Special file – “Dangerous” or “effective” treatment?

China insists TCM has proven effective in fighting pandemic, but some warn of lack of scientific evidence

Macau Business | January 2022 | Special report | Traditional Chinese Medicine – Breathe New Life

Although it is not known if anyone has been cured of COVID-19 using traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) alone, over the past year and a half dozens of scientific papers have been published on the merits of TCM in the fight against the pandemic.

According to the paper Traditional Chinese Medicine for the Treatment of COVID-19, “COVID-19 treatment practice has shown that early intervention with TCM is an important way to improve cure rate, shorten disease course, delay disease progression, and reduce the death rate.Moreover, the reasons why TCM works could include not only inhibiting the virus, but also the fact that it could block infection, regulate the immune response, cut off the inflammatory storm and promote the body repair.

The authors of Traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of patients infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2): review and perspective add that “TCM has accumulated millennia of experience in the treatment of pandemic and endemic diseases. Since complementary and alternative treatments are still urgently needed for the management of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the experiences of TCM are certainly worth learning.

Two other examples, among several possible others, are Contribution of traditional Chinese medicine to the treatment of COVID-19which reads: “TCM has made contributions to the treatment of COVID-19 due to its efficacy and comprehensive therapeutic theory,” and Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment of COVID-19 (April 2020), which concludes “There is no effective treatment for COVID-19 so far. However, when treating COVID-19 in China, we have found that traditional Chinese medicine intervention can reduce patients’ severe symptoms. The empirical therapy of traditional Chinese medicine is now widely used in Chinese hospitals, and this therapy could be useful to people around the world..

The commonality here is that these four examples, all published in English, have Chinese authors, almost all from mainland universities.

This trend prompted the BBC to publish a well-developed news article a few months ago titled “China Pushes Traditional Remedies Amid Epidemic.”

While acknowledging that “China’s National Health Commission has a special chapter on TCM in its coronavirus guidelines” stating that “six traditional remedies have been announced as COVID-19 treatments”, the BBC article quotes Edzard Ernst, a retired UK-based complementary medicine researcher. , who recently told the newspaper Nature, “We are dealing with a serious infection that requires effective treatment. For TCM, there is no solid evidence, and therefore its use is not only unjustified, but dangerous. »

NatureThe headline reads “China promotes coronavirus treatments based on unproven traditional medicines”, to which Chinese state media responded, quoting the statement from the State Administration of Traditional Medicine Chinese that three formulas and three drugs “have been shown” to be effective treatments for the disease.

China Daily also reported that “comparative experiments” showed that a group of people with COVID-19 who took “Jinhua Qinggan”, herbal granules developed to fight the H1N1 flu in 2009, “became improved faster than those who did not take the capsules and tested negative for the new virus more than two days earlier,” as quoted in Nature magazine.

The fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) revised its original position, which originally discouraged the use of traditional remedies to treat COVID-19, bolstered the Chinese argument.

While the WHO’s position on its official website during the early months of the outbreak was that TCM is “not effective against COVID-2019 and may be harmful”, the guidelines have now been updated. updated and the warning removed.

Admittedly, TCM continues to divide the scientific community, with discussions now seeming more heated than ever.

Not only is a paper by two Australian scientists – titled “Using traditional Chinese medicines to treat SARS-CoV-2 may cause more harm than good” – controversial and contested, the authors now seem reluctant to revisit the topic. At least they didn’t accept an invitation from Macau Business to better explain their point of view.

(Xinhua/Fan Peishen)

“Good Emotions”

Xinhua (February 19, 2020): “TCM has never lost a fight against epidemics in the country’s history.”

On the same day, Professor Yong Hua Zhao, from the Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences at the University of Macao, told Lusa news agency that good nutrition, rest and “good emotions” were the a person’s best bet to protect the immune system against coronavirus.

“The best methods for improving immunity are ensuring enough time for sleep and consuming healthy foods and nutrients (e.g., high-fiber vegetables: carrots, beets, and broccoli), as well as ‘a good emotion’ – Yong Hua Zhao

Disagreeing with the Macau government’s lack of guidance on the use of TCM in the treatment of COVID-19, Professor Zhao lamented, “Many Macau residents do not consume Chinese herbal remedies to improve immunity against novel coronavirus infection.

According to UM, Professor TCM was not used as a means of preventing COVID-19 and strengthening the immune system against the virus, because the “Macau government and the Health Bureau did not issue guidelines for the use of Chinese herbal medicines as a method of preventing the novel coronavirus”.

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