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  • R.J. Singer Chinese Herbal Medicine and

How did China Defeat Covid-19 with Chinese Herbal Medicine

As a Chinese Medicine Practitioner, I have been paying a great deal of attention to the Covid-19 outbreak in China over the past several months. There has been a lot of communication and collaboration with Chinese Doctors from all over China, and through out the world. It started spreading like wildfire around the Chinese New Year. Now 2 months later, there are virtually no new infections, and life is starting to return to normal. According to Doctors on the frontline in hospitals in Wuhan, they expect it to be gone by April.

China has a great deal of experience with epidemic diseases. Over the past 2000 years, there have been over 320 large-scale epidemics in China, and all of them were treated with Chinese Medicine. Whole schools of thought, protocols, and formulas to address these epidemics were formulated and added to during this vast length of time. Chinese Herbal Medicine played a huge role in prevention and recovery during the SARS outbreak, and continues to play an important role in the treatment of the current Covid-19 outbreak.

According to Yu Yanhong, from the Chinese government’s National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, “Recovery rates for Chinese patients who were treated at Chinese Medicine only hospitals were one-third higher than those treated in hospitals that used Western medicine.”

Before I give details about what has been used in the hospitals with successful outcomes, I think everyone would benefit in knowing the facts about this disease, and its prognosis.

• It is highly contagious, but the majority of infected people have mild illness. It is estimated that this represents 80% of infected patients, and they do not get significantly ill and do not require medical attention or hospitalisation.

• Individuals under 18, make up only 2.4% of all reported cases.

• Individuals over 60, with pre-existing health conditions, have the highest risk.

• Among Hospitalised patients: about 10-20% of them are admitted to ICU.

• About 3-10% of patients require intubation

• About 2-5% die.

• Of those that are hospitalised and require ventilation, and survive the initial phases of the illness, some of them may still require prolonged ventilator support, due to pulmonary fibrosis. As the epidemic progresses, an issue which may arise is a large number of patients unable to wean from mechanical ventilation, and there not being enough machines to provide prolonged care.

The disease progression can be described in 4 stages.

1). No signs and symptoms, and treatment is prevention

2). Early phase and is treated similarly to colds and early stages of flu, with signs and symptoms such as: fever (87.9%), dry cough (67.7%), fatigue (38.1%), runny nose and sputum production (33%), shortness of breath (18.6%), sore throat (13.9%), headache (13.6%), muscle and joint pain (14.8%), chills (11.4%), nausea or vomiting (5.0%), nasal congestion (4.8%), diarrhea (3.7%), coughing of blood (0.9%), and conjunctival congestion (0.8%). These figures come from the WHO China Joint Commission on Covid-19 final report).

3). Pneumonia phase: Difficulty breathing. This is when most patients are hospitalized. This is when the disease could be dangerous. Covid-19 can cause a cytokine storm, which is an uncontrolled and dysfunctional immune response, leading to an overproduction of immune cells and their signaling molecules that then flood the lungs. This causes severe inflammatory disease of the airway and lungs.

4). Recovery: in 80% of cases this is fatigue, dryness of the lungs, and/or a lingering cough.

The Western medical treatment in China consisted of:

• Acetaminophen, Aspirin, Ibuprofen

• Antivirals: remdesivir, lopinavir, ritonavir

• Antimalarial: Chloroquine

• Steroids

• Immunosuppressant

• Ventilator

• Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)

Western Medicine does not have many effective drugs for fighting viruses and viral infections. Chinese Medicine on the other hand has many herbs that have shown to be antiviral. More than 85% of all patients hospitalized in China with Covid-19 (approximately 60,000 people as of late February 2020), received Chinese herbal medicine with or without western medicine treatments.

The treatment of Covid-19 with Chinese Herbal Medicine is determined by the stage of illness, the pattern of physiological dysfunction/imbalance, and to some degree the patient’s physical constitution. (From here on, its going to get a bit technical with Chinese Medicine jargon. Don't worry about understanding it, just know I have you covered and am well prepared.)

The disease progression seems to go from no signs and symptoms to that of the typical early signs of a cold of flu, characterised as wind heat, or wind cold invading the exterior.

As the symptoms get stronger, there is also damp excess in the majority of patients that tends to become the dominant type of pathogen.

