Maybe not surprising but the Chinese use Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a complementary treatment for the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
A patient who spent two weeks in an hospital in Xiong Qingzhen (Wuhan) tells that he got a bag of brown soup — every morning and evening — a traditional Chinese remedy blended from over twenty herbs, including Ephedra, Cinnamon twigs and Licorice root.
This “lung-clearing and detoxing soup” was part of the Chinese government’s efforts to use TCM in the battle against the Coronavirus outbreak.
In fact, in February and March, more than 85% of all Coronavirus patients in China, which was about 60,000 people, had received Chinese herbal remedies apart from mainstream antiviral drugs, says the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology.
Although there’s certainly skepticism in the West and in China — claiming that TCM is simply placebo medication — there’s a large part of the population, including the government and, of course, TCM hospitals, clinics and treatment centers, that believe that TCM’s holistic approach improves strength and immunity, and helps to stimulate patients’ abilities to resist and recover from the disease.
Moreover, a clinical trial in Wuhan of 102 patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms showed that patients with combined treatments had a 33% higher recovery rate compared to the control group of patients that received only Western medicine.
In another study of more severe COVID-19 cases, patients that received combined treatments also left the hospital sooner than the control group, and had greater levels of oxygen in their blood and a higher lymphocyte count, the latter being an important indicator of the health of recovering patients.
But there’s not only skepticism about the results of the TCM herbal treatments. By some it’s thought that the current promotion of TCM treatments to fight COVID-19 related illnesses are part of the efforts of the Chinese government to promote TCM at home and abroad.
China’s State Council estimated last year that the TCM industry could exceed $430 billion by 2020, a 71% increase from 2017 and it sees TCM as an important money-maker. Another reason could be efforts to deliberately boost morale and patriotism by including TCM remedies and successes as a source of national pride.
In fact, since the Coronavirus outbreak, doctors are incited to treat patients with a mix of Chinese and Western medicines, which was an official request from the Chinese president at a meeting in January of the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the country’s highest ruling institute.
Whatever the case, regardless of some saying that TCM remedies only supply placebo effects, if TCM really helps the recovery rate, placebo or not, well, why not use it?