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China claims traditional medicines fight COVID-19

April 18, 2020 15:00 IST
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Studies in China claim that traditional Chinese medicines seem to be working effectively on patients with mild or moderate symptoms of coronavirus.
Sheela Bhatt reports.

IMAGE: Workers prepare traditional Chinese herbal medicines at Beijing's Capital Medical University Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital in this photograph from May 25, 2011. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

Scientists, doctors and researchers from the world of communicable diseases are impatiently waiting for China to share what formulations Chinese doctors applied to patients in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chinese government recently released a study claiming that some patients in Wuhan who had symptoms of COVID-19 were administered traditional Chinese medicines which yielded successful results.

Although the sample size of this clinical study is not large, the results are encouraging, Chinese researchers claim.

China claims that traditional medicines like Jinhua Qinggan granules, Lianhua Qingwen capsules, Xuebijing injections, lung cleansing and detoxifying decoctions, Huashibaidu formula and Xuanfeibaidu granules were part of the drugs protocol administered to COVID-19 patients in Wuhan.

According to data published by the Xinhuanet news agency in March, 'A comparative experiment of 710 cases jointly conducted by over 30 hospitals showed that the injection (Xuebijing)combined with regular treatment can reduce the mortality rate of severe patients by 8.8 percent and shorten intensive care unit hospitalisation by 4 days.'

Chinese doctors claim that in another project they found that the Xuebijing injection, applied clinically to severe and critical patients from the end of January -- in all numbering 156 patients in 32 hospitals -- achieved improvement in their condition.

The studies suggest that traditional Chinese medicines seem to be working effectively on patients having mild or moderate symptoms and the adverse reaction rate to Xuebijing was about 0.3 percent.

The Xinhuanet report says, 'In early February, 102 mild patients in Wuhan took Jinhua Qinggan granules in their treatment. Only 11.8 percent worsened and it took only one- and-a-half days for patients to reduce fever.'

Jinhua granules, which consist of 12 types of herbal elements, were developed in 2009 in China to combat the H1N1 influenza pandemic. The granule uses honeysuckle, mint and licorice among other herbs.

It has curative effects and claims to detoxify the lungs. It can also reportedly improve the recovery rate of lymphocytes and white blood cells as well as reduce the rate of patients turning more severe.

Lianhua Qingwen is a common traditional Chinese medicine used for the treatment of cold and flu.

In view of the death figures mounting every hour, the concern for life, and the desperation to defeat the deadly virus among the Chinese medical fraternity, the country seems to be reverting to centuries-old knowledge.

According to the report, a lung cleansing and detoxifying decoction was prepared on the basis of several classic recipes in a traditional Chinese medicinal work known as Treatise on Cold Damage Diseases, which was written by Zhang Zhongjing around 220 AD.

The decoction has 21 herbal components that are effective in treating fever, cough and fatigue as well as lung conditions.

The decoction mainly targets the lungs and has been administered to patients with a severe case of COVID-19.

The Xinhuanet report also claims, 'Tong Xiaolin, chief researcher of the Chinese Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences and also an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said 1,261 novel coronavirus patients in 10 provinces took the decoction, with 1,102 recovering, symptoms no longer appearing in 29, a further 71 showing improvement and no cases deteriorating.'

The national traditional Chinese medicine team from the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences has developed another traditional medicine, Huashibaidu formula, comprising 14 herbal components. The formula takes into account experiences from clinical practice at the Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital.

Chinese 'studies on guinea pigs found the formula can reduce lung viral load by 30 percent'.

Xuanfeibaidu granule claims to detoxify the lungs and helps moderate patients from deteriorating further.

Given China's experience, it should not be difficult for India to develop traditional medicines to combat COVID-19 that could supplement modern medicines.

The Indian Institute of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine in Bengaluru, part of the Foundation For Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions Trust founded by Sam Pitroda and Darshan Shankar, is one such institute which has the world's largest collection of herbal medicinal plants and is working on its harmonious use along with modern medicines.

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SHEELA BHATT / in New Delhi
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