The pneumonia phase is dominated by patterns of Damp Heat or Damp Cold obstructing the lung. This dampness when causing obstruction can create a heat or toxic fire similar to that of a compost pile. As this fire intensifies, inflammation and fever increase. As the fire enters the YangMing (stomach and large intestine) it can dry and obstruct the bowels further and damage the lung. If the disease continues to progress multiple organ dysfunction follows.

The stages of progression, and treatment strategy throughout the hospitals in China are all similar. The specific formulas may be slightly different or with modifications to address particular symptoms, or regional mutations of the virus.

For the most part, the progression and treatment strategy consists of:

1). Prevention: Herbs that correct a patient’s unique organ imbalance, or a general formula to strengthen Wei Qi (Immunity).

The general formula used in Wuhan is Yu Ping Feng San modified by adding some aromatic herbs to expel damp (such as Hou Xiang, or Pei Lan) (Chen Pi to dry damp), and bitter herbs that are antiviral (such as Guan Zhong, Lian Qiao, and Jin Yin Hua).

2). Early phase: Consists predominately of 3 main patterns:

- Wind-Cold invading the exterior (onset of low grade fever, aversion to cold, chills, headache, tickly throat, sore muscles, no sweat or night sweats).

Use: Modified Ge Gen Tang, or Ge Jie Ji Tang.

- Toxic Heat Attacking the Lung (Fever, aversion to cold, sore and dry throat, dry cough, scanty sputum, sore muscles, weakness, and headaches).

Use: A modified Yin Qiao San with Qing Wen Bai Du San.

- Damp Cold in the Lung (Aversion to cold, no fever or very mild, dry cough, dry throat, fatigue, weakness, chest stuffiness, epigastric distention, nausea, diarrhea).

Use: a Modified Huo Xiang Zhen Qi San with some added damp cold dispersing herbs.

3). Pneumonia Phase: Made up or primarily 4 main patterns:

- ShaoYang Syndrome with Damp (Oscillating fever and chills, cough, absence of wheezing, bitter taste in the mouth, dry mouth, chest stuffiness, stifling sensation, chest and hypochondriac fullness, irritability, nausea or vomiting, no appetite, weakness)

Use: Xiao Chai Hu Tang with San Ren Tang, or Gan Lu Xiao Du Dan

- Damp Heat Afflicting the Lung (No fever or low grade fever, dry cough, scanty sputum, dry and sore throat, fatigue, weakness, poor appetite, chest stuffiness, epigastric distention, nausea or vomiting, loose stool).

Use: Modified Ma Xing Yi Gan Tang, Xiao Xian Xiong Tang, and Cao Guo Zhi Mu Tang.

-Toxic Stagnation Blocking the Lung (Cough, stifling sensation, stuffiness and distention in the chest, asthma and wheezing that worsens with exertion, accelerated respiration, thirst, irritability, reddish yellow urine).

Use: Bai Hu Jia Ren Shen Tang with Si Tu Tang.

-Closed Interior and Abandoned Exterior Syndrome (Mental incoherence, irritability, burning or heat sensation in the chest and abdomen, cold extremities, accelerated respiration and need for assisted breathing, scarlet purple tongue, dry yellow or yellowish brown coating)

Use: Si Ni Jia Ren Shen Tang, with An Gong Niu Huang Wan and Zi Xue San.

4). Recovery Phase: Absence of fever, dry cough, chest stuffiness, shortness of breath upon exertion, dry mouth, weakness.

Use: Sha Shen Mai Dong Tang.

These stages of progression and treatment with formulas come directly from Hubei Provincial Hospital of TCM and Wuhan Union Hospital, both in Wuhan, China, with translation by John Chen et al, and special thanks to Wang Shi Qi, Cai Xiang, Tang Ying and other doctors that wish to remain anonymous.

At this time we at Alchemy Wellness are remaining open. In the event of possible isolation laws intensifying, we want you to know that we will stay open, and be able to diagnose and treat remotely using skype, and email, and post herbs to you.

If you have any questions or would like to book an exam please contact us at (02) 6685 7577



Alchemy Wellness Centre is located in Byron Bay, NSW Australia

RJ Singer is a registered Acupuncturist, and Chinese Medicine Doctor with AHPRA and AACMA. He is also a highly regarded QiGong Healer and Teacher, and Feng Shui Consultant. RJ’s area of special interest is in the treatment of stubborn and difficult chronic disease, and all types of painful conditions.

Katrina Hillis is a Kinesiologist, and a registered Remedial & Relaxation Massage Therapist with AMT, who specialises in helping people overcome emotional issues and life transitions working holistically to balance the body, mind and spirit.

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