Testing TCM to Fight Covid-19

Is traditional Chinese medicine our last hope to beat the coronavirus?


Chinese scientists have been testing possible solutions to Covid-19 involving traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The Chinese government has claimed that many of the successful cases used a form of TCM for treatment. 

So what is traditional Chinese medicine? TCM includes a wide variety of physical activities such as acupuncture and Tai Chi. The main principle of TCM is to protect the body from harmful pathogens by focusing on bodily energy. TCM focuses on balance and harmony within the body to heal. The two main ideas behind TCM are life energy (Qi) and Yin and Yang. 

What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) ? – iJoouTCM ingredientsTCM works to promote the flow of Qi through your body. Yin and Yang describe the opposing parts of Qi. Yin has dark, cold, negative energy. Yang has light, warm, positive energy. TCM works to balance the yin and yang in our bodies.  

There are a few classic practices within TCM that are used to stimulate Qi. Acupuncture and cupping are physical practices that stimulate the skin with needles/cups. Tai chi stimulates the qi through slow, meaningful exercise. Moxibustion is a practice that works to stimulate qi by burning dried herbs near the skin. TCM includes but isn’t limited to these practices. There are studies showing TCM fighting off malaria. 

Acupuncture Earlier this year during the Covid-19 outbreak, China’s government sent TCM care packages to citizens living overseas, including some of our Chinosity staff. The care package arrived with a note that stated “the motherland is by your side.” Inside were KN95 masks, disinfectant wipes, and capsules of a mixture of TCM herbs.

Chinese government sends care packages to students abroad, including UMNThe TCM package that some of our Chinese colleagues received The Chinese government has tested  TCM against every major infectious pandemic over the past 2,000 years. China refined the use of TCM for each epidemic, and the coronavirus is no different. Currently, the use of TCM has resulted in “remarkable improvement” and alleviation of symptoms in Covid-19 patients in China. Xu Nanping, a vice-minister for the People’s Republic of China, said that “about 85 percent of patients in China had been given the combined treatment” of TCM and western drugs. 

Studies have included treatments with plants native to China, such as Jin Yin Hua (honeysuckle) and Lian Qiao (forsythia). 

The effectiveness of TCM on COVID-19 is, at present, inconclusive. There is a special TCM chapter in China’s National Health Commision about COVID-19. It advertises six traditional practices as COVID-19 treatments.  Two suggestions are the Lianhuaqingwen (LH) capsules and the Jinhua Qinggan granules. Both were tested against COVID-19, but there is no conclusion of their effectiveness and safety. 

TCM doctors use traditional steelyard to weight the raw ingredients
(picture from globaltime.com)
Supporters argue there is no downside to using these treatments. Even if they don’t work, they can act as placebos. The U.S. National Institute of Health says that more rigorous scientific tests are needed. In the midst of this debate, TCM’s popularity is growing in China. There is an estimation that the TCM industry will be worth $420 billion by the end of 2020. 

Even though TCM’s popularity is steadily growing, there is no concrete evidence for TCM as a COVID treatment. TCM is one of the oldest forms of healing; there will be some positive results from using these treatments. Exercise such as Tai Chi, can help stimulate blood flow and energy throughout the body. Hot tea can help with a sore throat and achy muscles. Even with these physical benefits, it is not possible to concretely determine TCM as a cure for the current COVID-19 pandemic. 


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Emma Federer

Chinosity Squad Gold Member

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