website lists3 six TCM medicines that have been shown to be effective against the pandemic illness, which according to TCM diagnosis falls under the designation of “noxius dampness” that causes stagnation of qi:
Lianhua Qingwen capsule (LQC) — As a TCM remedy for the common cold and influenza, this concoction, composed of 13 herbs, is said to have “a curative effect in patients with mild symptoms and helps to relieve fever, cough and fatigue,” and may also “help prevent the disease from worsening.”
Jinhua Qinggan — This remedy for mild and moderate COVID-19 symptoms consisting of 12 herbs, including licorice, mint and honeysuckle, helps remove heat and detoxify the lungs. According to the State Council:4
Xuebijing injection — Developed and used during the 2003 SARS epidemic, this remedy consists of five herbs that help detoxify and remove blood stasis. In China, it’s also used in the treatment of sepsis, which is a common cause of death in severe COVID-19. According to the State Council:5
Lung Cleansing and Detoxifying decoction — Consisting of 21 herbs, this decoction is said to improve symptoms of fever, cough, fatigue and lung conditions. According to the State Council:6
Huashi Baidu — This is a remedy of 14 herbs that is used to detoxify, remove dampness and heat and relieve cough and is suitable for mild, moderate and severe cases of COVID-19 pneumonia.
It’s said to “significantly shorten the length of hospital stays and improve clinical symptoms and lung conditions, as shown by CT scans and other examinations.” Animal research suggests it can lower the viral load in the lungs by 30%.7
Xuanfei Baidu — Consisting of 13 herbs, this remedy helps detoxify the lungs, clearing dampness and heat, and is recommended for patients with mild to moderate symptoms.
Many TCM Remedies Are Under Investigation
An article by the Healthcare Medicine Institute also highlights the use of TCM remedies against COVID-19, stating:9
“According to the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine (NATCM), the herbal formula Qing Fei Pai Du Tang had a 90% response rate out of a total of 214 clinical cases of COVID-19 related pneumonia10 …
Another investigation tracked 701 COVID-19 patients across 10 Chinese provinces that were treated with Qing Fei Pai Du Tang. A total of 130 patients (18.5%) were cured, symptoms including fever and coughing completely resolved in an additional 51 patients (7.27%), symptom improvements occurred in an additional 268 patients (38.2%), and stabilization occurred in 212 patients (30.2%).”
A scientific review11 in the International Journal of Biological Sciences titled “Traditional Chinese Medicine in the Treatment of Patients Infected with 2019-New Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2): A Review and Perspective,” lists several other promising TCM remedies. It also provides a list of clinical trials currently investigating various TCM remedies for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
China’s Standard of Care Includes TCM Treatment
Of the six remedies listed above, Lianhua Qingwen capsules or LQC for short, is the most popular. LQC, which is also used against seasonal influenza, has reportedly been part of China’s standard of care against COVID-19 since February 2020,12 and other countries such as Thailand and Laos have also embraced the product.13 It was originally developed as a treatment against SARS.14 According to Vice:15
“… Zhong Nanshan, billed by state media outlet CGTN16 as ‘China’s top respiratory expert,’ maintained in a webinar with Chinese students (who have received LQC in care packages from Chinese embassies) that the capsule is effective.
Zhong said that a recent experiment … found that LQC was able to ‘weakly inhibit’ the virus, and treat cell damage and inflammation. Patients who used the treatment experienced shorter fevers and saw their symptoms improve two days earlier than those in the control group. ‘It’s the first time in the world that we have enough evidence to prove the Lianhua Qingwen capsule is effective and can help patients recover,’ Zhong said.”
The trial,17 published online May 16, 2020, in the journal Phytomedicine, compared the outcomes of 142 patients who received LQC along with “usual treatment” against 142 patients who received standard treatment alone. According to the authors, which included Zhong:18
“The recovery rate was significantly higher in treatment group as compared with control group (91.5% vs. 82.4%). The median time to symptom recovery was markedly shorter in treatment group (median: 7 vs. 10 days). Time to recovery of fever (2 vs. 3 days), fatigue (3 vs. 6 days) and coughing (7 vs. 10 days) was also significantly shorter in treatment group.
The rate of improvement in chest computed tomographic manifestations (83.8% vs. 64.1%) and clinical cure (78.9% vs. 66.2%) was also higher in treatment group. However, both groups did not differ in the rate of conversion to severe cases or viral assay findings. No serious adverse events were reported.”
Licorice Shown to Reduce COVID-19 Severity
Jinhua Qinggan granules and Xuebijing injections are also part of China’s standard therapies list for COVID-19. As mentioned, Jinhua Qinggan granules contain a mix of 12 different herbs, including licorice, mint and honeysuckle.
As reported in “Can Licorice Reduce the Severity of Coronavirus Infection?” a compound found in licorice root called liquiritin appears to prevent SARS-CoV-2 reproduction and inhibit proinflammatory cytokines. It also has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, modulates the immune system and helps improve lung function.
Interestingly, when an artificial intelligence platform called InfinityPhenotype was used to predict the efficacy of 3,682 drugs and natural products against the gene set of SARS-CoV-2, liquiritin came out on top. Results were verified in the lab, showing liquiritin had the ability to obstruct the growth of SARS-CoV-2 in monkey cells by mimicking Type I interferon.
According to Judy Mikovits, Ph.D., Type I interferon could be used to make an oral “vaccine” against COVID-19, as it stimulates antibody humoral responses and has powerful antiviral effects. As Mikovits explained in my interview with her, featured in “Could Retroviruses Play a Role in COVID-19?”:
“I was part of the team that first used the immune therapy, a purified Type 1 interferon alpha, as a curative therapy for a leukemia … [Type 1 interferon] is a simple food. It’s a simple spray … Interferon alpha is your body’s own best antiviral against coronaviruses and retroviruses.”
Interferon Type 119,20 is a type of beneficial cytokine released by your body as one of its first lines of defense against viral infections. In a nutshell, it interferes with viral replication. As part of your immune system, it digests viral DNA and viral proteins in infected cells while simultaneously protecting noninfected neighboring cells.
Interferon alpha and beta also help regulate your immune response. As noted in a 2018 paper21 on the dual nature of Type 1 and Type 2 interferons, “both antiviral and immunomodulatory functions are critical during virus infection to not only limit virus replication and initiate an appropriate antiviral immune response, but to also negatively regulate this response to minimize tissue damage.”
Like Mikovits, Dominic Chan, a doctor of pharmacy who recently updated an article on interferon on Medicinenet.com., proposes using interferons against COVID-19. The earlier version of this article, written by Eni Williams, Pharm.D. and Ph.D., before she died in 2017,22 says:23
“Interferons modulate the response of the immune system to viruses, bacteria, cancer, and other foreign substances that invade the body. Interferons do not directly kill viral or cancerous cells; they boost the immune system response and reduce the growth of cancer cells by regulating the action of several genes that control the secretion of numerous cellular proteins that affect growth …”
The article goes on to list a number of interferons that are commercially available, including Intron-A (interferon alfa-2b), Betaseron (interferon beta-1b) and many more. In April 2020, Chan added:
“Interferon beta-1a, currently in use to treat multiple sclerosis, and interferon alfa-2b are both under investigation as potential treatments for people with COVID-19 coronavirus disease …
Interferon Beta 1a, specifically, activates macrophages that engulf antigens and natural killer cells (NK cells), a type of immune T-Cell … The theory is, interferon may be able to make the immune system stronger by turning on dormant parts and directing them toward the defense against SARS-CoV-2’s assault.”
One of Mikovits’ primary treatment recommendations for COVID-19 is interferon 1 alpha, sold under brand names such as Alferon and Roferon, to shut down the replication of RNA viruses, including retroviruses and coronaviruses. She believes it might be beneficial to take twice a day for the duration of known exposure.
It’s worth noting the warnings, however. According to Chan, if you already have flu-like symptoms and take interferons, the symptoms are likely to get worse before they get better, as your immune system ramps up. “If someone is already on a ventilator and symptoms are about to overwhelm them, giving them an interferon-based medicine could be catastrophic,” he says.
TCM in the United States
To obtain a TCM remedy against COVID-19 (or anything else, for that matter), you would need to see a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of Chinese medicine. It’s important to realize that TCM doctors, in China and elsewhere, treat the whole patient, taking into account a wide variety of symptoms. So, self-treating with herbal remedies is ill advised. While they contain natural substances, TCM remedies should still be approached as drugs.
That said, there are several nutritional supplements that can be helpful that do not require medical expertise. You can find more information about these in “Consider These Nutraceuticals to Reduce Clots With COVID-19” and “Essential Nutrition to Protect Yourself From Coronavirus.”